No matter whether I listen to a lecture given by a Tibetan monk, talk to a Swami who came all the way from India to share his knowledge or attend a workshop organized by a successful marketer – I keep hearing the same advice, “Find a mentor, who will guide your actions and help you to grow spiritually and professionally”. I am guessing that the Universe is trying to tell me something… 🙂
For the longest time, just like many other people, I underestimated the importance of having a mentor. After all why look for a specific person, when you can always turn to your parents, friends, colleagues, multiple social networks and even public forums when you need advice and moral support. If like me, you, are wondering why anyone would need a mentor, here are some serious reasons for having one:
1. Valuable experience.
As much as it boosts our ego to think that we are smart and we can “handle everything” and “figure it all out”, sooner or later we might face a problem bigger than we can handle. You would never think of using a trial and error method to neutralize a bomb. Neither would you try to fly a plane for the first time without an instructor. It might not sound very optimistic, but life is infinitely more complicated than plane flying or neutralizing a bomb. There are some situations when too much is at stake and guesswork is simply not an option. In this case a mentor could be the only person, who is knowledgeable and experienced enough to help you make the right decision and prepare you for the serious exam called everyday life.
It is not always easy to live according to our conscience. The line that separates “right” from “wrong” and “good” from “bad” is often blurred and it can be tempting to make a convenient choice instead of the right one (especially if our heart is telling us one thing and our mind another). A mentor is a person who with one simple question is able to clear your doubts and gently, but firmly push you in the right direction.
We all have those days when everything seems to go wrong. We feel demotivated, tired, frustrated and alone. Good-intended remarks like “Cheer up!” or “It is going to be ok” accompanied with an affectionate pat on the shoulder may have the opposite effect, especially if there are coming from a person who has never been in our situation and has no idea what we are going through. A mentor, on the other hand, might not tell you that everything is going to be just wonderful, but somehow they still manage to reassure you and give you the necessary encouragement to keep on going forward.
Wise men of ancient times believed that a person can be qualified to give a good advice if they meet three conditions:
1. They should not be emotionally attached to you, because otherwise they will not be unbiased. Their emotions will interfere with their judgment.
2. They should not ask to be paid for their advice or depend on your income, otherwise they will be conditioned to tell you what you like to hear.
3. And finally, they should practice what they preach.
There are plenty of people who will readily give you advice, but only a few can overcome the impulse to tell you what they believe you WANT to hear and have enough wisdom and inner strength to tell you what you NEED to hear. A mentor is a rare person who can do this.
5. Better chances of success.
Basically there are two ways to gain wisdom in life – learn from your own mistakes or learn from the mistakes of other people. The first way is more painful and more time consuming. The second one requires a mentor who will share their experience with you and help you to avoid mistakes that you would otherwise make. There is no doubt that any failure holds a valuable lesson that in the future will help you to improve your performance. However, why fail more than it is necessary? If you want to achieve success faster and with less effort, finding a mentor might be your best option.
6. Greater motivation.
Most of us have a pretty clear idea about what we should do to improve our health and quality of life: exercise regularly, eat less fried and greasy foods, be more patient with our children, go to bed at a reasonable hour, yada yada yada… But for some unknown reason we do not do any of these things. Why? Because there is a huge difference between knowing something and really understanding it. We might know something for years, but one day out of nowhere it just makes sense. If you have ever had those “Aaaah…Now I get it!” moments? Then you know exactly what I am talking about. A good mentor has the rare ability to explain to you what you need to do and why, in a way that makes sense. That is why an encounter with a mentor often becomes a turning point in many people’s life.
7. Less room for excuses.
Our ability to quickly come up with excuses and half-truths is basically a built-in self-defense mechanism that serves to protect our sense of self and ultimately our ego. Think about it… Excuses allow us to procrastinate, give up on our dreams, blame our failures on someone or something else, or avoid helping someone when we do not feel like it (and we can do it all without having to deal with such unpleasant feelings as guilt, fear and embarrassment).
The only real problem with this excuse mechanism is that it holds us back and makes it impossible to succeed at anything. A real mentor will easily be able to see through your carefully fabricated excuses and will not let you get away with them. Why? Because their main purpose is not to please your ego, but to bring out the best in you.
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey