Much of my mentoring work begins with a fairly standard initial session. Perhaps someone who has talked to a friend of mine and or past client (for the most part, they tend to be the same) has expressed dissatisfaction with the way their life is turning out. Or maybe they have visited my website (www.dr-smith.com) and watched the hamster on the wheel. After a while, they get the feeling that they are experiencing the same thing in their own life. But, no matter how they come to me, one of the first questions that I often ask is "why are you spending so much energy trying to be someone you're not when the person you are is so wonderful?"
When I make a statement like that, the most typical response is something akin to "What do you mean, someone else? I am who I am!" It's at that point that the possibility of mentoring opens up. But it could go either way as a point.
The first few sessions are best described as "finding the beginning of the path". The path we are seeking is not one that leads outward towards something "out there". The transformational journey is always inward and, when made, can be the first time that any attempt has been made to come in contact with the person as they truly are.
If you don't know who you are, how can you have any idea how wonderful you are?
The first time I make such a statement, the most common result is an incredulous stare. What follows is a general defense of things as they are and an insistence that I'm mistaken - that they are a perfectly ordinary person and that there is nothing particularly special about them. The discussion tends to center around my contention that they are better than they have ever realized and the response that I am mistaken. It's an interesting dynamic to say the least. And it does have an aspect of tragedy about.
But that's only half the tragedy. A person who lacks sufficient self-knowledge will be faced with a single option. Not knowing who they really are, they will try to become who they think they should be. And that's when the tragedy really begins. For some, a substantial portion of their adult life will be spent in promoting this mask as themselves. Untold years might be wasted following paths and engaging in activities which not only do not serve their interest but degrade their sense of self into a charade.
The truth is that most people are far better at being authentically who they are than they are at being who they imagine they should be.
It may take you a bit of time to understand the complex implications of the last statement. A core idea is that you can be far better than you are now - that you can be a better person - that you can be a better you - by simply being who you really are. And that doesn't involve becoming better at becoming the person you imagine yourself to be. It involves, as a first critical step, getting to know the person you really are.
The transformational journey inward is one that many people spend a lifetime avoiding. I suspect it's because they're afraid of what they might find. Somehow there come to feel that the person that they really are is something to be ashamed of or, something to be avoided. As a result, they move through life never knowing how truly amazing they are and how fulfilling their life can be.
One of the reasons that I have dedicated so much time to mentoring is that, occasionally, I find individuals who are ready to do the heavy lifting and willing to commit to the inward journey. It's not a high percentage of the people who come to me. But the ones who are ready make it all worthwhile.
© Dr Earl R Smith II
Mentoring Client, CEO and Serial Entrepreneur,
Mentoring Client, NPI Team Lead,
Mentoring Client, Deloitte,
CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’,
Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions,