Your View on Mentoring Impacts Those Around You
In the course of the daily grind, I can sometimes become too focused on the next thing I need to do, rather than be in the moment and present with what I am currently doing. This occurred recently with my 10-year-old son who has cerebral palsy and other medical issues.
I was carrying my son up the steps to the second floor of our house, as I do multiple times a day. But for some reason, on this day and at this moment, my brain was fully present to what I was doing—and more importantly, what he was doing. He is becoming quite tall and heavy, so I carry him facing me with one hand on his back to keep him from falling backward due to lack of trunk support, and one arm under his bottom to support his weight. I was slowly and cautiously making my way up the stairs when I noticed he had turned his head so that he could see where I was going. I realized in that moment that he was always looking over my shoulder at where he had been, rather than turned around and facing forward to see where he was going.
This moment has stayed with me for days. It made me realize that he was trying to engage in his world and anticipate what was coming based on what he could see in front of him—but which I consistently put behind him based on how I have to carry him. This awareness of his perspective of his world was eye-opening for me. And it made me think of how the idea of perspective can apply to our mentoring relationships. Here are three variables that can come into play in your mentoring relationship.
Rehashing the Past
Think about your mentoring relationship. What do you talk about? Are you consistently looking at what happened in the past and how that has impacted where you are today? Do you find yourself looking behind you more often than looking at what might lay ahead of you?
There is nothing wrong with a mindset steeped in the past. You can learn great lessons from past experiences—yours and others’. By looking back, we can analyze what has already occurred and hopefully discover how to avoid making the same mistakes again. The important thing is to not get stuck in the past, rehashing old hurts or missed opportunities. Instead, use the past as a way to move forward, but work hard to ensure you don’t get trapped there.
Being Present, in the Present
When talking to your mentoring partner, do you focus mainly on the here and now? Do you find it difficult to think about where you might be in six months, or a year from now, or five years from now? Or do you have a hard time reflecting on what happened in the past and how that has impacted you?
Being focused on the present can be an effective way to achieve small successes that add up. This can be great as you work to achieve larger mentoring goals over time. It can also provide you with a coping mechanism that allows you to ignore any pain from the past and any uncertainty from the future. But use caution here so that you don’t overlook growth opportunities and awareness that can come from reflection and planning, simply because it’s too hard or uncomfortable.
Focused on the Future
Some people seek out a mentor because they have a long-term vision in mind of what they want their life and career to look like and they know that mentoring can support them in achieving those goals. Perhaps this describes you. Do you have a clear vision of where you want to be in five years? Are you always looking forward and pushing ahead toward the future?
Being intentional about projecting forward can be an effective mentoring strategy. It can allow you and your mentoring partner to plot out a course of action that drives you toward your ultimate goals. However, looking toward the future does not mean you should ignore the past or gloss over the present. Having a future vision to work toward is fantastic, but don’t lose out on opportunities to reflect and learn from the past or lose sight of where you are at this moment in time in present situations as well. Taking the time to learn lessons from the past and have intentional consciousness on factors happening today can inform your strategies for the future and help set you up for success.
So what’s your perspective? Where do you find yourself feeling most comfortable? On the flip side—and maybe as equally important to ask—where do you find it most uncomfortable?
Your unique perspective can impact your mentoring relationship. Have a candid conversation with your mentoring partner to ensure you both understand the other’s perspective, experience, point of view, and so on. This will help you begin to have a better understanding of one another, which can help make your time mentoring together much more effective.