I grew up in an affluent area of Richmond, Virginia, and went to what was then considered one of the better high schools. I got my BA from Virginia Tech, a fine school. I did some graduate work at Virginia Commonwealth University before getting my masters in Creative Writing from Hollins, one of the top writing programs in the nation. Years later I went back to school and got my D. Div from Christian Bible College and Seminary.
All of these schools have two things in common.
First, all of them gave me a fine education in my fields of study. And secondly, none of them taught me the first thing about building a LIFE.
That is not a complaint, just a realization. I got lots of information, but none of them taught me how to craft a life of purpose, where my goals and my gifts worked together not just to accomplish, but to bring me energy and satisfaction and joy. None of them taught me how to craft and build relationships, how to discover a personal spirituality that nourishes, how to take change and creatively make it into something positive and enduring.
I am not sure how they expected me to discover these things. Osmosis perhaps, or experience. Or maybe these were not things they felt needed teaching. I picked most of these things up, but only after trial and error and a lot of years of failing in quite an amazing number of ways.
Books certainly can help, and there is a dizzying array of wonderful books to help us on our way, helping us look for purpose, discover and overcome barriers, and take steps towards our personal purpose. The problem with books of course is that they are not personal.
This morning, for instance, I had breakfast with a dear friend, and in the conversation, Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teaching" came up. As we talked, I quoted a couple of them that applied particularly to where he was. But at the same time, as I reflected, there were two different ones that I need to particularly focus on right now. Same book. But two sets of needs, two sets of focus.
That's where a coach comes in, I think, and why people choose to look for a coach or mentor. It's not that they can't do it themselves. It's more that they want to avoid as much trial and error as possible, and they want a personalized plan that takes the full scope of books and learning and experience, and can focus them on the things that will make the most difference, thus the most progress, first. It's a funny path to do that though. I find that I have a lot of what seem to be rambling conversations with people as I first get to know them. But as I do, the trust builds, the truth shows itself, and in time, I can get a sense of that person. It's not a straight line of discernment. It's a winding path. But a rewarding one. I have been, and am grateful for the people who have trusted me over the years.
I have had my daughter with me this past year. An unexpected gift, to have her move from Virginia to Vermont her senior year in high school. She got lots of good education and that helped her get into the college of her choice. My job, I quickly realized, was not to focus on her formal education, but on those things she didn't get in school - the things that don't get you a job, but help you build a life. So while her college is filling her mind with information, I will be focusing on her life, her dreams, her possibilities, relationships and spiritual growth as a person.
The stuff school leaves out.