In talking to people about the concept of Mentoring – or Coaching – I realized that, more often than not, an interesting question rises in their mind.
It probably comes from our inherent need of finding a Reason, an Explanation for anything that happens. This gives us (as human beings) a sense of order and of control over our environment.
The question that people think of, in this context of Mentoring, is along these lines:
“I have this problem that I cannot find a solution to. Why would I think that you know the answer to my problem?”
That’s the frame they put over the concept of Mentoring: that the Mentor will give them the Right Answer to their problem (an answer that they looked for, a long time, and they could not find it).
Many times I tried to answer that particular question. In doing that, I implicitly accepted the frame that was laid over the entire process. Obviously, the more I engaged in finding a good answer, the deeper I went into not being able to.
The reason is the fact that this is the Wrong Question and the Wrong Frame, to start with.
You see, the question itself presupposes that the Mentor is, somehow, smarter and more intelligent than the person having the problem (let’s call it ‘the client’). Well, if the client looked for the answer and could not find it, but the mentor is able to give it to them, then, obviously, the mentor is smarter and more intelligent. Moreover, if the client asks the mentor for assistance, that means that the client is admitting that he’s not smart enough. Right?
No, absolutely NOT!
Well, how then?
Let’s say you have a problem that you are struggling with, you are stuck in it for a while now. You are asking me for the “right answer”.
#1. The cold truth is, not only do I not know the “right answer”, but that there is no such thing as “THE ONE right answer”.
However, the good news is this: there are MANY answers that would make a good resolution to your situation, and that ALL of those answers are WITHIN you, already.
You see, I BELIEVE – I KNOW, actually – that you know what your solution is, already. You might not be aware of it, consciously, just yet, but you have it.
This is not just a slogan for me, or a way of gaining your sympathy. I KNOW that if you can formulate the problem, then, at some level, you already formulated the solution.
In other words, one cannot know what IT IS, without knowing what IT ISN’T.
Then, my job is to use my knowledge about the ‘works of the mind’ to guide you, so you will be able to effectively use your mind – without any self-imposed restrictions – to SEE those solutions, to get a clear Sense of what they are. Together, we will Engage on this Journey and Explore the possibilities.
Yes, I will open doors for you, and I’ll teach you skills on how to do that for yourself, in the future. However, it’s for you to pass through those doors and try on those solutions for yourself. If it feels good, then you got it. If it doesn’t feel sustainable for you, then we’ll open another door, and try that solution over there.
How reassuring it is for you to realize that you no longer have to look for the exact One answer? As you go beyond that narrow worldview and accommodate all the things that you could do, what’s the one thing that you can choose Now and try it on, that will make you feel good. Now only feel good, but also know that, at any moment, you can make another choice, that will allow you to expand your options, above the limits that you had before.
That means that people are free to let go of this distinction (of being more or less “smart” than the mentor) and realize that it’s more about having ‘specialized knowledge’: it just so happens that the mentor learned more about “how minds work”.
I noticed that people generally think that, since they have a mind and they used it for so many years, then they “should” know everything about it. Well, not necessarily so. I have been driving cars for so many years, but I still go to the mechanic to fix my car when it’s not running the way I want it to. It doesn’t make me “less smart” than the mechanic, by any means!
(Now, how would it be for me to torment myself and drive a broken car, just because I think that going to the mechanic will cause people to consider me less smart than the mechanic! That’s an interesting image, isn’t it?)
#2. This concept (of “already knowing the solution”, that is) might come a bit abrupt on some people. And, it’s justified: they fought with that problem for so long, to no avail. They now have proof: the answer is not there. They really believe that. Or, in other words, they don’t believe they can find an answer.
I’ll bring here a quote from the Bible. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it’s a nice statement, which goes like this: “… if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” [Matthew 18]
If that was true, let me be the first one to Believe in You and your ability to find answers.
Then we will start our Journey, taking the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ and helping you gather evidences for yourself, so you can end up believing in yourself, too.
That will make Two of us, believing in your ability to grow and evolve.
#3. If your Conscious mind still needs some Reasons as to Why am I able to believe in you, when you are not, let me give you this metaphor.
The “problem” that you have, it is not really a ‘problem’. Suppose it’s like a knot – a huge one – and you don’t know how to untie it.
The issue is that you position yourself as being Inside of that knot. All that you can see from there are lots of threads and strings going in all directions, as randomly as possible. Obviously, you don’t see any way out.
I wouldn’t see any way out either if I was inside that knot! It’s not a matter of being “smart” or “intelligent”. It’s about your “position” in regards with that situation.
Try this: open a picture of yourself on your computer. Then zoom it in to the maximum and try your best to find your ear. Could you still tell who’s in that picture anymore? Probably not. All that you see is a fuzzy thing that’s supposed to be part of your cheek. Or, was it your nose? It’s not that clear, is it? No wonder you can’t find your way towards the ear.
On top of that, you are emotionally attached to your “life situation” that you call “problem”. We all tend to identify with our stories and thus, we come to defend them, even when we know that they no longer serve us.
To continue the example with the ‘zoomed-in’ picture. If I were to ask you to paint red some of the pixels in that picture, you might be reluctant in doing so, or even refuse altogether, because it’s Your picture!
The reason I can see “how to get to your ear” or “how painting red will help” is because
– I zoomed out, I am looking AT the picture from a larger perspective
– I am not attached to the presupposed emotional associations that you made up in your mind (that’s why Doctors are generally not allowed to treat family members – in order to prevent emotions from clouding medical judgment)
Coming back to the image of the “knot” – from my ‘zoomed-out’ position I can see, for instance, that if you pull this string out through this loop over here, then, if you turn it all around and pull that other string over there, and so on – then the entire knot will get loose quickly.
If you get lost on a huge city and you need to find your way back to the hotel, what do you do? You either ask somebody or you take a map. A map is just a convenient way of looking at the city from a ‘zoomed-out’ position.
So, you see, it’s not a matter of “smart-ness”, but rather, a matter of perspective.
The client owns the solution and learns how to solve any future “problems”, because:
– he must be Willing to move around, adopt different perceptual positions and engage in the process
– he must Do the “string pulling”, the “map reading”, noticing the differences and how the world looks like from the new position.
What’s your perspective about these ideas?
Did you find yourself thinking that the mentor is a ‘mentor’ because he’s supposed to be smarter, more intelligent than the client – therefore, the client is less smart, less intelligent than the mentor?
Do you believe that minds can be ‘tricky’ and, sometimes, misguide people into limiting decisions or into non-constructive behaviors?
Can you allow yourself to consider the mentor as being a close friend with “specialized knowledge” about ‘how the mind works’, a friend that you can talk to and who can help you find your own answers?