Many of us set out determined to identify our “life’s purpose” as we embark on our careers. We want to tap into our passion and make wise choices that will lead us to a fulfilled, focused, and contented life.
This, to me, is the essence of being a successful, self-actualized woman: doing work we love, that has meaning and that brings us joy. We often start out believing that we will figure this out in no time. And that the path to our dreams will be direct, efficient, and empowering. If only it were that simple!
Unfortunately, we often soon realize that attempting to find our life’s purpose can be frustrating. In fact, the answers to these personal questions may elude us for a long time. And after we think we know what we want, it may take us longer than hoped to achieve it.
As we work towards our goals, they continue to grow and evolve. Our thoughts and ideas churn and morph. The cycle continues throughout our lives. We begin to realize, it really is a continuous journey we are on! And we begin to accept the essential thing is to enjoy the ride.
Hopefully our travels are punctuated by uphill climbs to new heights and successes. But inevitably, there will also be potholes and detours along the way. And ideally, we can find beauty in all of it.
So, what does all this have to do with mentoring?
Here’s the thing: Mentoring can help us truly experience and value all the phases of our personal journey.
I’ve read many articles about how important it is to find a mentor. And I know from personal experience that this is true. An effective mentor can be a tremendous asset as we seek to identify our purpose, progress and grow. In fact, it can be life-altering to find a good “coach”. Someone who helps guide and advise us in a way that motivates and inspires can propel us to new heights we did not think we could possibly achieve.
I’ve been blessed with mentors who have helped light my path, and who have nudged me in the right direction when I hesitated or was unsure. I don’t know where I would be today without them. And I continue to find mentors in my daily life – people who are inspiring me to take the next step in my journey, take new chances, and embrace new experiences.
But as valuable as a mentor can be, I want to take this conversation in a bit of a different direction. As I said, I’ve read many pieces about the value of finding a mentor. However, I’ve seen far fewer about the incredible benefits of BEING a mentor. Being a mentor has brought me tremendous joy and fulfillment, in ways I never expected. So that’s what I’d like to focus on today.
No matter where we are in our lives, we have learned lessons that we can share.
We have our own perspectives that can help others see a different viewpoint. And we each have a unique set of skills and strengths. We can leverage these gifts in many ways to the benefit of others.
Mentoring isn’t just about helping others grow, though. It’s about facilitating our own growth, too. Whatever area we work in, however we spend our time, where ever we are on our journey. We can intensify the reward, enjoyment and accomplishment we experience by mentoring. We can also acquire new skills that help us continue to grow.
Benefits of Mentoring
The few articles I’ve seen that discuss the benefits of mentoring often emphasize the reward of “giving back.” I agree, it is a great feeling to be helping another person learn, grow, and advance closer to their dreams – in fact, I think there are few things that provide the same type of fulfillment.
I like to take every opportunity I can to “pay it forward”: in my career, as a blogger, as a mom, aunt, and friend. Like most of us, I can’t get enough of that feeling that somehow, I’ve done some small bit of good – it brightens the day immeasurably!
But there are other benefits to mentoring that I think don’t get enough air-time. So here are a few:
- Mentoring provides mentors an opportunity to hone the skill of delivering constructive criticism – a skill that ultimately supports career advancement for many and can also help improve personal relationships;
- As a mentor, we also get to practice and cultivate our ability to listen to others and hear the true message behind their words. It’s a relationship that promotes the type of conversation that requires us to truly actively listen.
- Being a mentor can be very reassuring. In our lives we are often stretched and pushed towards new responsibilities – the pressure to continue to perform exceptionally at new tasks can be intense. Mentoring can provide a welcome break, a brief respite and almost a sort of “rest and recovery”. It can be very comforting to teach others what we know well!
- As mentors, we can also learn much from other less experienced individuals. There are times when we become quite ensconced in the way we approach a certain type of problem. Working with someone new can help show us new ways to approach issues and cultivate novel thinking for us – a healthy way to keep our brains active and engaged.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to take on a new challenge?
Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal undertaking – most of us are surrounded by others who would benefit from a kind word, an offer of support, or even just some unsolicited encouragement.
There are also ample opportunities to become a mentor in more structured programs. It’s a Google search away! Why not check out opportunities in your area of expertise? Volunteer programs abound in industry, in academia, even in elementary and secondary schools – we all have something to help others learn. And I promise: you’ll get back more than you give!
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