“What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Have you ever thought of how different your life would be if you didn’t encounter certain people along the way? I was looking through The Medical Post this week and the feature was on mentorship – something I have written about before, Mentorship in Medicine & in Life, and continues to be a theme that resonates in terms of both importance and meaning for me and many others. Not only in medicine, but also in many other careers, having a mentor can be very formative in your career development and path.
During our educational years, teachers and professors can be influential mentors and role models. One of my undergraduate university professors was instrumental in my interest in neuroscience, and more specifically the intersection of psychology and biology. I did an honours thesis under her tutelage and seriously thought of pursuing a Master’s/Ph.D. in neuroscience because of her inspiration. Although it ended up being my plan B if medical school didn’t work out, I am so grateful for this foundation and understanding of psychology. Psychology continues to be a passion of mine – I believe it is essential in the practice and study of medicine.
Recently, with the start of new school year, I have also been reminded of the importance our teachers can play in our foundation years. My daughter started high school and has a science teacher that really embodies the topic. She now realizes how “fun” and “cool” science is and is loving it. He has a reputation for being outstanding and when you can transform a child’s perceptions and thoughts like he has our daughter’s, I can see why.
Similarly, my son is in his final year of high school. He has always been drawn to the science and math spheres, but this year, he has an English teacher that is inspiring him and instilling an interest in literature and writing. Teachers, role models and mentors can truly influence and shape our lives.
What are the main characteristics of people who inspire us or we aspire to emulate?
The people who positively touch our lives are often natural born leaders – that lead by example. Although mentors can consciously develop certain qualities, the majority of us are drawn to the people who are just naturally who they are. That is why the #1 characteristic of these people is authenticity. It is natural to look up to someone who isn’t trying to be one way at work and another way outside of work. Often, these people are passionate about what they do and want to share that passion.
The #2 characteristic of these people is reliability. When we know that we can rely on someone, trust just naturally follows. In this way, we don’t feel as though we will be led astray and that the person will be there for us even when things get tough.
The #3 characteristic of these people is vulnerability. I know that the people who have influenced my life the most are the ones not afraid to show their flaws and make mistakes. How could I aspire to be like someone who isn’t human? During medical training, the preceptors that always stood out to me were the ones who said “I hadn’t thought of that” or “good catch” or “what do you think? (and not in a hot-seat kind of way)”. Respect then becomes a natural antecedent to vulnerability.
Even people we have never met can shape our lives
In this ever expanding online, digital world, I believe that people we have never met in person can also help shape our lives and influence us. For me, the platform I engage with others the most on is Twitter. This is where I feel a community mentorship where I am learning, connecting, sharing and feeling inspired. Some of these connections have become real life ones which illustrates the expansive potential social media can have on how we shape one another’s lives.
In this one life we are given, we have the power to change the lives of others around us, either knowingly or unknowingly. Hopefully, by realizing this power, we become motivated to be the best we can be.