You began your business or personal development goal, full of enthusiasm, vim and vigor, but this high level of energy and commitment is difficult to maintain indefinitely. It is easier to maintain high energy levels when life is flowing in a positive direction, but infinitely less so when life flows against.
A mentor will work to keep you grounded during the highs, and elevated during the lows, by continually keeping your changing circumstances in perspective. Have you just frowned at the thought of being kept grounded during a high? Highs are great, don't get me wrong; they can be powerful catalysts for getting stuff done, but a balance must always be maintained. There must be equilibrium in all things. There is a wise old saying...
Never make a promise when you're happy,
never reply when you're angry,
and never decide when you're sad
A mentor will always be the one jumping up and down next to you when you accomplish a triumph, but they will also ensure you don't get carried away with the prevailing mood; good or bad. To quote Rudyard Kipling, a mentor will encourage you to: “...meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same”
We are all good at different things, and everyone you meet will have something to teach you, if you'll listen. Mentors are absolutely not the font of all knowledge, but they do have a rich seam of experience you are invited to tap into as their mentee. It's like having your own treasure chest full of information, contacts/networking, advice, knowledge and guidance all there at your disposal. Who doesn't want that kind of treasure chest?
A mentor is someone who has already walked the path you're walking now, and knows where many of the short cuts and pitfalls are. Is there any aspect of your life where you have found yourself frustrated, exasperated and exclaiming “...there has to be an easier way?!” Well, now is the time to bring in a fresh pair of eyes and a new, objective perspective to help clear your path. If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got.
Having a goal – be it entrepreneurial or personal in nature – requires an uncommon level of dedication, and many around you will not understand, or even support you in some cases. If you want to i.e.: grow your own business or train for the London marathon, you will have to give the dream everything you've got to be successful, and you will probably meet resistance along the way. There will be those (aka The Negative Committee) who will try and tell you that you're destined to fail, it's a bad idea, you don't have the X-factor to be successful, you're working too hard, you're obsessed etc, etc. Well, “obsessed” is a word the uninspired use to describe dedication, so press on with your dreams, press on.
Referring back to the first point “Perspective”, a mentor will help you keep what is said and done to you in perspective, whilst understanding and encouraging your dedication and high level work rate. A mentor has been where you are (focus and dedication-wise), has most certainly had to vanquish their own Negative Committee and, more often than not, bought the T-shirt!
Once you begin to move outside of your normal circles, and start to focus on new targets and aspirations, it is possible to make those around you feel nervous and uncomfortable – if only on their subconscious levels. By pushing back the boundaries of your life, you may inspire others to do the same, but there will be those who feel threatened by your drive and ambition. They may feel inferior by their inability, or unwillingness, to leave their comfort zone to start their own business, or train for their own marathon. Some choose to tear down those who try, to make themselves feel better for not being able (or willing) to. Nothing pleases The Negative Committee more than being able to drag you back “to where you belong” - according to where they think you belong.
Having a mentor is a powerful antidote to The Negative Committee. When a mentor has your back, you will learn to adopt the attitude of: people who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those who are doing it! If you lose people on your journey because they do not believe in or support you, then you must understand they are simply vacating the space for people who will.
3.b: NO (WO)MAN IS AN ISLAND
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...”, so wrote John Donne on the concepts of mankind and isolation (amongst others). It is true that marathon runners run 26 miles “alone”, insomuch as their families, coaches, physiotherapists and sponsors wait for them at the finishing line. However, the marathon runner would not have the training, funding, physical and psychological conditioning, nor the opportunities to win and succeed without a small army of support.
Solitude, isolation, are painful things and beyond human endurance - Jules Verne
In his book “Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?”, champion rower Ben Hunt-Davis details how, for the four years leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he based every life decision on whether, or not, it would help make his crew's boat go faster. If his friends invited him out i.e.: for a pint, he would determine this action would not make the boat go faster, and so decline the invitation. With this fierce focus and dedication, Ben duly won gold in Sydney, alongside his team mates. It is precisely this level of devotion to your goal that can lose you lower quality friends, who'd rather you stay “where you belong” and inside the comfort zone that suits them best. A mentor's primary function however, is to encourage and facilitate your best interests.
You are either growing or dying, expanding or contracting; exactly which is up to you. Once you have successfully told The Negative Committee (inside and outside of your own mind) to sit down and shut the hell up, your focus must be to grow and expand towards success. Learning must never stop, whether you're a business owner or a marathon trainee. There is always something to learn, always improvements to be made, streamlining to be achieved or additional power to unleash from somewhere. A mentor will help you to look in all of the right places; and the answers will invariably come from (deep) within you.
