A mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser.”
How do we come to find mentors? Often we either seek them out or they appear in our lives as someone to whom we feel connected. Whether it is someone to share in your parenting, career choices, or hobbies, mentors can help you grow. I just got off the phone with one of my mentors and am reminded by how much my mentors inspire me! My whole life I havesought out people I think are amazing, people that will be straight with me, people I can model, and people that will make me a better person for just having known them. I have a mentor from every stage of my life, and every town I have lived.
I just returned from Amsterdam, where I visited the Van Gough museum. Van Gough was only an artist for a total of 10 years (age 27-37) and constantly sought to study under people who could do what he wanted better. He painted hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sunflowers until he had what he thought was the perfect sunflower. He lived a simple life with no money, borrowing from his parents and brother to live. Like many, his work was popular after his suicide at age 37. His last letter to his brother, who had supported his art career, was about what a failure he was. Wow! That part of the audiotape actually brought tears to my eyes.
Van Gough had many mentors that contributed to the artist he became. Thinking about this in the context of what my mentors have meant to me, I was reminded of a quote about youth, “The best help we can offer the youth of today is to prepare them for tomorrow.” ― Mark W. Boyer
While this is about teens specifically, I think it applies to all. We can all benefit from preparation for what we haven’t yet experienced. We can learn so much from the people who have had those experiences, or from those who simply have access to different information or unique perspectives that challenge or add to our own. Through this, we are given an opportunity to see the world through a different pair of glasses. Whether it is a teen in your life or a good friend….don’t let them live their life not knowing the gifts they have to offer the world. If you have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone, don’t hesitate. If you don’t have a mentor, find one. You never know the impact those relationships will have on your life.
Tips for Finding a Mentor:
1. Mentors Have Something You Want: Mentors are credible sources for learning whatever it is you wish to learn. They offer support and guidance in a particular area. This doesn’t mean having all the answers. In fact, often mentors rely on their own thoughts, interpretations and experiences.
2. Mentors Nourish the Relationship: Mentors have qualities you respect. They ask open questions and get to know you personally. They show genuine interest in your hopes, dreams, challenges, and interests. Then, they use this information to provide opportunities for you to grow.
3. Mentors Share Insights and Experiences: Mentors share their experiences, but in a neutral way. The idea is that you are left with information and ideas so that you can make a decision for yourself. Mentors offer ideas, encouragement, and an “open door policy” to discuss the challenges you may face. Challenges are not road block, but opportunities to grow through.
4. Mentors Listen Well: Mentors are a great sounding board. A mentor is someone you can say anything to; you can feel free to express your excitement and your fears. They will offer direct advice, but only when asked. Often through their fresh perspective and honest listening, you will solve your own problems.
5. Mentors Provide Encouragement: Mentors will give you those upbeat words of encouragement that help you to see what you can not see for yourself. We are often our own worst critic. Like Van Gough, we may see ourselves as failures from time-to-time. Mentors can remind you of your strengths and accomplishments, while giving you the hope to keep pushing when you really just want to give up.
Help You Teen Find Mentors
As their parent, you can certainly be a mentor to your teen. However, you can also play an active role in helping them find other mentors. They already benefit from your love, wisdom and experience. Trusted mentors will not take away from that relationship. It will give your teen access to another person that cares about his or her well-being Research shows that teens benefit greatly from having someone, outside of their parents, to bounce things off of. While you may want your teen to talk to you, don’t take it personally if they find someone with whom they connect. Rather than competing, become part of that relationship by talking to them about what they are learning.
Nourish these relationships; they are life-changing.