The Gift of a Mentor

What two words make you cringe more than “public speaking”? You may be able to name a few, but for many people the fear of this is real, myself included. So, to help with my fear, I joined a club that makes you give public speeches to improve on this. The odd thing about this is that I have learned to grow in other ways, by doing this. Sure, it has helped me learn to prepare and feel a little less of an internal mess when I have to speak in front of a group of individuals, but some of the biggest takeaways I get from being a part of this club is the process of becoming a better person. Now, I am not saying that you must go join a club like this to grow as a person, there are many ways to be able to do that. Each speech is based upon a lesson to help you overcome different challenges you may face in life and after the adrenaline rush of the speech is over, I get to reflect on it. My last project was based on the role of a Mentor and Protégé, and the difference between a Mentor and a Coach. I wrote my speech about a time in life that I was a protégé and delivered it to my group, project done!

Then I started to look back on the lesson to reflect on what I learned through the process and realized that there are a few things I learned that had nothing to do with the actual task of standing in front of people talking effectively. The first is, that having a mentor in my life is a gift. Think about it for a moment, someone is willing to take time out of their day to help guide me through life’s situation. Why would someone do that? The answer is quite simple, giving back makes them feel good, the same way that donating / volunteering makes people feel good during the holidays. You do not have to run to your local food bank and donate your time to helping others, you can achieve and surpass this same level of satisfaction by choosing to be a mentor to youth within the community. Did you have someone in your life growing up that was there to help you through life? This could have been a parent, extended family member, teacher, or some other adult of positive influence. If not, do you wish you did?

Knowing that not everyone has had the experience of a mentor in their life triggered the thought process of what a mentor is, and what are some qualities that a mentor should have. To start, you must understand the different roles that are part of this relationship.

There are three different roles to understand: Mentor, Protégé, and Coach. A mentor is an experienced individual who provides guidance and support to empower protégés to reach their goals. A protégé is someone who seeks guidance and support from a mentor to reach his or her goals. There is always something to learn from a supportive person with different or greater experience who is willing to listen without judgment, provide guidance, and answer questions. Mentors and coaches are often thought of as having similar roles. The two positions can overlap but are actually very different. Coaching can be part of mentorship, but mentors are not coaches. A mentor’s role is to support a protégé as they take personal responsibility for working toward the accomplishment of broader goals over a sustained period of time. Coaches are responsible for protégés meeting a specific short-term goal. The type of goal that a coach can most effectively facilitate is skills-based and specific. A mentor has more of a long-term guidance approach.

While both the mentor and coach should be experienced in the areas that the protégé is looking for support on, the coach is focused on giving you the skills that solve the problem in front of you. The mentor is there to guide you while you do the work and help you when you fall. A mentor needs to have a number of traits that most people would agree with; knowledgeable, positive, caring, and committed. There is one trait when I think of mentorship that not many people think of. The ability to fail! Many people see successful people and think that they are just lucky, or they just make it look so easy. What they do not see is the countless attempts they made before that and failed. Then, they tried again and failed again. If they would have quit after they failed, they would not have succeeded and be the person you admire today. The ability to be able to help someone get through failure is what will define you as a mentor.

With the holidays approaching, take the time to make a positive impact on the lives of youth, at the end of the day it will make you feel good. That impact might be the reason they keep trying even when no one else thinks they can. It might be the reason they get up and keep pushing, instead of turning to substance use and start a path of self-destruction.

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