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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

On Mentoring

Dr. Nadine’s Thoughts:

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

Oprah Winfrey

Over the last several days I’ve been noticing and reflecting on the people who have been part of my life’s path.  In our blog last week, Dr. Zan and I mused about two specific people that have been instrumental in shaping our lives, our values; who inspire us and remind us of the best in human nature.  Last weekend, my dear friend and I (you’ll remember that I commented that we see each other much too infrequently!), shared three days of uninterrupted time, and so were able to talk about our friendship and our respect and admiration for each other’s strengths—ones complementary to our own.

As a result of that time, throughout the week I found myself thoughtfully reflecting on who I’ve considered to be influential in shaping my life over the years.  My formative years were shaped and solidified by my close-knit family. My years entering young adulthood were molded by the wonderful experience I had at Wheaton College. There, I forged relationships with professors and classmates which sculpted my thinking, my values, my principles, and created “secret anniversaries”, as Sarah Ban Breathnach calls them.  (Those are special moments and memories that hold private meaning for each of us, that others don’t share.) Through my adulthood, I was influenced by a series of romantic relationships, professional connections, and of course, the ever-present “Fine Friends”. Now, I’m in another transition period that, in an effort to develop into my best self, is stretching me out of my comfort zone.

As I am continuing on my expedition though the current jungle of this transition, I had the realization that it might be time to hire a guide.  I’m in the thick of it, and some of the terrain is unfamiliar. Who in their right mind would launch into a journey without support? I recognized that I had the need for a mentor who could navigate those places that I didn’t know, and who could provide support and encouragement, who could challenge me without demoralizing me, who could inspire me to strive for more.  I’ve spent many years being that very person, personally and professionally, to students and family and friends. And now, I thought, it would be such a gift to have that for myself.

It’s really important to connect with others that have expertise that you don’t.  It’s critical to have trusted advisors who can uplift you and motivate you through unfamiliar experiences.  It’s vital to have people who are farther ahead on your path, who can show you the road ahead and prepare you.  In looking for these people, you’ll also want to check your own feelings about them. How able are you to celebrate their achievements, appreciate their successes, promote their efforts without feeling envious?  Or incompetent? Or inadequate? Or left out? These negative feelings will surely stop you in your tracks. If you want to rise to your TRUE HEIGHTS, you’ll want to make sure you’re not getting in your own way.

My story continues: I decided to ask my dear friend if she’d be willing to help me along by officially agreeing to mentor me.  She knows that she excels in areas that I don’t, so she was more than delighted to be my teacher. We already have a plan of action – she’s such a great mentor already! – and I feel encouraged to be making forward progress.

So give yourself this gift of help and support.  If you do, you’ll get better, you’ll rise higher, and you’ll reap all the benefits of a life well-lived.

Dr. Zan’s Reflections:

This very evening Dr. Nadine and I are going to be in the presence of an amazing group of high achieving and deliberately connected women at the inaugural New Jersey event of Women Kick Glass. I think that I can speak for both Dr. Nadine and me when I say that one of the many things that draws us to this group is its lack of structured “agenda” that allows for an organic network of collegiality and support to arise. We could not be more delighted to be discussing friendship, one of our very favorite topics, tonight and how it impacts literally every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Indeed, Dr. Nadine alludes to the fact that being able to appreciate and celebrate the achievements of others contributes to greater opportunities for connection, learning, and happiness.

However, I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly how I was raised. From my own childhood, I can distinctly remember feeling and believing that when others received recognition (especially for some achievement or characteristic that I felt was supposed to be my “special gift”), their glory was a testament to my own inadequacy. Of course, like the good midwestern girl that I was, I learned to look happy for the other person and to say all of the right words of congratulations, but none of this social appropriateness was reflective of my genuine experience. In truth, I grew up with a scarcity mindset, believing that I had to compete and win at every turn; otherwise, there would never be enough, or perhaps even more accurately, I would never be enough.

If you’re wondering why the major confession here, let me just say that I suspect I’m not alone in my upbringing and my attachment to winning, the need to be a winner, and the drive to prove that I am special. This very drive to be and be seen as special is something that needs to be acknowledged and confronted. After all, until we can admit that we may not be so special as to have all of the answers and all of the abilities, how can we possibly embrace the notion of benefitting from, or perhaps even needing, a mentor? Of course, we all need mentors when we are kids or at the early stages of our careers, but finding a mentor when we are at the “prime” or even at later stages of our careers? Really?

There are a couple of thoughts that come to mind. First of all, in the more recent years of my personal and professional adventure I have come to a glorious discovery: I am extraordinarily ordinary. Please do not argue with me on this one. If you happen to be one of my close friends or family who wants to encourage me and tell me that I’m special, I am going to have to push back to say that I am not. AND, it is amazingly freeing to say so. I do not have to be special or extraordinary to be worthy and valued. I can just be a human being, like every other human being, who is doing her best and trying to make a positive difference in her little corner of the world. That is enough. That is truly okay with me. In fact, it’s quite glorious. Being a regular person connects me to a world full of other beautiful, uniquely flawed but universally lovable people.

Additionally, I am understanding increasingly what it really means when I say that I value and embrace lifelong learning. That’s what Dr. Nadine is referencing when she urges you to find a mentor for yourself. Being open to learning at every point in your life is a big part of what brings continuing meaning and purpose to living on this planet. There is always more to learn, and there is always a teacher or mentor who can help to facilitate further, deeper learning. While it might seem that allowing someone to mentor you requires a healthy dose of humility, being a mentor is also a humbling experience. When we realize that we are all learning from one another all of the time, those barriers between teacher and learner start to erode, and we can just be human beings trying to connect and help one another every chance we get.

One final thought: your family is rather obligated to love and admire you, but when you have a mentor or a teacher take an interest in you and your well-being, that is pretty remarkable! If you haven’t had that experience, it is never too late!

#trueheightsconsulting #womenkickglass #mentoring

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