Over the past couple of decades, we've all heard a lot of talk about the importance of mentors: Find a mentor. Find many mentors. Use your mentors. Keep the relationships up, and who knows what opportunities your mentors might lead you to?
That's all well and good. Mentors can play a critical role in our lives, but as a coach I've watched clients be transformed again and again by a different kind of mentor that most people know little about "“the internal mentor.
What is an Internal Mentor?
An internal mentor is a character or voice that lives within you and represents an older, wiser you. The internal mentor is you "“ten or twenty or thirty years form now–very fulfilled, with rich life experience behind you.
You'd think that the internal mentor is a character we imagine, but that's not the case. The internal mentor is actually a presence already within each of us that we can discover. It is actually the inner essence of who we meant to be, of what is already in us, wanting to be born. It is therefore something we tap into, not something we make up.
How to Discover Your Internal Mentor
You can begin to discover your internal mentor in three simple steps:
- Create a space: Find 25 minutes to be in a quiet, solitary space. Take a walk, go to the park with a journal, or find a secluded spot at home. Take some deep breaths. Notice and release any tension in your body. Spend about five minutes in this step, just unwinding and relaxing. If anxious or random thoughts interrupt you, don't worry; they won't stop your internal mentor from emerging.
- Have a meeting: In your mind, make an imaginary journey to meet your internal mentor. Maybe you imagine yourself taking a trip by boat, or walking down a path, or taking a road trip to meet them. Imagine whatever kind of journey feels intriguing and right to you.
Arrive at the home of that fulfilled older you, and greet the person who you see there. What do they look like? What kind of place do they live in? What is important to them? What is it like to be around them? Bask in the place where they live and in their presence.
Feel free to ask them questions directly like, "What do you want me to know?" and "What makes you happy?" Ask this person to give you a name for himself or herself, a name that represents who they are.
Know that you may not receive information in full sentences, but rather in moods, word fragments, sensations or images"”that's just fine. Spend about fifteen minutes in this step, exploring your vision.
- Take in what you learned. When you are ready, conclude this first visit with your internal mentor. Bring your attention back to the present moment. Record what you learned.
You may find that you don't get much of a sense of your mentor on the first attempt. That's not a problem. Try using a different modality–journaling about your vision, sketching or making a collage, or even making a word cloud from newspapers or magazines. Or give the visualization a try again a few days later.
How to Call Upon Your Internal Mentor
Call upon your internal mentor when you feel stuck, uncertain, or upset, or when you want to move more towards that fulfilled, mature self. Ask, "What would [your internal mentor's name] do this situation? How would he or she view it?" In your mind, you can also "visit" with your internal mentor and ask him or her these questions directly "“ and see what he or she replies.
The Perspective Shift
Remarkably, the internal mentor's perspective usually differs dramatically from our own, and yet it immediately rings true to us, once it is expressed.
My client Alex began one of our sessions feeling stressed and dissatisfied about her work. She sounded like this, "I'm totally frustrated about my job situation. On the one hand I'm miserable. But things could really change in next six months if I get a new boss, which is looking likely. But can I really do this for six more months? I think I could lose it. "
Alex had developed a strong connection with her internal mentor through our coaching. Her mentor, whom she named Alexandra, was a very loving, satisfied woman who had a rich family life and had created a lot of meaning in her work.
Alex checked in with Alexandra to see what she had to say about the job situation. After sitting quietly and listening for a few moments, Alex said, "She said that all of this is the small stuff, that it doesn't really matter whether I try to leave now or wait six months, because my passion doesn't lie in this industry anyway. What matters is that I get back to my creative life out of work. She's saying once I'm move forward with that, my boss is going to bother me a lot less."
Alex had a new way of looking at the situation, one that really resonated for her. She had a lot more peace. I can't tell you how often this happens in my coaching practice. The wisdom of the internal mentor shows up almost effortlessly and helps us move out of stress, anxiety and confusion.
Always on Call, Always Wise
Here are some of the things that are so amazing about having an internal mentor:
- Always on call: Unlike anyone else in our lives, the internal mentor is always on call, always available to us.
- Just for you: The internal mentor's guidance is just for you. Smart as they are, our external mentors can't always know what is right for our unique paths.
- Always on track: The internal mentor's voice never speaks from fear or stress or illusion. It always speaks wisdom.
- Brings in the right brain: The internal mentor shares information from intuition and the subconscious mind, often speaking in images or sensations that sound strange at first but always reveal their profundity as we explore them.
Most important of all, the internal mentor a manifestation of who you are meant to be, of what wants to emerge from you. Every time you follow the inner mentor's guidance, you literally bring your desired future into the present. You are becoming the person you want to be.
Note: The concept of the internal mentor draws upon the "future self" concept and tools pioneered by The Coaches Training Institute (www.thecoaches.com) where I received my coaching education.