I am always skeptical of people, especially leaders, who do not disclose a mentoring hand in their lives, whether academically, professionally, or personally. Mentors matter, and it is important that you get the guidance and direction you need throughout your journey.
A parent can mentor you in some areas, but their goal is largely to parent you in all your childhood, teenager, and young adulthood glory, but it is the mentor who teaches you strategies for how to navigate your life outside of the immediate home environment and nurturing.
Not to take away from the role of the parent, the mentor is central for any individual with vision. The mentor discerns and closes any gaps in your knowledge base, recognition of talent, application of skill set, and lack of consistency in perseverance.
The mentor is key to establishing, processing, and accomplishing a vision.
Restoration requires mentorship, and mentorship is predicated on learning from someone who has walked out the process. To restore is to return something to a former place or condition, to return something to a former owner. It also means to reinstate a previous practice, right, or custom. The problem with the missed opportunity is that before it became a missed opportunity, you were going down the right path. Before you can accomplish any dream or vision, you must be restored to the right path on which that vision is to be advanced.
The definition is taken directly from Overcoming Setback: Five Keys for Entering and Exiting Correction. The following brief video introduction to restoration outlines the importance of mentoring. The full video discussion for the restoration topic is available at the end of this article.
Keep in mind that the goal of mentoring is to learn from someone who has already walked out the processes. We are not inventing the wheel, even though we delude ourselves into believing that we are. Someone has already experienced what you are now experiencing and can offer guidance on how to navigate problem-solving, which is at the heart of restoration and learning through mentoring.
During my college days, I had a mentor for both undergraduate and graduate levels. My English professor mentored me not only in English as I prepared unknowingly at the time to become a teacher, but also mentored me in how to study and learn and how to apply knowledge in different ways. I never struggled with learning, per se. Instead, I struggled with consistency in learning, i.e., adopting a passion for the subject. It was much better to learn enough to know it and pass the test than to learn the material for learning sake.
Much of how we learn in a standardized training and testing environment is based on “teaching to the test.” I rarely remember completing homework because we did what we needed to do in class. There was no expectation to think critically . . . at home about what we were learning. Even my college students arrived at the same conclusion when they were often confused about the role of homework. They, too, said that they didn’t remember completing homework, which is interesting given the importance of thinking through the learning processes.
My mentor, Professor William N. Rogers, II of San Diego State University, caught me up in my understanding about thinking critically, analyzing ideas, and creating a synthesized response through the medium of writing. This didn’t happen overnight, however. This same mentor recognized my grandiose ideas through writing, my ability to have the ideas but struggle to prove them fully and completely, and my eager but hasty tenacity.
With the words “work in progress,” my mentor stopped me emotionally, psychologically, and academically in my tracks. Somehow, I wasn’t offended by those words. There was something in me that understood before I could even make the connections needed. Regardless, those words were necessary for me to slow down and take in the learning processes I needed to move forward.
Professor Rogers mentored me through my two years as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, letting me just be in the moment of learning, researching, and writing. He mentored me as his English student, still fine-tuning my thinking about writing in English. He mentored me during my graduate studies, becoming also my thesis chair. His mentoring role allowed me to stretch academically as a student and future professional. He was also a great editor. By the time we got to the mentoring process at the graduate level, he had mentored me on the importance of tightening the language, focusing ideas, analyzing appropriately, and creating a polished piece of work that might have some publishable qualities.
There were some missed opportunities during this mentoring process. I was all over the place. I was serving in student government. I let it get in the way of my learning process. I entertained the problems of too many friends. I struggled with procrastination, which led to me being forced to address my faults, my belief systems, and my plans to move out of embracing setback. I wouldn’t have called it setback at the time, but engaging and sustaining procrastination is a form of setback. I am always one to point out the obvious through self-reflection. I can see it clearly now!
Even though I received valuable lessons through my mentor, there are some times that I wish I had been more cognizant of his role so that I could fully take in what he was offering. It is a hard thing to recognize the value of someone when the person is no longer serving you as a mentor. He wasn’t a reluctant mentor. He was just surprised that I had asked him to be a mentor.
Coming to the British Literature class one day and asking him to be a mentor took him by surprise, but he embraced it. He was happy for my progress with him, and he let his own knowledge, expertise, skills, and overall talent speak through him. He wasn’t biased in his thinking towards me. He didn’t assume that I couldn’t learn. There was no predetermined thinking in his mind about my learning abilities. Instead, he worked from his own learning processes and mentored. He operated in his abilities and taught me the right way to think critically about literature, write with more conscientiousness, and adopt a lifelong learning orientation.
Because of my mentor’s treatment towards me and the expectations he placed on me to be the best, to care about learning, to teach because teaching is necessary and not based on bias towards a student, and to carry myself well in the profession because I am an extension of his instruction, I became the kind of teacher who cares about her students, about their learning capacity, and about their well-being. He cared, and I care.
Through mentoring, Professor Rogers restored me, my understanding about learning, my understanding about the role of a teacher, given my previous experiences. He restored my consciousness about developing my writing abilities. He restored my need to set academic, professional, and personal boundaries. Mentoring had its challenges, but it wasn’t a difficult process because I was open to learning and knowing something different from what I had been experiencing up to his guidance.
What I Learned
Mentors Catch You Up
Upon reflection, especially in becoming a teacher and mentoring my own composition students, what I learned throughout the process was that mentors catch you up. There is something lacking in your understanding that may be based on an incomplete belief about what it takes to accomplish your goal, your dream, and/or any other thing that falls under planning and execution.
We all have gaps in our thinking, but it is important to learn before we develop the necessary plans to apply knowledge and execute strategy. The mentor is a task master, and the video below briefly explores this concept. The ideas expressed are based on my own personal experiences.
