September 27, 2016

Mentoring

As part of the programme, each participant does one mentoring session per month. After each Leader Lab, the participant is given questions to reflect on for the Mentoring session. The mentoring is a 20-30 minute conversation with the mentor where they discuss the questions and conclude with one or two resolutions to put into practice for the month ahead. 

The mentoring is based on four key ideas: 

  • Ideals become a reality when goals are set and tasks are completed to achieve these goals. 
  • Growth Mindset: You can always become a better version of yourself. 
  • Grit: to succeed in life, you need to be passionate about your goal and persevere in the small things of each day to achieve it. 
  • Deep work: in a distracted world, you need to develop good habits to focus on the task in front of you. 

What are my ideals? 

“Ideals” are what we commit ourselves to and they guide our behaviour.  We can draw closer to them, while still always having room to improve.  So if one of my ideals is to be generous with my friends, I will never be so perfectly generous that I can check that off and move on to something else.

“Goals”, on the other hand, are particular actions or behaviours that bring us forward in identifying ourselves with our ideals.  So working at making time for my friends by trying to be more ordered is an example of a “goal”.  It leads me forward to my “ideal”, being generous with my friends.

Ideals are what we grab on to in order to pull ourselves upwards.  They are the ultimate motivation that inspires and sustains practice and growth over time.  Young people are yearning for ideals to strive for. 

In all the mentoring sessions, the ideals are what should be referred back to.  Suggestions are given to moving towards these ideals. 

Growth Mindset

The goal of the mentoring is to help develop a growth mindset. There is a wonderful resource for going through step-by-step how to build a growth mindset. Some quotes from this resource: 

  • Youth with a growth mindset understand that intelligence can be developed. These students focus on learning over just looking smart, see effort as the key to success, and thrive in the face of a challenge.
  • Youth with a growth mindset do better in school and other areas of life that require perseverance, self-reflection, and good decision-making. 

The growth mindset questionnaire helps each participant get started. This questionnaire is also the basis of the eight mentoring sessions a Momentum participant will have over the course of the programme. 

Grit

This is a key characteristic of someone who is learning to develop a growth mindset.  It’s pretty much impossible to have grit in a fixed mindset.  The mentoring helps understand the power of this characteristic, that it is possible to learn to love a challenge; to “lean into” the discomfort. 

Deep Work

Deep work is an ability.  It allows a person to perform with distraction-free concentration that pushes cognitive abilities to their limits. With this ability, you can quickly master complicated subjects and produce work that is genuinely creative.  This quickness allows a person to get more quality work done in less time, therefore freeing you up to enjoy other worthwhile pursuits as well.  Furthermore, an ability to work in this way is actually pleasurable.  One walks away from it with a deep sense of achievement and reward.  

This concept and steps to achieve this was inspired by Cal Newport’s book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

For young people, a key idea is that we don’t want to simply lecture about the evils of distraction and social media addiction; we want to present a very attractive ability that is very rewarding in and of itself.  Also, ultimately, an ability to work deeply is the human side of learning how to enjoy your work and getting the most out of it.

We need to start with ideals because learning how to study or work deeply is necessarily going to effect habits outside of those moments. It’s not just a “study skill”.  For example, a person cannot bathe in aimless internet entertainment by night and then hope to focus in a deep way during the day.  And if she is used to constant dispersion it is going to be objectively hard to change that; real committed effort is required.  

A good starting point is to recall moments in which you actually enjoyed something like “deep work”.  Basically, these will be experiences of “flow”: being lost with rapt attention in a task or activity. In flow you have a state of singular focus, of rapt attention; athletes often call it “the zone”. In flow, your reflexes are fast; they are energized but relaxed. We all experience this kind of optimal work from time to time; it is a way of working that sometimes seems to happen effortlessly; but it is also something we can learn to do intentionally. These are experiences that often don’t get labeled as “work”: enjoyable reading, or a conversation, or figuring out something – a moment of “getting it”.  Basically, learning how to “work deeply” is learning how to reproduce those moments in study and work.

Having the ability to increase those moments when you choose to is what will make you incredibly valuable in the future work force.