Mentoring is a guided search for the true path. People come to me when they have some to believe that “there has to be more to life”. Many have trod the same path for years and even decades. The accumulation of sameness rubs up against the question “is that all there is?” Well, the truth is that there is so much more to life and so little time to explore it. Helping a person to find that new path to a more fulfilling life is what I do.
Mentoring is a guided journey in search of a person’s true self. Whether it is the echoes of the vision that their parents gave them, the trends and fashions of the time, the result of decisions made years ago or a series of events that occurred randomly, the feeling of dissatisfaction is the same. Years of grasping – holding fast – to a vision of life that has not proven satisfying build to an uneasiness that can create a downward spiral or a wandering in smaller and smaller circles.
Mentoring is helping a person find a new path and a new life. It’s not a journey to paradise but a journey inward to the true source of a person and the life force that flows within them.
Mentoring is preparing the way for change – for leaving the same old path and finding a new one that leads to the life that a person was always meant to live.
Working with a real mentor is hard work and not for the faint of heart.
“Grant me the wisdom …” That’s how the old saying starts off. The rest makes a distinction between ‘what I can’t and can change’. Wisdom, it is posited, is knowing the difference – accepting what can’t be changed and changing what can. Clear enough as it is but these is a wrinkle – an oversight – that most people routinely make – one that flies in the face of such ‘wisdom’. They focus almost exclusively on what can’t be changed.
The behavior is ubiquitous among humans. It arises because we possess memory and can reflect on the past. It is said that a ‘human is the only animal that knows it is going to die’. That may be so, but its Achilles heal is that it ‘knows’ it has a past and suffers all sorts of maladies because of its selective memories of it.
Mentoring Against the Past: In every mentoring session there are three entities in the room – my client, myself and the clients ‘manufactured version of their own history’. The latter words have been chosen very carefully. It is not the client’s history that is in the room. Nothing of that remains in the present except memories or it. But those memories are potent and often overmastering.
The challenge is to move past – or around – those memories. They are generally positioned between the client and myself – held out as a ‘true representation’ of who that person is. But, of course, a mask is not a person and memories are not the past – only a present manifestation of a suspicion of having had one. But, as I said, they are potent – and a force to be reckoned with when trying to change behaviors, improve results or chart a new course.
The Past is Dead, The Future is Not Yet Here – There is Only Now: The past and future are very seductive inducements against living in the present. Most humans have a great deal of difficulty freeing themselves from the bondage. This freedom is an essential step towards claiming the present and forging a future which is not a minor variation of the past.
A person’s past – or more exactly, their residual memories of their past – is a persistent and difficult adversary standing foursquare against change. Its power comes from the fact that, no matter how many times you look at it, nothing but your memories of it can be changed. I refer to this as ‘moving the flatware around on the table.’ You can readjust the memories – soften some and sharpen others – reorder them and highlight or dim as you please but you are still working on a dead project. Solutions to present challenges do not come from such activities. The activity in the present is just rearranging and reinterpreting the past – renovating an illusion.
Change Begins With ‘Now’: I work with clients to abandon the search for ‘reasons why’ and begin to focus on ‘ways how’. My mantra is that reasons are only rationalized justifications that will get you nowhere – knowing why you behave in certain self-limiting or self-destructive ways is only an intellectual curiosity. Figuring out ‘how’ you are going to change the behavior – what your first step is going to be along that journey – now that is the real way out. You change by moving away from who you are towards who you are becoming.
This is not an easy journey – and not one to be attempted alone. My own was made with the help of a number of mentors who took the time and made the effort to show me the way. My work with clients is, at least in part, a homage to the contributions they made to my life. Over the years, I have come to know the satisfaction they must have felt by helping me see a clearer way forward to a life which wasn’t a minor variation of my past.
Don’t make tomorrow’s journeys using yesterday’s maps
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD