Here is a simple fact: Most people will not make true change outside of a relationship. Stop and think about that for a minute. In order for a change in ones life to truly take place, there is usually a tie to some form of a relationship. Yet, many people today are trying to make it to the top of their profession through hard work and determination alone. Though hard work and determination are important, true change will not occur outside the realm of relationship. In my life, the biggest steps forward into discovering who I am and who I want to become have all taken place through a relationship I had with someone else. It has been in some form of mentoring.
Mentors play several key roles in the success of the people they mentor. First, they increase efficiency of individual’s growth. I would not have been able to move so quickly at times throughout my career path if it wasn’t for the help of those who I have sought out to mentor me. Choices in career path, employment opportunities and education choices all were strongly influenced by the advice given to me by trusted mentors. Often times these individuals put me into contact with members of their circle who also gave key advice. At no point did my mentors tell me what to do but rather they often asked me the questions that I had failed to ask myself.
Second, mentors provide a model. In many cases, I needed to see who I wanted to become lived out in the life of someone else. I needed to see the characteristics I wanted to have myself. My mentors over the years have been that example. In the Mandt System we often talk about the list of healthy human characteristics and what would we liked increased. By having strong mentors, I have been able to increase some of these characteristics in myself because of watching them lived out in others. Growing up in a family where alcoholism and violence were my early models, it was important to find strong role models to overcome some bad behaviors I had adopted at an early age.
Finally, a mentor provides the growth and development necessary for long-term change. A good mentor is not in it for the short term but rather the long haul. Many of the people whom have assisted in my growth early on are still in my life. Though they may have less advise today, they still provide necessary motivation and encouragement. They also still provide the model. I recently received a card from one of my long-term mentors who had found out about the death of my father. The card was hand written and very personal. It was also written from thousands of miles away while that person traveled on vacation. They stopped to take the time to once again give insight into the kind of person I long to be.
In a world that continues to encourage individualism, mentoring is vital. We are drawn away from seeking out help from others in a day and age of Google and instant answers. However, for lasting change and knowledge to take hold, relationships that engender trust and safety are vital. I can read all sorts of self-help books but for me to apply it I need to see it lived out in the life of another. My encouragement is for you to seek out mentors and allow them to help you make lasting change. We can all benefit from a strong mentoring relationship.
Tim Geels – Senior Vice President of Instruction