ocean friends

3 truths of personal growth

I have heard from so many of you that wish there was someone to mentor you. I have absolutely been there. A lot.

I grew up not knowing my mom. I had so many questions and so few answers. My life was a succession of looking for mentors; some of them were intentional, most of them weren’t. Almost all of them never even knew they mentored me.

Everywhere I went, I looked for women I admired, women that I wanted to emulate. I asked them questions, copied them, talked like them and tried to act like them.

I was a *really* annoying little kid, but I was determined to figure out who I was and who I was supposed to be.

To compound my problem, I loved sports and, ironically, neither my dad nor my brother did. They played with me as much as they could, but there were many, many days when I went into the field next to our house and threw a football. Then I walked over to where I threw it, picked it up and threw it back. Over and over and over again.

I often played baseball, tennis, football and basketball by myself. I literally practiced for hours with, at best, a wall or a hoop. I watched my favorite athletes and tried to copy what they did. Sports channels weren’t for sitting on the couch and watching but for standing in front of and practicing.

So, not only was I an annoying little kid, I was really weird, too.

But these circumstances taught me three very important lessons.

1. Mentors are everywhere. Find one.

If we can SHIFT our perspective from passively waiting for a mentor, to actively pursuing mentors in any and every life situation, then we will thrive in the knowlege that our transformation isn’t dependent on anyone else.

If we don’t have a mentor, it’s not because they aren’t there. A mentor is simply someone we intentionally learn from. It may be from a biography, and online class, youtube videos or a weekly coffee. You can find mentors at nursing homes and senior centers. They are your friends and family.

I became a good athlete by simply watching others and practicing their successful actions.

Action step:

This isn’t the time to be shy. If you can have coffee with someone you admire, even if it’s just once, do it. Plan your questions, be intentional about what you want to learn.

If there isn’t anyone you can learn from in person, compile a list of online resources and books that you can intentionally and methodically read AND work through.

2. Choose to start now.

Anyone can decide to start later – in fact MOST people are brilliant at making plans – but only those who choose to start now, however small, get things done.

It’s amazing how highly we think of our future selves. We eat a big piece of cake because we think our future self will head to the gym and work it off. We put off a project because we think our future self will be more inspired.

Our future self is a mirage. The only way to change is to do it right now.

If you want to run a marathon someday, start right now by walking across the house. Seriously. Whatever it is you want to do, do something TODAY to start.

Never despise small beginnings.

Action step:

Start now. Go.

3. Be Persistent.

“A river flows through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” – Jim Watkins
If a mentor lets you down, find another one. If they can’t do it, find someone else. If there isn’t anyone else, read a book. Call someone. Email a person you admire.

Be persistent.

My favorite motherhood author, Sally Clarkson, often challenges us to “own your life.” I love that phrase.

But what does it mean? Own your life…

Essentially, it means the rise and fall of you is dependent only on you. Yes, circumstances may present challenges, but ultimately we must own our lives.

Don’t wait on anyone else to do what needs to be done. If you want to grow, you need to make that happen. And if you hit an obstacle, you’re the only one who can make sure you get around it.

Action step:

List obstacles that have stopped you in the past. Make a plan to circumvent each one. Start again. Always start again.

Soak Up Life

Do whatever you can to drink from the fountain of wisdom. Sometimes it will be messy. Sometimes it will be a trickle. Sometimes it will rain down hard. But if you look for mentors, start now, and choose persistence, you’ll be in the perfect position to own your life and make it grow.

Now is the time to grow, learn and be women who inspire.

Who have your “unintentional mentors” been in your life? Who can you learn from today?

Kat Lee

Kat Lee is a writer, speaker, and the reigning CandyLand champion in her home. She blogs at Inspired to Action, where she helps overwhelmed moms become focused and purposeful. Kat and her husband live in Texas with their three children.

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  1. ‘It’s amazing how highly we think of our future selves.’
    Wow, that is a powerful paragraph you wrote. Love this article so much.

    • Catherine,
      Isn’t that a crazy thought? It has helped me SO much to stop depending on my future self, now that I’ve realized how flakey she is. 🙂

    • That line stood out HUGE for me too. I had been working on a big dream project IN MY HEAD for too long, confident that my future self would take it on, and then finally STARTED it, which is less glamorous than dreaming about it, but feeling really good.

