Everyone should have had at least one mentor in one’s life. Like Sir Isaac Newton said in 1675: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’ This expression might sound a little bit ‘over the top’ in daily life situations, but the metaphor is very fitting. Regardless of whether your mentor is a family member, a teacher, a colleague, a friend, your boss or even a fictional movie character – a good mentor should always share his experience but still communicate on a par with you. Not only should they inspire, help and support you as their mentee, but also should receive the same from you. Balanced relationships are the key to any success. Like Michelle Obama said in her Podcast: ‘Relationships are what makes us human.’ Therefore, they are everything.
Since we grow up, we have role models. Regardless the fact that we can choose them consciously or unconsciously: everything we learn, we learn from someone else. No matter how young or old we are, there is always someone younger looking up to us and seeing us as some sort of role model - whether we want it or not. I am not sure if my two big brothers have the slightest idea of how much they influenced me and made me who I am today – I am not even sure if I fully know. Being conscious of this fact, we should feel even more responsible for our environment and the people that are living in it. The way we act affects any improvement or deterioration. Kam Philips repeated in her Ted Talk that her parents always used to tell her: ‘It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.’ Keeping that simple phrase in one’s head might affect this awareness, and therefore the environment as well as interpersonal relationships, very positively.
A mentor can be kind of a “rock” in your state of life or on your individual journey. Their experience and own life journey can inspire you but can also be used by both of you to solve problems. A simple phrase my mentor and boss in my volunteering project keeps on telling me whenever I have to make a difficult decision is: ‘Do, what your heart tells you.’ Me being a rather critical person that is used to solve problems with the excessive use of lists with Pro’s and Con’s has often heard a similar phrase from my mom: ‘Listen to your feeling’. However, the way my mentor said it with sereneness, but still serious, had a completely different impact on me than my mom telling me something with a similar meaning. My mother was right too, but it didn’t get me the same way. When talking to my mentor I only thought – you are right. I need to listen to my heart, the vibes I get, because my brain tries to trick me and also, I only have one life to live. ‘Do, what your heart tells you’, might be simple, even a little cheesy to some people, but it is very, very true. Find your own way and make space for the things that are important to you – no matter if someone is judging you. Even Michelle Obama said: ‘Put your own schedule first’. Only then you will have the ultimate balance: power and motivation to reach your goals and dreams while being happy.
It is also important to remember, that you don’t need to do everything independently. If you fail, there is someone to help you back up, because nobody is perfect and failure is a part of everyone’s journey, although many people like to hide that fact.
Having a mentor-mentee-relationship in your life, you should probably ask yourself ‘What am I bringing into the relationship?’. This relationship does not only affect your development and the challenges you have to face, but also your mentor’s. Being on a par and having interest is essential to learn as much from each other as possible. Then the relationship has a chance to be very enriching for both sides and helps to reflect own life choices and actions.
Innumerable stories of mentor-mentee-relationships are influencing society. Originally being a “teacher-student-relationship”, the modern idea of this relationship affects the positions of mentors and mentees. They are not really being “leveled” anymore. One still has more experience than the other but shouldn’t feel superior because of that. This might block the “flow” of any individual development.
About 90% of people that are being consciously mentored are likely to become are mentor later on too as Shawn Blanchard explains in his Ted Talk. The Pixar Movie “Soul” even takes this to another level: “Unfinished” souls have to be prepared by mentors and find their spark before they can go to earth and start their life. After that, the mentors, that have already lived their lives can go to rest in peace. Therefore, the movie claims that everyone has something to receive and something to give in order to live a fulfilled life.
Mentoring during volunteering
Usually, volunteers and students at university get their own mentors or have mentors available to reach out to whenever needed. Of course, the motivation and effort in every relationship depends on the individual itself, but it affects interpersonal communication massively. A mentor-mentee-relationship can turn into a friendship if both are on a par with each other, but it can also be strictly practical. I need to say, that I have had a lot of luck with the mentors in my life so far. Supportive brothers and parents, challenging teachers and now motivated and open mentors during my volunteering have affected my sight on life pretty much until now. There is still so much – actually everything - to learn and to experience, but now I know consciously that there are people supporting me and challenging me to trigger my individual development. Learning never stops but sharing it with people and exchanging experiences makes it precious and important. One could even say it makes life worth living since we are all in this together.
In conclusion there is to say, that a healthy and enriching mentor-mentee-relationship can inspire you and help you to solve your problems, but also can reach out, affect people around you and possibly can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but at least the ones of your mentor and you.
The only thing left to ask yourself: Who do you want to be? Who would you consider your mentor?