What is a mentor?
When I was in high school, I heard a speaker talk about the importance of having mentors in your life. It struck me forcibly. Afterwards, I sent the speaker an e-mail asking for more information. In particular I wanted to know, where do you find mentors? I never got a response back, but the question has remained in my mind to this day.
Where do you find mentors?
At the time, I thought a mentor had to be a much older adult who met with you on a weekly basis for coffee. This wasn’t any old person, this was a MENTOR. This was a very intentional relationship. MENTORS knew their role and defined themselves by it (and somehow by you, too.) Others knew this was your MENTOR. I saw others had MENTORS.
However, especially in high school and college, I couldn’t find anyone specific enough to fit this magical role in my head. It is a lot of pressure to find the perfect adult.
I’ve been realizing lately that I have had a lot of mentors in my life, but I didn’t recognize them at the time. They didn’t carry a giant sign that said MENTOR. They didn’t sit down on a weekly basis and talk about me. In fact, they did something much more precious. They walked through life with me. Some were only in my life for a short time, others have remained for years. They are the adults – and friends – who have watched over, advised, and instilled confidence in me through each new challenge.
I have been surrounded by mentors, but I didn’t notice because I was looking for someone who carried the title. Mentors don’t always look a certain way. Some might purposefully wear the name and meet with you weekly. However, more often they impact you because they are the people in your life at the time. They don’t necessarily fit into a certain age or role, though some categories (like bosses, pastors, professors etc.) may “fit” the role more readily. I don’t know that the mentors in your life always wake up and think, “I am going to mentor today.” It is more natural, an aspect of your relationship with them.
I have taken a very general view of mentors, and I realize there are situations where a particular person does become a central figure. A Mentor, if you will. It is good to seek out a Mentor. I don’t want to downplay that. I just found that in seeking a MENTOR, or even a Mentor, I failed to make the most of the mentors I already had.
Finding mentors is critically important. I don’t know if you ever grow out of it. Sometimes, you do find someone to intentionally meet with and learn from. That’s great. It is important to be willing to seek those people out and ask to be mentored if it fits the situation. However, often it is the people around you who don’t carry any specific “title” that have the most impact on your life. It is important to intentionally pursue their wisdom and guidance as well. You have mentors in your life whether you call them by that name or not. The key is to make the most of them.