      • 6512 and growing – I love what you just said about how starting something is less glamorous than dreaming about it. I often dream about projects and then once I get started I think “well this isn’t what I’d been dreaming about.” And then my motivation slumps because I would rather live in the beauty and ease of the dream. You’re right – living it isn’t always as glamorous as dreaming but it is living. What an altering thought for me! Thanks for that gem 🙂

  2. I love this so much. I have mentored younger women but have never really been mentored in any way and it is scary to put yourself out there and ask. I think I used to think I needed one woman that excelled in all the areas I wanted to grow in and now I realize I can have lots of different mentors in different areas of my life, even if some of those mentors are now dead and buried. And I really love what you said about future self. I kind of hate her because she always makes me feel like a loser now…. Great wisdom here, Kat. And also, so nice to meet you for a bit and chat.

    • Alia,
      I loved chatting with you at Allume! It was so fun to finally meet you. I love that you’ve chosen to mentor others even though you have not been mentored. That says so much about your character.

  3. This is such a good reminder, Kat. I often think of it as the problem of default. Often, when something goes “wrong’ or we don’t get the mentor we want, etc, we just settle for default instead of moving forward one step (however small that step is!). Always take action.

    • Johanna,
      The problem of default….so true! When you put it like that, it sounds so illogical….and yet we do it (*I* do it) day after day. There is so much value in stepping outside our situations and gleaning wisdom from others. Thanks for sharing yours!

  4. Some of my best unintentional mentors have been people I have talked to while waiting in line, or for a race to start, or for a flight that has been delayed, ….really any where I have had to wait. I have learned to enjoy waiting by involving others in conversation, taking time to learn from a stranger.

    • Victoria,
      I love how intentional you are about striking up conversations like that! I usually only think to do that at the dentist. I always ask my hygienist (if she has kids) what her best motherhood tips are. Then I sit and listen. I’m inspired by you to be more intentional in other situations as well.

  5. This is such a timely post for me. Just yesterday, I was talking to my friend who is an aspiring author. I told her to find similar authors and reach out to them for advice. It’s amazing how generous total strangers will be with their time and knowledge if you just ask.
    My unintentional mentors include two women I work with. They have no idea how much I admire them, and how much they teach me daily. Maybe I’ll tell them one day…

    • Nicole,
      So true! The women I worked with at my first job after getting married were huge mentors in my life. Honestly, I forgot about it until you mentioned it. I might have to go look them up on FB and say thanks…

  6. A few years ago, we were out to dinner with another couple, and the subject of mentoring came up. I mentioned that I was hungry for this and someone at the table said, “well she’s not going to come looking for you. Ask!” So I swallowed my pride and asked, and that has been one of the most fruitful friendships that God has allowed me to experience. It was also a reminder to me that I need to make myself more available so that God can use me in that way too, if He chooses.

    • Gina,
      What a wonderful friend you have to be so blunt. I’m glad you were brave and asked, what a wonderful treasure you have.

  7. I’ve been talking a lot about mentoring recently–on my blog and in real life. I’ve been surprised at how 1. Everyone wants a mentor and 2. Hardly anybody actually has one!

    Thanks for the gentle encouragement on this subject, Kat.

  8. “Essentially, it means the rise and fall of you is dependent only on you.” LOVE this, Kat! I think I’m going to make it my desktop ‘picture’.. I have been blessed to have some really amazing business mentors who’ve encouraged me, inspired me and spurred me on to do things I never believed I could.. However, personally, I don’t have a mentor.. I think it is time for me to change that.. Thank YOU for such a beautiful post.

  9. Michelle Davis says:

    First thing; I So wish you could add a +1 So could share your blog with my circles through Google. I still do share but I just copy and paste your blog into the area where I can share.
    Second thing; I thought I was reading my own story at the beginning of this. I mean down to the sports and my dad not really being into them but me loving them, OMG! Feels good to know I have someone that can relate – truly to my story. Lastly, thank you for such fantastic blogs! You truly inspire me!!!! keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

  10. I agree. My future self isn’t nearly as productive as I think she is going to be! Makes me laugh, and motivates me to get going – now! Great piece.

  11. Thank you, Kat! I too have learned that my mentors are: girls younger than me, awesome bloggers who I admire, girlfriends whom I’ve never met (but feel as though I know them personally as I work alongside them in a Leadership Team), godly women at church, and sometimes my daughter!

