I had a most productive conversation with a faculty mentor of mine recently. It was early on a Monday afternoon, and I sat outside my mentor’s office in MacAlister Hall munching an apple as I waited for her to return from teaching a class. To pass the time I reviewed everything I expected us to discuss: my senior project, my blogging for this site, and, possibly, one or two books I’ve read recently. What I didn’t expect was for her to help me realize a couple important facts about my approach to all that work.
She asked me to talk about some work I was proud of, and some I wasn’t so proud of, and why. I explained that my best work was usually the result of having good ideas at the time, and the energy to make them reality, while the work I wasn’t as proud of was due to poor ideas and a lack of energy. But she gently pointed out that “poor ideas” really just meant I wasn’t allowing the topics and subject matter I prefer to cross over from the domains where I compartmentalize them, and that, if I did allow them to cross over and flow more naturally, I’d be energized, not drained.
I protested that this would take time away from other work that I thought was more important! And that’s when it hit me: I wasn’t allowing myself to be happy with my progress or accomplishments. I always felt the need to do more and to do better in one area, while everything else was just a hoop to jump through so I could get back to what I thought mattered most. Except this isn’t what an integrated life is like. I was afraid that if I didn’t do enough, I wouldn’t get what I wanted, when in reality I’d see better results if I distributed my mental resources more equitably among my commitments and responsibilities. It was a totally unexpected epiphany! And now I’m making an effort to adjust my focus, and better accommodate all my work, not just the “most important.”
What productive conversations have you had with your professors and mentors, and what have you learned from them? I want to hear your thoughts!