Applying Theory

By Rick Lewis

One thing we are never short of in today’s world is information. Yet although many of us suffer from information overload our appetite for more and more content seems insatiable. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of consuming endless information without it doing us any good.

Mentoring can contribute something tremendously valuable here. Conversations with a mentor are an opportunity to do a mental stocktake and ask questions like

    • What information, theories and ideas have we got in our heads?
    • What’s it worth?
    • What are we going to do with it?

If I don’t take the time for this sort of thing I know I can find myself making mistakes then realising that I knew better – I just didn’t put into practice what I already knew. Time and again we find that what we need is not more information but better application of what we have already learned in theory.

Mentoring conversations are a great place to gain insights about what’s going on in your life but they go even further. The best mentoring takes those insights and drills into consequences. “If these things are true, what are you going to do about it?”

Here are just a few of the ways in which this process takes place in the mentoring I practice:

    • Talking over recent reading, discussing the author’s key points and how that is relevant to real life for the mentoree
    • Unpacking learning from a conference, seminar or formal course of study, looking for opportunities for application or experimentation
    • Discussing the outcomes of a performance appraisal from the mentorees workplace
    • Reviewing a critical incident, clarifying the learning and God’s invitation coming out of that incident and formulating a faithful response
    • Picking up on and gently confronting contradictions between ‘talk’ and ‘walk’ and encouraging a person to practice what they preach
    • Checking in on the outcomes of intended actions from the previous session; the faithful application of positive, encouraging accountability.

Over time there’s a further dimension mentoring has to offer in dealing with information. When wisdom is used to sift deep truth from the flood of information, that truth can shape who we are for the better. The other side of this, which we want to avoid, is that the flood of information coming at us may also contain lies that can seep into our soul and leave us bent out of shape.

Theory applied wisely to practice leads to implementation.

Theory applied wisely to character leads to transformation.

We all know that personal transformation doesn’t happen overnight. But over time the stuff in your head will powerfully influence the kind of person you are, your values, your instinctive responses, and your reputation. This will happen whether you pay attention to what’s going on or not. It’s so much better to give this the attention it deserves within a mentoring partnership that consciously assesses and applies theory within a godly frame of reference.

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