Ahh, Mentoring You Seek? – Practical Advice for Spiritual Padawans
Almost every month, people come up to me and ask the common question: “What do I need to do to find a mentor?” As I look back at many of the successes in my life, it’s become clear that most of them were due to great mentors.
Many of you have recently heard me teach on mentoring in the second week of our series, Search. [Click here to View]. But, there were a few other things that are essential for finding mentors.
Recently, my 6 year old son has been obsessed with pretending to be Yoda from Star Wars. (He was Yoda this last Halloween). In fact, my son will literally go weeks without responding to his real name – (which get’s awkward when you’re forced to call him Yoda in public). But naturally I’ve been forced to play the role of Luke Skywalker — seeking the advice of Yoda for everything I do. But, the reason I bring up Yoda is because… many people seem to have a “Yoda Mentality” when it comes to mentoring… the idea that there’s only ONE person who can train you in the way of the force… a mentor who will ride on your back… go camping with you…and give you pearls of wisdom whenever you face your Darth Vader. But real-life mentoring works much differently.
Some times, the people we want to mentor us are a bit out of our league. As a young pastor, I remember being snubbed by a well-known pastor when I reached out for help. Truth was, he didn’t actually snub me. I was clearly oversensitive. And looking back, I was like a 4th grade math student who thought I needed a Physicist to help me with my problem. In the same way, many people get their emotions tangled up in a weird concept of mentoring. That’s why, below, I listed a few things to keep in mind. More specifically, I give advice for three phases of mentoring: Before, During and After finding a mentor.
Before the First Meeting:
- – Don’t be looking for a singular Mom/Dad figure who will rub your back and snuggle you throughout all your problems. If a person like this exists, great. But instead, think of yourself as assembling a team of mentoring specialists – not a singular person like Yoda. Besides, we need mentors for a variety of topics (financial, marital, parenting, etc.). Also, don’t expect a mentor to fill the gaps if what you really need is professional help (aka., a professional counselor, lawyer or financial advisor.)
- – Outline exactly what do you want out of this mentoring relationship: What do you need to be mentored in? Professional mentor? Marriage, Prayer-mentor, or are you looking for a sponsor (as in Alcoholics Anonymous.) The topic may require varying levels of commitment. This needs to be clear up front.
- – Save up money and/or margin in your time to be mentored (in case you need to travel for it… or will need to pay for access; e.g., conferences, coaching groups, etc.)
- – Start mentoring someone else: (You reap what you sow)
- – Answer the following 3 Questions:
(1). What is your dilemma? – Outline the specific areas you want to be mentored in?
(2). Who has successfully navigated your dilemma?
(3). What am I doing to get around this person to serve them?
Once you Meet:
- – Don’t gush about how you want them to be your mentor: You wouldn’t scream, “Let’s get married and have children together” on your first date, would you? (I say this because, some of you would : ). So take it slowly. You don’t blow into a good mentoring relationship, you grow into it. Start with a low-commitment coffee appointment. If there’s chemistry, build from there.
- – If you’re meeting with a busy person, cut to the chase and be specific about what you’re wanting advice on. Not everyone is looking to forge deep new relationships. (& inevitably, you’ll need mentoring from people like this). Thus, railing on about your life-story can be off-putting. You might object, “but if a mentor doesn’t have interest in knowing me, then, why should I want them to be my mentor.” And my response is simple: Most mentors worth having are usually too busy to mentor. If you’re looking for someone to twiddle your thumbs with, then yes: Pick any old person who wants to listen to your sob stories. But if you want your life to be like an “arrow in the hands of a mighty warrior” then you have to earn the right to be mentored. If you want a mighty warrior to do this for free, then you probably have some pride or entitlement issues you need to deal with. Many people look for mentoring to fulfill mother/father wounds. And yes, there are some mentors who specialize in that. But as any good mother or father knows, to have a healthy child, rule number one is this: the home cannot revolve around them. So get thick skin. Respect their time & listen intently.
If you Both have Chemistry and Desire for a Deeper Relationship:
- – Learn how to Initiate: You are responsible to initiate with your Mentor. And the meeting times and spaces should be the burden of the one seeking mentoring. Indeed, good mentors usually set up intentional hurdles to guarantee that a person is willing to put effort into the relationship. If a person can’t handle initiating meetings or meeting at times that are convenient for the mentor, then they are generally a person who won’t apply the advice given anyway. So if you value your mentor’s time, you are responsible for this.
- – Go over the following 4 Questions with Mentor:
What’s going well in your life?
What’s going badly in your life?
What do you feel is missing in your life?
What’s confusing right now?