Over and over again, we are told that life is a continuous learning experience. Even if we are done with academic learning and education, the class of life still goes on. Life will be fraught with challenges and at those times we need the help of a mentor. Our mentors can come from different places, different backgrounds and different ages. How different they may be will no longer matter as long as they are true to the meaning of the word “mentor” — a wise, experienced and trusted adviser. Some equate them with teachers, but I find mentors less formal but more personal in their teachings.
The spiritual journey can be more challenging than we think. The concepts of morality, righteousness and faith need to be considered as we take our steps toward our ultimate purpose. Thus, a good spiritual mentor is what we need as we take the initial steps of our spiritual journeys. How to find the right mentor from among the numerous candidates? Here are a few tips I have learned in searching for the right spiritual mentor.
- Redefine the meaning of “mentor.” One of the challenges of looking for a mentor and mentoring itself is the preconceived notion of what a mentor is. People have different ways of picturing out what is mentor. The most common notion is that a mentor is like a sage who answers life’s toughest questions. Others search for a motivational speaker or for a business or life coach.
Instead of using the word mentor when approaching someone, use the friendly and casual approach of simply asking someone to lunch or coffee to build a friendship. Often such efforts produce a more natural relationship and provide time for considering if he or she is someone from whom you want to learn.
- Be ready with what you want in a mentor. Sometimes mentoring relationships and the process of mentoring don’t develop beyond a quick lunch or coffee because mentees don’t really know what they want.
Before having that lunch or coffee with a potential mentor, prepare by asking yourself these questions: In what aspect of your life do you most want to grow? Then make a list of other essential questions such as: Who are some of the people who can offer the most information and experience in helping you get there? When you know what you want, you’ll be better equipped in approaching the right person and will not be wasting time.
- Check the person’s commitment. At other times, we might think that we have found the perfect mentor – one who has the qualities and skill set we are looking for. And sometimes, these seemingly perfect mentors decline to take us under their wing. Is it because we are undesirable as mentees? Is it because we are not good enough for them? Most of the times, the answer is no. It’s usually not about the potential mentee. Rather, it’s about their other commitment aside from taking you in. They might have a family to look after, another mentee to guide, or they are just tied up with the projects they have. So consider their commitment. Can they still accommodate one more mentee? Or are they already over-committed?
- Make sure there’s a personal connection. If you’re thinking about reaching out to someone as a mentor, begin by getting to know a bit of the person’s background and make sure some synergy or chemistry exists between you. Some of the best mentoring relationships can be developed organically. Organic simply means to catch the meetings when it works out naturally in both your schedules. You don’t need regular meetings. A couple of meetings a year and a few emails will do. Developing a healthy mentoring relationship will requires you to occasionally pick up the phone, reach out and nurture the relationship.
- Examine the person’s life. Many times, we envy other people for their successes and achievements that we want to be like them, and oftentimes, as we learn about people and their lives more intimately, we may reconsider and think: I don’t want to turn out like that.
We can learn from virtually anyone, but we should take into careful consideration that someone we’re going to invite to speak into our life, and look at the fruit of that person’s life. Make sure not bring your life in parallel with someone who has self-destructive tendencies or behaviors.
I’ve been blessed with five mentors over the course of my life, and I’m grateful! I’m sure that’s part of the reason I’m eager to coach as many as I can. I trust that you will also pass on what is given to you.
Finding a good spiritual mentor will not be easy. Expect some disappointments here and there, a false start along the way or even something that is close to perfect mentoring but isn’t. Fear not, for God knows whose guiding hands He will lead us into. Just trust His plans for us and we can journey through life with more courage and confidence once we find our perfect spiritual mentor.