While introducing me to a group last fall, my friend Bo Prosser said, “Ircel has shown an ability to reinvent himself.” I felt complimented by this observation and readily embrace it. Although my vocational bent has been Christian ministry, I have had the opportunity to pursue that vocation in several ways—pastoral leader, campus minister, denominational worker, and now as a coach and educator.
Some of this has been intentional but there have also been times when, in the providence of God, doors have opened that I did not expect. I say this to be very clear that there are some things that we do not orchestrate in our lives, but even so we can develop a mindset that is open to learning, inquiry, and personal growth that provides new insights and prepares us for the unexpected.
Learning is a key to this idea of reinvention. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Monique Valcour suggested some intentional steps one can take to address the question one of her clients asked, “How do I stay fresh and convince people that I still have a lot to contribute?” Here are her suggestions.
First, ask for feedback. Others see things that we don’t see ourselves. If you ask for their comments, however, be prepared to listen without becoming defensive. Knowing how to receive feedback is as important as being able to ask for it.
Second, experiment with new approaches or behaviors. Doing this helps a person to take on a fresh perspective. All of us are captive to “the way we have always done things.” If we can get into new environments, see how others do things, and try out some new behaviors, new understanding can emerge.
Third, look for connections across seemingly unrelated areas. Developing expertise in some area totally unrelated to your primary vocation can open your eyes to possibilities within your present situation. You do not have to be a “Renaissance person” adept in many areas in order to experiment cross-fertilization.
Reading outside your normal areas of interest, learning a new hobby or craft, or attending a conference with people you don’t already know can produce interesting connections.
Fourth, make time for reflection. It is one thing to have varied experiences and another to actually learn from them. If you take notes, set aside some time to reflect on them and think about specific application to where you are right now in life. Debrief your experiences with a friend. This is where the real learning takes place.
As Valcour notes, all of these are elements of coaching. David Peterson of Google calls coaching “the ultimate customized learning solution.” As we are involved in coaching, we are challenged to learn more about ourselves and to act on that learning.
Even if you do not have a coach, however, you can practice these steps and engage in meaningful learning. Please understand that I am as resistant to change as anyone, but if we continually engage in these behaviors, learning and change becomes second nature to us.
Next: How can we help others to reinvent themselves?