What Mentoring Taught Me

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Every week I meet up with a bright young girl to discuss life, her life, mainly. We talk about all sorts of things; sometimes we go and get hot chocolates, other times we sit by a computer. My objective is to be there to support her, guide her and be an ear for anything she would like to talk about. I volunteered to be a mentor for a number of reasons: I have the time, I enjoy talking to others, I have a genuine interest in people and, if I can, I would like to help.

I certainly do not have a degree in mentoring, or claim to have all the answers – I don’t. However, I do have some life experience and some advice I would give to a younger me, so why not pass that on to someone who has reached out for some guidance? What I thought would be a great chance to help someone who is still at the start of their life has simultaneously made me reflect on a lot of things in mine, too.

We can plan and plan and plan. We can have a five year plan, a ten year plan and of course it is beneficial to have some sort of idea as to how you envision achieving something and what steps you need to take. But it’s ok not to have all the answers and have it all figured out all of the time, too. Life doesn’t always stick to the order you’ve set. If I knew some of the things I know now, I perhaps would have made different choices when I was younger, but do I regret that? Not so much.

Maybe I would have studied something different at university, or saved more money when I was younger. But the money I spent meant I saw the world and the subject I studied gave me one of the biggest opportunities of my life. Ultimately, I’ve learned that I’m not afraid anymore when it comes to making decisions because as long as they feel right by me, I am being the truest version of myself. The route that I was taking changed direction as I got older and so did my ideas and thoughts, but it has lead me on a path I would pave again and again.

When I talk to my mentee about life and what direction she would like to go in, we don’t focus so much on a set plan that’s written out in bold black ink and laminated for protection. It seems more natural to talk about her as a person, what she likes, what she dislikes. Her strengths and what she finds interesting, then the rest seems to flow naturally. As she evolves her opinions and interests may change and that’s absolutely fine, that’s growth.

I am at a stage in my life where I have had a change of direction and am being pulled towards something I haven’t had an overwhelming amount of experience in. But, what mentoring has taught me most is that it really is important to do what makes you happiest inside. Not to be afraid of risks or challenges, or worry over things you have no control over.

As long as you put your best into whatever it is that you are passionate about, the rest usually falls into place.