Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mentoring & Stories We Tell Ourselves

Ever since I was teen, I lived by the following stories about myself that helped me navigate life, and later on, my career.

1) I’m lucky.
2) I create my own luck.
3) Life is what you make it.
4) You always have a choice, even if you may not like the choices.
5) Everything is half my fault, if not more.

As you can see, much of the stories I told myself were a mix of optimism, realism, and good ol’ hard work.

I’m lucky could be seen in anything from being blessed to be born in America, a free country, to everything from my parents who put their daughters through college although they weren’t grads themselves.

I create my own luck was a mantra I told myself that meant all the small tiny actions I took today would somehow pay off in 6 months or years from now in so many ways I wouldn’t even realize. I think this helped groom some patience in me. I always tried to take the right steps and tell myself great results take a long time.

Life is what you make it is just that. My high school senior English teacher lived by the phrase Carpe Diem - seize the day!

In fact, my 5th grade teacher also taught us you always have a choice even if you may not like it. While many of us think we have to do things, the reality is, we do them because we want to - maybe not with joy, but we see the consequences of not doing something is worse. In elementary school, that 5th grade teacher said we came to school because we wanted to, not because we had to. We thought on that for awhile since we all felt we came because we had to. She got us thinking: Well, I walked to school or took the bus. I could have just as easily walked to the park instead or not gotten on the bus and ditched school. If I did that though, my parents would find out and get really mad. And then I’d get grounded and I couldn’t see my friends or do fun stuff. And while it would have been years before we could have learned anytime we act out or rebel it only hurts ourselves, our critical thinking skills had already been triggered. Oh how I consider myself so lucky to have such great teachers all my life! :)

Everything is half my fault, if not more... That lesson I oddly learned from Oprah. LOL I remember watching a show about people with unfaithful partners who continued to stay or date similar types of people. Oprah’s point was, if you stay, you’re to blame, not your partner - even though what they did was wrong. If you continue to seek out or end up with the same kind of people, you’re also to blame because you’re not seeing the signs or you’re allowing yourself to make the same mistakes repeatedly. I remember thinking it was a pretty harsh view, most likely because I wasn’t that age where dating was a big part of my life. Nonetheless, the older I got, I did realize I have a choice - stay or leave.

Because I had these and many other stories largely to the credit of other people, I never paused to think how much they shaped my life, much less that they existed as mantras until I started mentoring other people. In mentoring others, it’s a lot of clarifying what you believe and dispensing advice. But first you must actually take a moment to figure out what your message is, why you believe it, and then how to deliver it along with exact steps to carry it out to get the desired results. This is one of the reasons I enjoy mentoring, it’s an exercise in self-knowledge, teaching, and giving back to someone.

This leads me to my newest revelation. If you aren’t creating new mantras for yourself or you can’t even remember the old mantras that worked for you, something’s wrong and you’re stagnating.

So I was stagnating, or more accurately, I was stagnating because I was tired. And I wasn’t tired in the sense that I need more sleep. I was tired emotionally, psychologically, or as others’ may say - spiritually exhausted. If you find yourself relating to all this, I can only say what I’m planning on doing - take as much “me time,” relaxing, and resting time I need on a daily and long term basis, really cater to myself and what I want to do to rejuvenate (reading, thinking, seeing movies), not fret so much about being in this lull, and continue to sleep, eat, and socialize as I have been while going to work. I am trying to live my life each day like a mini vacation because I realize that is what I need. The last thing I need is to over-extend myself, say yes to everything, take on new outside interests, and spread myself thin. I know with time my spiritual energy will return and I will go back to living my other mantras that I’ve dearly missed... (Note to Future Self: It only takes one and it only takes an instant for it to appear!)

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