    May each of us be godly woman and examples of Christ! Each of us are “mentors”, even if you don’t think you are! People are watching YOU!

  12. I so needed to hear this today! Thank you. I woke up this morning and thought the same thoughts I have been thinking for months, but today I acted on them! Then I read your post and when you said “do something today” I smiled and said to myself “Yes” I am moving forward. Thank you again.

  13. Kat,
    You never cease to amaze me. Your way with words is truly a gift. I cannot fathom what it must have been like to have grown up without your Mom. I’m sure she is so proud of the person you’ve become. What a joy it will be when you get to meet her in heaven.

    This was pure gold:
    Anyone can decide to start later – in fact MOST people are brilliant at making plans – but only those who choose to start now, however small, get things done.

  14. Kat, I can relate to your searching for female mentors. I have had many informal mentors in my life. One time, I was a live-in nanny for a family and the mom became my mentor; she was kindhearted, creative, and relaxed. Another time, it was my boss at a health club. She was strong and aggressive and “made things happen.” I’ve learned a lot from these women.

    Your post reminded me that it’s been some time since I’ve had a mentor, and how in this season of being home with four children, a mentor would be such a treat! Thanks for your thoughts today – it is so timely for me!

  15. So, between you and Sally I’ve got some pretty big hand imprints on my back pushing me to find someone. I came here today, not knowing exactly what I was looking for. Lo and behold is was telling me to go seek what I am looking for. Thanks for being a willing instrument.

  16. I love this. You inspire me to “own my life” and that phrase will echo through my head for a long time. Thanks for the reminder that all we have is today, and of the power of taking action. xox

  17. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Your post is spot on, Kat! I’ve been on this quest to find that one mentor who has it all together and will give me the roadmap to my personal and professional success. But I think “the one perfect mentor” facade is the equivalent of searching for who we imagine a perfect version of ourselves will be in 10 or 20 years.

    It’s more about finding different people to mentor you in different areas in your life. The road to who I want to become is a lot less linear than how I’ve imagined it to be. And along this hodge podge of plans where life *actually* happens, I’m picking up pieces of wisdom from people I admire that will get me there.

  18. I read a lot of blogs, but this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. LOVE IT! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I am in this phase of life – doing small things – rather than just thinking of them in the future. You’ve inspired me to start again and do more.

  19. Almost all of them never even knew they mentored me.

  20. I love delving into personal growth. I think that’s when life really starts to happen. When you start finding ways to evolve and become a better you. Change starts with you.

  21. Loved this! I am going to write a series on mentoring in January for National Mentoring Month and plan to use some of this information and link this post.

    “It’s amazing how highly we think of our future selves.” – My favorite part!

  22. I am blessed with having a twin sister. We both loved to play with balls and she was always there to catch and throw around a football. I love that you persisted and picked up the ball anyway.

    Two of mentors have left earth’s soil but their lives and their impact on me live on. I miss having mentors but I have so enjoyed being mentors to girls over the years. I mentored without them knowing it—just blessed them by taking an interest in their lives and loving them in small ways. Many times this led to me being able to do more tangible things with them. It all started with a prayer. I stepped out of a formal ministry to women to homeschool. I asked God to bring me a babysitter so I could go grocery shopping one day a week, get my hair cut etc. and give me and my husband a night out on another day. I asked Him to give me someone I could invest in–secretly. He gave me the girl and has given several more since the first.

    I encourage women to seek to be mentors even if you never really say “mentoring” is what you are doing. I believe in formal mentoring but I think that it can happen so naturally when you will open your heart and life to someone. You don’t have to look far for someone who needs to be loved. Do it in a healthy way and unselfishly and you will gain more than you give.

  23. I love this so much – serving in women’s ministry the past 15 years and a “50s-something” woman myself, I know the value of mentoring. Looking back now, some of our attempts were blessed (in spite of us), and some were humorous…there was this one time we matched mentors/mentees up with colors of balloons. Yes.We.Did. Don’t tell anyone…. Your post validates what the Lord showed our leadership team over time and many attempts. Mentoring happens along the way as God places us in each others’ lives and we are walking in His Spirit. I think back to the women who were there for me as a young pastor’s wife and mom. I loved them, loved watching them, learning from them and just soaked everything up I could. I didn’t “know” they were mentoring me – but they were. Now that I’m that older woman, I purpose to speak into the lives of the women God brings across my path. He is so faithful. God bless you!