The mentor knows how to challenge you to get the best out of you.
The mentor will till the soil called “you” to discern some of the seeds that have been planted in you and uproot weeds that are hindering your growth. You cannot grow consistently if you are still engaging distractions, straddling the fence concerning your belief systems, and making decisions that are not conducive for success. You must set yourself up for success. This takes planning and great execution.
However, you must also design strategies to maintain that success. It doesn’t make sense to succeed and spite yourself. You have every right to believe in yourself and see that belief all the way to the end of your journey, whatever that looks like.
Mentors Can Be Tricky
You have to be careful who you choose as a mentor because you are essentially choosing someone to restore your understanding, to return you to a better state of mind concerning an issue or a problem you had. If you thought it was okay to drive drunk, for example, especially given the social programming and advocacy work concerning this issue, then you need a mentor to help guide you to a better state of mind. That better state of mind is essentially that you should not drive drunk. It is both socially and legally unacceptable. That is the understanding you need to come to for the society in which you live and contribute.
If that person does not care enough to restore you, then that person does not equally care enough to mentor you. If the person says, “There is nothing wrong with driving drunk,” then that person is suggesting to you to ignore the law. That might work for you temporarily, but it cannot work long-term. In other words, if the person does not have the passion to mentor, i.e., to help you see where you have gone wrong and steer you back on the right track, then the person will hinder your progress. You will forever take the position that driving drunk, although illegal, is acceptable for you.
This means that even when someone is clearly supposed to operate in a certain understanding and there is the expectation that he or she must carry out instruction, for example, and the person doesn’t, restoration is not possible. Restoration is thwarted. I have an example of this. I use it in most of my video lessons.
I had a ninth-grade Spanish teacher who told us to look at the back of the book for the answers. He never taught Spanish. He never wrote Spanish words on the board. He came in every school day, sat at his desk in front of the class, and said nothing other than to get the books out of the locker, do the problems in a chapter, and look at the back of the book. He had no passion for the work of teaching, nor did he have passion for the subject matter of Spanish. As I note in the following video, this left a bad taste in my mouth for Spanish.
It wasn’t until I got to college and took a required Spanish course that my understanding about learning the subject was restored. The teacher cared enough to speak and teach Spanish and we were expected to participate . . . in Spanish. The teacher mentored us in how to learn, and he restored my understanding about the role of a Spanish teacher.
Although true, the experience in ninth grade was something that stayed with me and contributed to me being skeptical of teachers who do not teach. However, the role the college teacher played in my development restored me to a better state of mind that even though the Spanish teacher did not teach, I am still responsible for my learning.
Tip #1: Quit Accepting Hitchhikers
One of the most useful tips to guard against getting off track is based on the notion of engaging and facilitating distractions. I call distractions hitchhikers. Of course, these are people who hang their thumbs and hitch a ride on the interstate. That is our common notion of hitchhiking and hitchhikers.
However, you can still have hitchhikers in your everyday life. These are people who refuse to make a way for themselves and will instead use the way and path you are on to make like work for them. They will not do the work. They will use your work ethic along with your finances to their advantage. They plan their lives based on the plans you execute for yourself.
We attract hitchhikers based on how we see ourselves. Our choices fall under that popular notion that we choose who we are. We also choose what we are. Therefore, restoration will require that you think about who you are as a person and what you want to accomplish. This means assessing your capacity, capability, and conscientiousness. If you vacillate between belief systems, and you believe this is a necessary evil for living your life, then it would be difficult for a mentor to come along and restore you to a better understanding.
Tip #2: Conduct a Gap Assessment
A gap assessment is simply defined as the difference between “what is” and “what should be.” You cannot simply rely on the mentor to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to restoring you to a better understanding. You are still required to participate in your restoration.
Use mentoring as a guide and for direction, but the gap assessment must be something that you conduct to gain a better sense of who you are, what you want to accomplish, and how best to get back on track so that you can accomplish your goals.
Without a gap assessment, it would be difficult to determine where you need to improve. Conducting a gap assessment is essentially about task management. When you get off track with managing your tasks, you are more likely to accomplish goals, but they may not be the goals you originally set for yourself.
Many people have started on one path and for some reason they decided to get off that path and get onto another. People chase success and not process. They are more willing to skip to get the prize than they are willing to endure the natural setbacks that come with process, refrain from pursuing immediate gratification, and get the reward at the end. The reward at the end will last longer and with it comes learning. This means that you get to keep the reward when you learn about it. Pursuit of restoration will always require that you self-mentor too.
Tip #3: Always Read Your Book
It is important that you read your own book. Never put a book you haven’t finished reading back on the shelf! Seeing a goal to its full development and completing that goal work hand in hand. Do not be a starter and never a finisher. Prepare to finish the goal.
We often get off track when we try to tend to other people’s goals and not our own. If we are preoccupied with our book, i.e., our own lives and concerns, we can accomplish what is literally on our path. This will allow us to mentor others who need the same understanding.
Restoration requires mentorship. You cannot overcome a setback without guidance and direction. As one of the videos suggests, mentoring can come from a person, and it can come from a book. The most important book, however, is yourself.
You should be able to read yourself, your life, your hopes and dreams, and your plans like a book. You should know yourself or begin the process of learning about you. You are your best teacher, mentor, and restorer.
Use the mentoring guidance of someone who has already walked out the steps and mistakes to usher in restoration.
Thank you for reading.
Regina Y. Favors, Owner/Operator
The Regina Y. Favors Website
The vision of the Regina Y. Favors website is to be the preferred online curriculum you need for life recovery.
Overcoming Setback Series