Why everyone deserves a mentor
Being mentored helps us become the hero we all want to be in our personal story. Here’s why you deserve a mentor to guide you in your journey.
Why is it that we keep being drawn back to some stories time and again? It is because we resonate deeply with The Hero’s Journey story structure, first articulated by Joseph Campbell. The Hero archetype resides in the psyche of every individual, and it spans cultures, religions, and geographies. Because the hero’s journey represents a storyline that we can observe in most, if not all, cultures, it represents an experience that resonates with the entire human family.
What is this experience? It’s a personal transformation from an innocent child into a mature, wise adult.
The child is born into a set of rules and beliefs of a group of people. And, through the child’s heroic efforts, the individual breaks free from and transcends these conventions to discover themselves. In this journey, the individual returns to their soul.
If we think of The Hero’s Journey as a roadmap for self-development, it can hold a lot of value for us.
And none of us make this journey completely alone. There are people strategically placed along our path who are willing to mentor us, coach us, support us, teach us, guide us if we are open enough to acknowledge and accept their support.
Remember, not even our heroes get to be heroic without having a mentor or three.
Set yourself free
Perhaps the most classic example of this in cinematic history is the Star Wars trilogy, where Obi-Wan Kenobi is a mentor to Luke Skywalker, to whom he introduces the ways of the Jedi. After sacrificing himself in a duel against Darth Vader, Obi-Wan guides Luke through the Force in his fight against the Galactic Empire. His lessons help lead Luke from his ordinary world to a call to adventure that feels to him beyond his abilities. In this adventure, Luke discovers a problem to be solved, crosses the threshold to something greater while coming up against various challenges, friends, and foes along the way. He encounters his mentor, then dives deep into the dragon’s lair and through a moment of despair. He learns his lessons, is transformed and finds his treasure. He is reborn, there is atonement, and the champion is ready to return home with his new gift of insight; his growth into adulthood complete.
Without the mentor, Luke may have strayed to the dark side and taken the wrong path. Luke found this path himself, growing with the experiences and learning from the counsel of his mentor.
Our hero's journey from childhood and innocence to adulthood and wisdom, is not so much about growing up as it is about figuring out who we are, why we are here and what our purpose is.
A mentor helps to guide us as we identify our goals and overcome the obstacles in our path to becoming our very own heroes.
A great mentor acts as our external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of our reality from a wider, more experienced perspective. They recognise the fundamentals, see our blind spots, and predict the potential blocks in our path. They break our actions down and then help us build them back up again.
Being mentored can be as painful a journey as it is enlightening, as we require courage to be vulnerable. Remember how Luke resisted the support of Obi-Wan, and again later when Yoda mentored him. We often don’t like being observed because we feel we are being critiqued. We resist the ensuing work we need to do on ourselves, because of the fear of judgement, of failing, of not being good enough. Yet, these fears are the very building blocks of our success. There are periods where we are likely to get worse before we get better, because we are flexing new mental, emotional, physical and spiritual muscles.
Expanding our self-awareness to see beyond what’s right around the corner
As we flex these muscles, we begin to develop a new level of self-awareness, something which can be as desirable as it is elusive. Studies have revealed that a staggering 95 per cent of people think they possess self-awareness, but only about 15 per cent of people really do.
Self-aware people are generally more fulfilled, more creative, successful, more confident; they build better relationships, and are more respected and effective as leaders with more profitable companies. There’s just one problem: most people don’t see themselves quite as clearly as they could, and it’s rare to get candid, objective feedback without a mentor, coach, tutor or teacher.
In her book, Insight, organisational psychologist Eurich tackles this paradox and explains the disconnect. She notes:
“The reason I call it the meta-skill is that it’s underlying or foundational to all of the skills that are required to succeed in the 21st century – things like emotional intelligence, influence, persuasion, sales. If you are not self-aware, if you do not understand who you are, how others see you and the role you play in the world, you are going to come up short. But for most people, it is easier to choose self-delusion over the cold hard truth.”
Eurich argues that the increasingly “me-focused” society makes it easier to fall into this trap.
“Recent generations have grown up in a world obsessed with self-esteem, constantly being reminded of their special qualities, and it is fiendishly difficult to examine objectively who we are and how we’re seen.”
Indeed, psychological research indicates that we are not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately, frequently overestimating our abilities. A good example is the Dunning-Kruger effect, which results in “illusory superiority” – a condition of cognitive bias whereby a person overestimates their own qualities and abilities in relation to the same qualities and abilities of others. What’s even more alarming is that those with the least ability are most likely to overrate their ability to the greatest extent.
Getting the world mentored
If having a mentor is good for Luke Skywalker, to expand his self-awareness and therefore the success of his mission, then having one ourselves must be good for us too. Olympic athletes, stadium-filling musicians, and leading CEOs wouldn’t be world-class without many mentors along their path.
So, let’s bring that premise to the workplace, to every aspect of our lives, and let's get the world mentored.