THE PRACTICAL ART OF BEING A MENTOR

Life Coaches have been an extremely popular phenomenon for some years now. These are men and women who are trained (for the most part) in certain areas of psychology, business, sports, and their accompanying motivational models.  Much of it has to do with the science of human development.  There is no doubt that many have benefited by reaching personal or professional goals through working with these life coaches.

Similarly, we hold up as role models those who exemplify passion and vitality and a commitment to excellence combined with an unyielding compassion. Personalities such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela,  or Albert Schweitzer come to mind.   

Yet, we can be and are “life coaches” to people in our own lives.  We are role models to our children certainly (for better or worse).  This is at times, a scary and daunting truth, but an important one to hold.

At our best, we are sources of inspiration, consolation, and powers of examples to those whose lives we touch on a daily basis.

So, how do we assure that the kind of mentoring we are giving to others and just as importantly, accepting from others is fostering growth and wisdom?

I think that I would answer that with the 3 P’s: Presence, Passion, and Practicality.  You work towards being a practical, passionate presence to others.  This means being fully yourself with the other person.  It may be that your personality is exuberant or laid back and reserved, your type of personality is not at the heart of the matter.  Passionate here refers more to the commitment you make to your life than a particular way of being.  This includes honesty, with yourself and others.   

You help your children, coworkers, family, and friends by encouraging them to find their own wisdom in overcoming obstacles by sharing and modeling how you have gotten through difficult and painful times.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said, “If you utilize obstacles properly, then they strengthen your courage, and they also give you more intelligence, more wisdom.  But if you use them in the wrong way,” he added, laughing gently, “you will feel discouraged, failure, depression.” 

A listening, caring presence is vital.  This means that you must also take time daily to be alone, even if only for a few minutes, so that your emotional battery has some charge in it.  You often can not immediately fix problems presented to you. These are THEIR issues (hard to remember with loved ones) that by working through them will create happier and more empowered individuals.  Listen, ask questions to gain clarity…and then share your own strength and experience.

Much of what I share in times of trouble is to not be afraid of your feelings or being vulnerable.  Feel all your feelings (even the painful ones), cry, get angry, bake a cake.  Let these feelings have their way with you, they are going to anyway.  And then it becomes easier to let these feelings go, let them flow away from you. 

Mentoring means giving of yourself so that others can determine for themselves what lessons they are going to take and keep for the journey.  Hopefully, the ones you mentor gain a sense of mastery by coming out the other side of a difficult challenge and to a certain extent, may even find gratitude by going through the situation.

Lastly, mentoring is infectious.  It what’s Robert Wicks in his book Sharing Wisdom calls positive contamination: “Mentors are infectious.  They model fresh, frank, and innovative ways to live life.  To do this they need not be brilliant, famous, wealthy, good looking, or accomplished.  They simply need to be enthusiastic and genuinely themselves, and to see life as precious.  Who they are provides as much to the pepople seeking mentoring as what they know.”

This does not mean that the mentor didn’t have pain, experience shame, make mistakes-even big ones. It means they didn’t settle.  They live life fully and find value in themselves and their experiences. They learned and can model how to reframe both the questions in their lives and the answers.”

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