If you are reading this blog, my guess is that you are looking for ways to enhance your life and achieve a greater sense of happiness of one form or another. (Or you’ve just accidentally stumbled here.)
To that end you may have considered engaging a coach. Others of you may have turned to mentors. Conversely, some of you may have served as the mentor for one or more people in your lives and may even feel qualified to be coaching others.
So why would I craft an article delineating between to two? In short, because I think the distinction matters. A mentor is someone who metaphorically walks with you, thus sharing how they have solved life’s dilemmas. The mentor helps people learn by sharing their own life experiences. It is a valuable asset and can help people in countless ways.
Coaching, on the other hand, is related but very much different. Coaches don’t “tell” people how to live their lives or “share” the way they themselves solved a specific issue or dilemma. Instead, coaches help people “listen” to their inner voices and find solutions that work for them.
It is the holding up of a large mirror to help people see blind spots, explore what is most important based upon their values and beliefs, and to ultimately decide a course of action for themselves.
Clearly a coach can and will share experiences, but the primary consideration is always the coachee and helping them determine what is important, what they want to do and how they want to do it, regardless of the values or beliefs of the coach.
So, let’s put this in practice. You are a rising star in your company and continue to be asked to do more and more. You accept each challenge happily as your career soars and you become professionally and financially successful. Yet your personal health, and your relationship with friend’s family and perhaps your significant other suffers. You approach a long-trusted friend and mentor who tells you how they have managed each of these issues in their own lives. You adopt their approach and continue to work hard as this is what your friend and mentor said worked for them. They compartmentalized their lives and set clear boundaries at home. It has worked for four decades and they appear happy and healthy.
Yet despite trying this approach, you don’t feel any happier or more fulfilled after six months. You then engage a coach who sits with you and explores your life with you: your values, your core beliefs, your aspirations and goals. He or she learns that you are deeply committed to your family and that you feel bad when you cannot spend the time with them that you would like. You have two young children and your spouse is largely raising them without you. As you reflect on what is most important you decide to put some boundaries, not around your family, but instead around your work commitments. This is hard at first, but becomes easier with time. Your employer does not devalue you but instead finds this refreshing. You come to work energized, happy and fulfilled and your energy is infectious. Had you found a mentor who shared your values, your core beliefs, your life experiences and your life circumstances, perhaps mentoring alone would have done the job. But as each of these variables differ, so too does the outcome and therein lies the role of the coach.
Be who you want to be. Each of us has the inherent right to live the lives we want to live and both mentors and coaches are tools in the toolbox that can assist us in that journey.
Copyright © 2020 Bruce Flareau
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