By Jim Clemmer
"The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one." — Brooks Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times and drama critic
Isidor Isaac Rabi was an Austrian born, American physicist who won a Nobel Prize in physics for his work in nuclear science. He was once asked how he became a scientist. Rabi explained that each day after school his mother would discuss his school day with him. She was less interested in what he had learned than in whether he had "asked a good question today." She encouraged inquiry and curiosity in all that young Isidor did. "Asking good questions," Rabi explained, "made me become a scientist."
Personal growth, continuous improvement, lifelong learning...these are mantras for many people today. But good intentions often don't become action. Recognizing when we've slipped into the stagnant waters of stability and certainty isn't easy. Like putting on weight, it happens so gradually until one day we notice how out of shape we've become. Here are a few Stagnation Signs:
There's a world of difference between getting old and growing old. With age can come wisdom, but too often age comes alone. Age to the stagnant is winter, but to a leader on the grow it is harvest time. Not all experience is equal. Experience isn't what happens to us, it's what we do with what happens to us. There's a major difference between growth experiences and stagnating experiences. Just because we've shown up year after year and put in the time, doesn't mean we've gained by the experience. We may just be going through the motions, like taking the same route day after day; soon we're numbed to the passing landscape. We're in a rut.
When we see learning as a phase of life rather than a way of life, it's easy to become set in our point of view. As our personal growth rate slows and time goes by, we can become one of those boors that have many answers and few questions — a know-it-all. By the time we reach middle age we can end up with our broad mind trading places with our narrow waist. We can represent decades of history unimpeded by growth and development. We could become so narrow minded we have to stack our ideas vertically.