We often think of mentorship as someone else mentoring us or being a mentor for someone else. Both are viable options and there is a third option, not as an either/or option, but rather as an additional option which I suggest. That option is learning how to mentor yourself. Again, I’m not suggesting this instead of finding a mentor or mentoring someone else, but as an addition.
During my graduate studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, I had the opportunity to study with a true master of thought and of the tuba, Mr. Fritz Kaenzig. Of all the things he taught me, he fostered in me a sense of being able to guide myself to a championship level of performance. I remember him sharing with me...
I’m here to help you learn how to teach yourself, because eventually, you will be your longest surviving teacher.
Words to remember and a concept to help remind ourselves that we need to be able to look at ourselves and offer helpful and inspiring thoughts and words, and in concrete ways, in addition to big picture abstract concepts. I’ve had some great mentors and the best of them came into my life when I was not specifically looking for a mentor, but rather, while I was being my best self I could be. In other words, I was mentoring myself and this lead to me meeting those who were poised to mentor me.
So how do we mentor ourselves? Here’s an example.
Around 2008, I realized my family was going to experience a financially tight window of about 4 months. The economy had dipped and this impacted many of my foundation’s partners, who no longer had the funds to continue services with us. We made the decision to continue services, which was deeply appreciated and led to many long term partners we have today. However, how was my family going to pay our bills? I decided to apply for a job for a paper route. Keep in mind it was:
- 7 nights per week from about midnight till about 6:30am
- I was still building my foundation and other branches of my career
- I was frustrated with the fact that I had to do this, even though I was willing
I began with an average attitude of “I have to do this… not excited about it… going to get it done”
I then quickly fell into the attitude of “OMG… what am I doing...how can I keep this up?”
Then I decided to make one little tweak.
I decided to give myself keynotes as I drove around in the middle of the night. I was delivering keynote speeches to myself. I’d ask myself questions. I’d play music in the background to up the dramatic value of what I was saying. This started as purely motivational and over time turned into a planning session for my own future…. and this changed my emotional response, which I have referenced in earlier blogs.
So how can you mentor yourself?
- Congratulate yourself
- Affirm (verbally and silently) specific things you are doing and creating (including your ideas)
- Use music that inspires you to help yourself visualize positive results in various areas of my life (for me this was music from composers like Beethoven, Mahler, Samuel Barber, some old school Rock and some movie soundtracks)
- Visualize specific accomplishments in different areas of your life
- Visualize specific emotions related to those accomplishments
- Verbalize a list of things for which you was grateful
- Create a document that lists all of the above
- Create a flexible plan (one that can change!) for each item
- Find moments to build your own future within the routine of your day
My message for you in this blog is that you can mentor yourself.
When you are feeling frustrated and you’re down emotionally, that is exactly the time you need to carefully choose your words which you should speak to yourself outloud and silently.
Best wishes… I’d wish you luck yet you know that you create that yourself. It may take a bit of time to surface and once it does, you’ll look back at challenging moments in your life and smile. You’ll smile because you’ll see that you were mentoring yourself in those moments.
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