One of my mentors said that she really hated that she didn’t play sports when she was growing up. She just thinks that people that played sports are accustomed to being “coached”, and they just do better in life and at work because of those younger experiences. They also learn to play on teams and work towards a common goal. She thinks it definitely is evident in the workplace who has and who hasn’t been a part of an athletic team.
I think she has a point. I played fast pitch softball and basketball in high school. I was a talented fast pitch pitcher, but I totally sucked at basketball. I loved to run, though. I was probably one of the only ones on the team who got a sadistic kick out of running suicides and laps. I just loved it, and I loved to sweat. I learned so much through those experiences. It’s hard to say what I would have missed if I hadn’t done it because I’ll never know. I only know what I know.
That’s where coaching and mentoring comes in. Coaches and mentors help me know those things I don’t know. A coach also helps me act on those things I do know. If I’m going to share those things that helped me create a life I love, I have to talk about my coaches and mentors. I have my issues, and I’m stubborn, but I am coachable. I always try to hear feedback and use it to improve myself. I’m not saying I don’t get defensive at first, but I generally realize that I need to take a second look at any feedback I get. I’ll take what I can use and leave the rest.
I didn’t run for 25 years because of an overuse injury, but I missed long distance running. I really wanted to do it again, but I just couldn’t seem to get started. I found a marathon training coach in Memphis, Mark Higginbotham (See my resource page for contact info for Mark). I actually called him a couple of times and then chickened out about showing up. But, I finally bit the bullet and went. I’m so glad I did. He corrected a very minor thing about my form which totally fixed the issues I was having with my knees when I was running. He also taught me everything I needed to know about running injury-free and fueling for endurance running. I have now run 3 marathons, and I don’t know how many half-marathons in the past three years. I haven’t even had a blister. Eventually, I hired a personal trainer for strength training, too. That even further improved my running and my body’s recovery from running.
I hired a personal coach when I first moved to Memphis. I was struggling with adapting to this new city, plus I had a really troubled marriage. I really wanted to speed up my adaptation period. I’ve moved many times in my life, and it always takes me about a year to get fully integrated into my new life with close friends and a lifestyle I enjoy. I wanted to cut that in half. This coach helped me understand where I was spinning my wheels and helped me see where I could prioritize those activities that would enable me to make friends and adapt more quickly. In addition, he helped me add “fun” into a packed schedule and even encouraged me to relax more.
I have a sponsor in my 12 step program that helps me see my blind spots, process my emotions and generally work my program which is the foundation of how I live my life. Watching a sponsor navigate this lifestyle has helped me see how to realistically do it instead of trying to be perfect. I often don’t see things in myself as clearly as she sees them, so she acts as a mirror for me in those areas. I don’t always like it, but I know the value of seeing myself realistically.
I have had professional mentors as well. They are usually less defined, but they are the people I could trust to discuss my professional growth and my plans for the future. I hired a Career Counselor to help me change my career when I was 42. I learned that I spent my career climbing a ladder that led somewhere I didn’t want to go. So, I needed some guidance to move it where I needed it to be. That counselor was a huge help to me, and I would not have been able to do that on my own.
I even hired a dating coach when I started dating again. I had screwed that up again and again. I had two failed marriages. I wanted to know how I was supposed to meet people at 5o and how to turn some of those connections into dates. Furthermore, I needed to know how to spot somebody that was healthy and who was a good match for me. One of the primary things I found out about myself from the dating coach was that I didn’t know how to flirt. Here I was– successful professionally, had lots of great friends, but I didn’t know how to flirt. I didn’t even realize that you had to give some signals that you were interested in a guy before they would approach you. How many opportunities had I missed because I just didn’t know that? She taught me how to flirt. It was kind of fun practicing, too.
How do you find a coach? Ask around. Google it. Go to a website for life coaching. Look for people who author books on what you’re wanting to accomplish. Many of them coach. As for mentors, find someone who has what you want. You want to run long distances? Find someone who does it already and wants to get re-motivated themselves. Want to learn how to paint? Find a painter who wants to be re-inspired. The interesting thing about mentoring and coaching is that it helps the mentor and coaches, too. When I mentor someone, I always learn as much from them as I teach. It’s funny how that happens. It’s a win/win situation.
I don’t believe any of us can “do” this life by ourselves. I know I have to ask for help. There is too much I don’t see, and there’s an overwhelming amount of stuff that I just don’t know. Next week, I’m going to have a surfing coach. I hope that coach will help me avoid some problems that might keep me from surfing or worse, getting hurt. I certainly know nothing about surfing. If they can cut the time down by 50% of what it would take doing it on my own, I’ll be thrilled.
By the way, I’ll have a guest blogger in this space next week. She’s one of my mentors. But, I’m mentoring her on blogging. How cool is that? See ya later…surf’s up….and the coffee’s on. I’ve got a plane to catch. 🙂