…the soft, high voice inquires repeatedly. Or “Who is that?” over and over again. My granddaughter is only 19 months old, but she is an extremely deliberate learner of everything around her. (I’m intentionally learning my neighbors’ names, just so I can introduce her without the awkwardness of not knowing!) Her dramatic, “Oooo-ooh-oooh,” as she listens closely to every explanation indicates her desire for accurate understanding. I’m convinced she comprehends far more than I realize.
How about you? Do you have a child in your life who peppers you with questions constantly and stops to observe every new plant or minuscule bug crawling on the ground? You can hardly stop a young child’s quest to explore the world around him and absorb everything she can about our amazing planet. So what happens to that unquenchable thirst for intellectual knowledge as we age? By 4th grade many of my students were whizzes at a particular video game or statistical experts for their favorite sports heroes, but remained seemingly uninterested in academics. Without a personal passion to learn they just weren’t captivated. Why does that natural inquisitiveness disappear as we grow older?
And what happens when our mentorees suffer from a dwindling lack of curiosity? How can we help preserve their passion for learning? As we work through the Circle of Life and consider the Intellectual Dimension, many times my mentoree suddenly realizes she no longer purposefully develops this area of her life. Everyday demands overshadow the deliberate pursuit of knowledge that could lead to a richer life. Inevitably, as one dimension begins to crumble, other areas also suffer. Perhaps having less to share in family and social gatherings leaves her feeling left out. Or maybe she begins to lag behind her colleagues at work – missing out on career advancements. Many certified or licensed professions require continuing education, but even when not necessary, deliberate and intentional effort to expand vocational knowledge produces rewards. Every dimension benefits from developing intellectually.
Hopefully, as a mentor you encourage your mentorees by sharing your own passions and interests. Be prepared for motivation from their intellectual pursuits, as well. I have mentorees who enjoy making scenic quilts or creating incredible fused glass art. While those are not my passions, I love learning about their hobbies. Now when I gaze at a stunning waterfall, I wonder how the scene could be translated to fabric and applique or bits of colored glass melted together on a serving tray. Even though I don’t plan on actually creating these artistic projects, my intellectual proficiency is expanded by my mentorees’ interests. Passion is contagious! Our enthusiasm inspires others, even when they explore totally different arenas.
So how do you maintain a lifetime of learning? Begin by preserving your natural curiosity and quest for knowledge throughout your entire life! John Medina describes getting to know two professors at the University of Washington who in their 70’s remained engaged physically and mentally, modeling lives of enthralled listening, conducting productive laboratory studies, and grilling others on their experimental results. No wonder Edmond Fischer and Edwin Krebs shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1992. Here is John Medina’s description of them in his book, Brain Rules.
“They were creative like artists, wise as Solomon, lively as children.
They had lost nothing.
Their intellectual engines were still revving,
and curiosity remained the fuel.
That’s because our learning abilities don’t have to change as we age.
We can remain lifelong learners.”
Let’s covenant to persevere as lifelong learners. What’s holding you back? Together we can do this! We would love to hear your favorite lifelong learning story in the comment section below.