  24. I think that personal growth is so important. So many people sit and complain about their life, yet they do nothing to make any change. I try to be cognizant of what is bothering me in my life and circumstances, and put forth the effort to take steps to change them.
    Great post!

  25. Darlene Berry Lauth says:

    SO powerful. I needed ALL of these reminders. And don’t worry. You’re no weirder than anyone else! (I grieved at your statement that you didn’t know your Mom; mine is 85 and has the most fabulous wisdom – but, there are thousands of the elderly waiting to mentor someone!) Just think, you could have been a twin like me and STILL never knew who you were! I am trying so hard to grow now, and do the projects – NOW. Hard, but worth it! Love to you from the South!

  26. Almost all of them never even knew they mentored me.

  27. Robin from Frugal Family Times says:

    Beautiful post, Kat. So full of wisdom; I love the idea of the “future self” as a mirage. I have a coffee date planned with a emotionally brilliant retired friend soon. I had never realized she was a mentor until today. I’m going to prepare my questions and talk to her about it. I have a feeling she will be honored. Thank-you for the blessing of your words.

  28. Great post. I appreciate this topic so much and especially love that you challenge us to be intentionally about taking steps to FIND a mentor (vs. passively wishing for one and then bemoaning the fact that we don’t have one) – SO good! Thanks for sharing.

    You wrote, “Essentially, it means the rise and fall of you is dependent only on you.” I really appreciate the encouragement from Sally Clarkson to own our lives, especially in an age where we can be encouraged to play the victim because of things that come out of our choices, etc. However, I felt like that statement came a bit too close to to the kind of self-focused thinking where we can do anything/be anything/etc. by our own hand, by our own positive thinking, etc. Can you explain a bit more what you were thinking with that statement? I don’t believe you were at all trying to communicate that it’s ONLY about US and what WE can bring about in our lives apart from God, but I just wanted some clarification if you have a moment. Thanks so much!

    And thanks again for a great post on a great topic.

    • Oh, and to clarify b/c you can’t communicate ‘tone’ very well in a comment … I wasn’t saying that I wanted clarification of “WHAT on earth were you thinking?!?” behind the statement I asked about. No sass intended. 🙂 I should have asked if you could clarify your thoughts behind that statement – that was a mis-wording on my part.

    • Dawn,
      Great question.
      My heart in writing that phrase was to jolt us into action. So often, we are waiting for some other PERSON to rescue us – a personal trainer, a mentor, a coach, a boss, a husband – but our growth is entirely between us and God.

      I’m in the John 15:5 camp – He is the vine, we are the branches – anything good I do comes from Christ. Yet, if I am truly going to BLOSSOM and grow in Him, I must make conscious decisions to own and walk in the Grace freely given to me.

      Does that clarify things a bit? I wasn’t trying to get theological – more kick-in-the-pants-ical. 🙂

      • Kat, yes – that does clarify things. Makes total sense – and we’re in the same ‘camp.’ 🙂 Thank you – I’ve always been really impressed how you have responded to my comments each time. I’m sure that’s not an easy feat with the number you get, so know that your time is appreciated.

        Also, ‘kick-in-the-pants-ical’ … ha! I like your style. 🙂 We all need that more often than not!

        Thanks again.

  29. When you wrote you were weird and annoying, it made me laugh. Because, me too. Thank God those days pass. I feel like I have always had in my head an idea of what a mentor would be, and I haven’t felt like I’ve had that real life person beside me. I’ve never really considered all the authors and bloggers and teachers my mentors, but they are. They’ve brought me so far, and for that I am grateful.

  30. I have heard from so many of you that wish there was someone to mentor you. I have absolutely been there. A lot.

  31. Surrounding yourself with people you aspire to be like is a great piece of advice. You have to value yourself enough to take that first.

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  33. Thank you for sharing this advice for personal growth! I agree that it is important to take care of your mental health- and focusing on bettering yourself is one of the best ways to do that. It is so great that there are so many mentors out there too. Since they have experienced personal growth themselves, they know what it takes to get to that higher level.

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