You have untapped potential which needs to be found, acknowledged and put to work for your greatest and highest good. We are all susceptible to self-limiting beliefs, and are prone to lugging them around like two over-stuffed suitcases wherever we go. This slows us down and tires us prematurely, so they simply must go. A mentor will challenge your thinking, and it is likely to be as uncomfortable as it is necessary. You can avoid the discomfort if you wish, but you either want to be bigger, better, stronger, faster...or you don't.
Once your self-limiting beliefs have been dragged kicking and screaming from the dark recesses of your subconscious, you will have gained power and mastery over them. By practicing mindfulness, and catching yourself on when the self-limiting gremlins attempt a resurgence, you will be able to spend your energy and focus on driving forward, rather than second-guessing or doubting yourself. Self-limiting beliefs are like an attacker following you home on a dark night, grabbing you around the neck from behind until you submit to your knees and acquiesce. Are you really happy to live your life in this much fear? No, I thought not, so you need to act with intent and defend yourself – a mentor will help you to face your fears and defeat them!
Comfort zones are the enemy of progress and expansion. The soft, low-hanging option is all the more appealing, the more exhausted and depleted you are, but you must somehow find the will and determination to press on.
Every aspiring and world-class athlete has a coach, and there's a good reason for that. When you're in the middle of creating your empire; building, refining and strengthening your brand and market share, it's hard to think of everything. When you're the one who has to be up early, to bed late and responsible for financially supporting your family and employees, who supports you? In your business-owning leadership position, you are responsible for motivating others, but who motivates you? This is where a mentor becomes self-funding: can you really afford not to hire a mentor?
Successful people never reach their goals alone, because they can't be all things to all people, all of the time. This would most certainly be a fast and furious route to burnout. As previously stated, owning your own business, or targeting an ambitious personal development goal, will take everything you've got. Also as previously stated, there must be equilibrium in all things, so you must replenish your levels (of everything) regularly to avoid getting into all kinds of depleted trouble.
The value of having a mentor guiding, supporting, motivating – even cheer-leading – you on cannot be underestimated. Knowing you are not alone, to have a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction, when needs must, can be the difference between winning and losing. The strength of your coaching support is an essential component, as Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, Patrick Mouratoglou and Serena Williams, Toni Minichiello and Jessica Ennis will attest. Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.
Where does inspiration come from, and how can you keep the flow of it flowing? You can inspire yourself – as you can equally motivate yourself – but how to maintain the impetus necessary for the success you desire? Energy, motivation and inspiration are all easy enough to self-manifest when life is flowing in a positive direction, but not nearly so easy when life flows against
It's a good idea to have a mentor in your corner long before exhaustion sets in. It's a good idea to ask for help, not because you are weak, but because you are strong and want to stay strong. Prevention is better than the cure, because in the time you spend punching below your weight, your competitors will be maximising on the opportunities you have afforded them.
When life flows against your most earnest of endeavours, when your chin drops but you must fight on, how will you inspire yourself with everything else to do also? Customers, family, competitors, bank managers all have the ability to light a fire under you, but a mentor will light a fire within you
The greatest and hardest battles are often fought in our minds. Self-limiting beliefs, as previously stated, have the power to bring us to our knees if we allow them to, but so many of us don't even hear what we're saying to ourselves every day. Negative self-talk is a powerful force, working powerfully against us, but it's often so ingrained and habitual, that we don't realise how badly we are weakening ourselves half the time. Would you talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself sometimes?
The negative shadows and influences of those around us (past and/or present), can also take their toll, during a battle for supremacy with our better angels. We must remember that aeroplanes take off against the wind, not with it – and so too can you. Whatever conditions you bring to the table, supplementary, alternative, accommodating or eradicating measures can be activated to empower you to achieve your goals. You must learn the rules of the game, and then play them better than anyone else.
The dictionary defines accountability as what is “required or expected to justify actions or decisions”, and a mentor can serve you invaluably as an accountability partner in this way. If you look at the hugely successful (and profitable) Weight Watchers model, you can see how being accountable for every weekly weigh-in, helps a great many people stay focused on their goal of losing weight, even if it can be a little fear-driven.
It is too easy to sleepwalk through life, doing what you've always done and wondering why you always get what you've always gotten. Habits are settled and regular tendencies and practices, often perpetrated automatically and unthinkingly. A mentor will challenge your settled and regular unthinking tendencies, and hold you accountable for your thoughts and actions. The thoughts and actions which serve you well will be kept, enhanced and practised mindfully, whilst all others will be reshaped into something more purposeful.
You will only hold yourself accountable for goals that others know about. Tell someone what your dreams are and what you're doing – everyday – to achieve them.
Always invest in yourself, because it pays the best interest.
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