by Mike McDonough, Pastor of Spiritual Development
Take out a sheet of paper, open up a new Word document, or open your notes program on your phone/tablet. Write down what comes to mind as you envision a mentor for your life. What qualities does this person possess? What skills does this person exhibit? How would you describe his or her personality? What kinds of things would you do together? How much time would you spend together? How often would you meet/talk/text this person?
The reality is the person you just envisioned only exists on paper and not in flesh and blood.
Think about it--is there really someone that skilled with his or her life that together? Not to mention the perfect personality to mesh with your crazy? (Be honest about your crazy). Probably not, but that is ok; I have never been able to find the perfect mentor either. But I have been mentored.
Instead of finding the perfect person to be your mentor, develop the practice of being a good protege.
3 Steps to Being Good Protege
1.) Ask someone to help you with a specific goal.
You have come to realize that there is a specific area in your life where you could use some help. You may need help with a work skill, making an important decision, a hobby, spiritual discipline, your health, etc. Find someone whom you believe excels in this area in his life. Ask for one meeting. When asking for the meeting, let him know how you have specifically seen him excel in the area in which you need help. (You probably should lead your ask with this observation). Be open to a meeting time they suggest and adjust your schedule if necessary. Set the time and date and begin to prepare.
2.) Have some specific questions.
Before your meeting, brainstorm some specific questions. If possible, send your mentor a copy of the questions before the meeting. Show that you are serious and prepared. Ask about his thought process. Ask about how he learned a skill. Ask about books and resources he recommends. Ask for a walkthrough of his process. Speak from your heart about your specific problem/case/situation/need. Ask what he would do in your situation.
3.) Set time limits.
Plan for your meeting to last no longer than an hour. In fact, tell him your time limit when you ask. He may be gracious enough to meet with you longer, but be respectful of his time. The opportunity may present itself for you to meet regularly with the mentor. Set a time frame (1 month, 6 months, etc.) for these meetings. Create a natural break for both you and the mentor. Let each of you have an easy out at a set interval in case the relationship is not developing well. You may also find that you have received all the help you can from the mentor in a few meetings. You may also find that while the person is great in one area in his life, he may also be a jerk and the relationship can quickly become toxic. The mentor may also have multiple reasons to stop meeting as well.
I believe most people do not overcome the difficulty in proactively finding a mentor. Instead they realize they have found a mentor after the relationship has already developed over the course of multiple years. I didn’t truly realize the mentors in my life were mentors until they were naturally helping me in an already established relationship. Don’t try to find that perfect mentor! Instead, build the practice of being a good protege into your life. One day, you may just find that you have found the mentor you needed all along.
Where in your life could you use some help? Who are you going to ask for help?
Questions or comments? Let us know in the comments section!
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