When writing on the topic of mentoring I am usually focused on its importance in helping other people. This blog focuses on what it can do for each of us…not to be selfish but to embrace that service is a two-way street. It is one of those foundational, but higher-level, life skills that we can use every day in any relationship.
To be a good mentor, you must learn essential life skills:
- Active listening and asking powerful open-ended questions.
- Empathy, putting yourself in another’s situation.
- Encouragement, leading to persistence and resilience.
- Affirmations, helping another see something good in themselves.
- Visioning, seeing and planning a bold future.
- Goal setting and action planning, getting something important done every day.
Mentors see life as a process of development. It starts with an orientation toward serving and supporting someone else. It emerges from an emotion of care or love. If you are a mentor then you have a “heart to serve”. I’m sure you want to be good at it. Try going deeper and thinking of it as an accumulation of skills, each of which is important in its own way. Once you learn them you can apply them in everyday situations toward those you care about.
Mentoring is about inspiration, care and support of another but it transforms us too at many levels…heart, mind, body and soul. It is a skill worth mastering to improve our own capacity for purpose and knowing ourselves deeply. Consider taking on a formal mentoring role because “we grow as we serve”.
Expectation (noun): a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a belief that someone will or should achieve something. The key word in the definition above is belief.
Expectations have a way of hurting you and another. When you have an expectation and when the relationship is important, you set yourself up for conflict and disappointment.
For example, you expect your eighteen-year-old teen to be home by curfew or you expect an employee to complete an assignment by tomorrow morning. These are statements of “follow my rules” with a real or implied consequence. If the relationship isn’t important it matters less, e.g. you expect the painter you hired to do the job without getting paint on the floor.
Expectations may have a place when you have young children but being a demanding parent of a teen or being a forceful manager isn’t a good long-term approach. This approach must be used selectively or it leads to resentment and hurt feelings, including your own. In an earlier blog, I wrote about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. Expectations are clearly an attempt at the latter.
All too often, an expectation is a way of trying to change someone. You can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself. Watch your language to see if expectations are a primary way of communicating. If you are the giver of expectations try asking, enrolling, envisioning or silent role modeling. If you are the receiver of expectations, try to understand the “why”.
We know that it is important to seek personal growth, to accept challenges, to move out of our comfort zone. We should take small or big steps to move us forward to Purpose, Vision and Goals. We don’t always do this because we lack courage or have some limiting beliefs. Fear can hold us back but I’m beginning to feel that other negative emotions emerge when we choose avoidance. We’re going to feel some negative emotion in any case.
Regret is one of those examples. Regret emerges when we realize that we didn’t do certain things in the past…jobs not applied for, relationships not pursued, dreams not realized. You can regularly read stories of people who have regrets on their deathbed. Choosing the seemingly easy path haunts us but with a delayed reaction.
Feeling a moodiness because you procrastinated is another example. Ending the day and not completing an important task you know needed to get done weighs on our mind. Lastly, stress exists, maybe due to a value conflict, for not being able to make a crucial decision. It usually feels better to do something but we become paralyzed because we risk being “wrong”.
We must have the long-view of life. This is simply choosing the long-term benefit over the short-term pain. We must accept essential stress. We need the courage to act or decide now to offset the future negative feelings.
Choose the path of courage and growth today. Live each day to your potential.
Motivation (noun): the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way or the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
I’d like to explore two dimensions of motivation:
Extrinsic and intrinsic. This is about whether the drive is external or internal. An extrinsic motivation comes from outside of us, for example, money or praise: if you pay me enough money to do a job, I’ll do it. An intrinsic motivation comes from within us, for example, personal growth or feeling good. I accept an assignment because I want to develop a new skill. Intrinsic motivation is sustainable.
Strategic and tactical. Strategic is longer-term and our most important life decisions and actions. For example, I’ll go back to school to get an advanced degree because I can provide a better life for my family. Tactical is the short-term and necessary, for example, I need to get the car to the shop for an oil change this week. The long-view is essential but balance is needed; it can be challenging.
I believe that doing one important thing every day will change your life. The motivation to do so takes vision and discipline. Vision provides a WHY for the things we should do and intrinsically compels us to action. We should ask enough questions on any task to get clarity on the WHY and then we can fit our choices into a larger and longer-term context. Discipline then helps focus the competing priorities for our time and attention.
Why should you spend time discerning (uncovering, understanding, practicing) your Purpose? Why write a Purpose statement? I can think of several reasons:
- Purpose develops a deeper sense of worth. We know who we are deeply including values, strengths, beliefs and needs. This results in confidence because it’s less about “image”. We use this knowledge to pursue more aligned jobs and life roles.
- Purpose makes it easier to choose how we use our time, make decisions and allow people to enter our lives. We learn what is essential in life to thrive, be fulfilled and feel good about ourselves.
- Purpose deepens our connectedness to our Creator, creation and friends and family. Our relationships change.
- Purpose provides a buffer against “losses”. If we lose a job we know that “our job is not our life”. If we lose a life role, e.g. friend, we know that our many other life roles are being pursued.
Understanding the WHY of our lives is essential and worthwhile. Generally, why are you alive? Specifically, why did we pick this friend, this job, this place to live or this activity? Ultimately, choices are an expression of yourself and a reflection of heart, mind, body and soul needs.
More personally, this effort must be called a transformation. My pursuit of a purpose statement took over a year until the final words emerged. The “mining for gold” of my life is still in progress but continual discovery of new gold nuggets continues to thrill me.
I drove by a billboard for a local college the other day with the headline Define Yourself. It got me thinking.
Define yourself is about who you want to be. There is no doubt that we live in a world of image and branding — personal and product. Some might call this our social self. I do this myself. I recall an early retirement activity to design a personal business card: a title, logo and phrase that helped form an identity.
We choose to be different people in different circumstances, e.g. we might choose a more assertive behavior at work than at home, or with a salesperson rather than a family member. We choose to become what our various roles require; personal growth forces us to move beyond our comfort zone. My concern is that we can lose ourselves and when we do fundamental stresses emerges.
Know yourself is about who you are at your core. This includes strengths, values, beliefs, and desires. Some might call this our true self or our soul. I believe that knowing yourself is the more powerful and essential context. Consistency across defining and knowing leads to joy, energy and potential. Our values must be operative in all situations to thrive.
The path to Purpose starts with knowing yourself deeply. I hope the identity you choose for any given role recognizes and includes this deeper level. It is worth the introspection to create this alignment.
Do you know what your ideal life looks like? Not something 10 years in the future but today or tomorrow? I fear that too many people wake up each day and go through the routine of what they have always been doing.
The model below is a simple way to look at how you spend your 168 hours per week in a qualitative way. Change the rows to whatever you want and simply check the column that matches your need – your vision. Add detail, for example, seek the specific parts of your job that you love and add specific friends.
Once you complete the table create the action plan to initiate change. How will you do more of something and less of other things…at work and home?
The big question is WHY you want to do more or less of anything. Each activity in our lives touches our heart, mind, body or soul in a unique way. Try to discover what you love. If you seek the answer to the WHY question you will more likely find the intrinsic value in anything you do. It is something to seek today. Let your Purpose, Vision and Goals guide you.