What to do when you can’t find a mentor

Photo by nannetteturner

Last time I sat on the front porch and sipped tea with you here at Simple Mom, we talked about the importance of having a mentor. You nodded your head, eyes wide, eager to find that mythical creature for your own life.

But many of you came back with the same problem, “There’s no one around here to mentor me.”

That’s a tough one, but I’ve come up with a few ideas for you, so take another sip and keep reading.

Find An A La Carte Mentor

Photo by Jim Legans, Jr

The biggest reason so many of us have a hard time finding a mentor is because we think we have to find someone exactly like us, only better. They should have the same goals, the same focus and the same interests.

We want an older, wiser, more successful clone of us.

Unfortunately, that’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

Instead, we only need to find a la carte mentors. People who can help us specifically in the the areas on which we are currently focusing.

For example, if you’re focusing on Motherhood right now, it doesn’t matter if your mentor is a fitness expert or a social media ninja. All that matters is that she’s a good mama and she’s willing to help you become one too.

I currently have two mentors, one for blogging and one for motherhood. It was so helpful for me to realize I didn’t need to find my perfect “mentor match.”

Once we stop looking for an “all-in-one” solution, we’ll discover a wealth of people around us with wisdom to share.

Create A Mentor Environment

Photo by Kelly

Imagine there are two groups of kids at your child’s high school:

Group A: Drug addicts, dropouts, aimless vandals.

Group B: Kind, intelligent, successful students.

Which group would you want to surround your child for all four years of high school?

I’m going to take a wild guess that you picked Group B.


Because people are the sum of their surroundings. We tend to be like those with whom we spend the most time. While there are exceptions to the rule, the more we see something, the more appealing it becomes. You want your child to behave like Group B, and you know they have the best chance of that when surrounded by Group B.

This chameleon tendency of ours is applicable to so much more than friendships. It is a human characteristic we can hack, as moms, for our own benefit by surrounding ourselves with people, words and images that inspire us.

If we want to be fit, we read fitness blogs, subscribe to fitness magazines, or hang out more at the YMCA.

If we want to be good at business we attend business workshops, read business websites and listen to business news.

If we want to be good moms we attend moms groups, read books about motherhood and ask questions of great moms.

Notice that I didn’t say we have to DO anything. We don’t need to actually work out, start a business, or be the perfect mother.

The beauty of a “mentor environment” is that we can impact our FUTURE actions by being intentional about our CURRENT surroundings.

If I want to become more fit, but I already feel overwhelmed with life, I don’t need to commit to working out an hour each day. I can start by putting up an inspiring quote or poster. I can then read just one fitness blog post each day. That’s it. Anyone can read one blog post a day.

But if I faithfully read that post, I will learn more about fitness. The more I learn about fitness, the more interested in it I will become. The more interested I become, the more I’ll want to try it, until I actually DO try it. The more I try it, the more I’ll want to learn about it. And the cycle repeats and grows.

All from putting up a poster and reading one blog post each day.

Media, art, music, and our own thought patterns influence who we become. Therefore it is IMPERATIVE that we surround ourselves with things that reflect who we want to be.

Who and what you surround yourself with matters.

Be Your Own Mentor

Photo by fuzzcat

Whether you are able to find a mentor to invest in you or not, becoming your own mentor is a crucial component to your success. Our pursuit of a “Yoda” can’t be in hopes that someone else will push us and motivate us. Yes, a mentor can help, but it is vital that we not rely on others for our motivation.

We must learn to develop our inner Drill Sergeant who will constantly push us outside our comfort zones. Unless we are ALREADY pushing ourselves, a mentor isn’t going to make a long term impact in our lives.

No one else cares about your personal growth like you do. The more you can exercise, how ever slowly, the muscle of self discipline and self motivation, the better off you will be. Don’t give yourself the excuse of relying on a mentor.

Action Steps

Photo by jakeandlindsey

1. What are your goals? Just jot down a few character traits, goals, or dreams that you aspire to. It doesn’t need to be a complex or thorough process, just a framework of the person you hope to be in 5 – 10 years.

2. What goal are you going to work on first? List a few people that might be able to help you in that area. Contact them and ask if they’d be willing to meet or email once a month.

3. Evaluate your environment. What is influencing your life right now? Do you have any negative influence? How can you eliminate or reduce their impact?

4. List resources – books, blogs, magazine, art, movies, quotes and any other resources that will push you toward the goals you listed above. Surround yourself with those resources.


Great women aren’t made inside comfort zones. The more we are able to claim that truth and let it push us past who we are, the more we’ll move toward who we want to become. After all, that’s what having a mentor is all about.

What is one thing that inspires you to grow? Is self discipline a struggle?

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. I wish you could be my mentor!!! lol πŸ™‚ Thanks for this post. πŸ™‚

  2. Other bloggers, for sure. Sometimes reading something very basic but relatable from another blog helps me maintain sanity for the rest of my day!

    This post was perfect timing – Was literally just discussing the mentoring topic yesterday with groups of women. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of women out there (all ages) that need some prodding toward actually becoming a mentor for someone else. Many don’t feel worthy of this or useful in this way, but they have so much to offer and could have such an impact. Great post, thanks!

    • Kerry,
      “On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of women out there (all ages) that need some prodding toward actually becoming a mentor for someone else. ”

      So true! I think one thing that keeps so many women from being mentors is that THEY feel like they have to be perfect in order to be qualified. If we can really communicate the importance of “a la carte” mentors I think it will make a lot of women more confident to take on that role.

      I think I’ll be adding this topic to the series. Thanks!

      • In regard to both (mentors & mentoring), I just read a quote this morning that says “Mentoring is not an option, it is a necessity.” I agree! Kat, you’ve definitely hit a relevant hot topic button – this is relating at its best – love it!

        • As a young mom, I naturally gravitate to groups within my phase of life like MOPS and playgroups. Almost every single church I’ve been in has a Bible Study dominated by women in their late 40’s and older. These women “do get comfortable” and are often looking for more opportunities to reach out to others. It kind of started with me by talking to them at Bible Study and it grew from there.

  3. Tsh, this post is amazing. Truly amazing. So much spoke to me, so many quotable quotes. Amazing.

    Thank you!!!

  4. Great post! Sometimes it is very good to find a mentor, someone, who says: “Yes, you can!”, but if you don’t find a person like that, say it to yourself!

    • Definitely! I think that’s another way the “surround yourself with mentors” idea can come into play – not just surrounding ourselves with people who can teach us but also with people, things, music, words and an attitude that keeps us encouraged and motivated.

      Great point Micha!

  5. I definitely needed this post! I love reading blogs and find them inspiring. I have a difficult time pushing myself. I want to make some money from blogging, but I have convinced myself I can’t and therefore it is hard for me to push myself. I need that inner strength that says “go for it.” I keep looking for outside people that can do it, but you are right, I need to become my own mentor. Thanks!

    • Johanna,
      Yes, you CAN do it! And have a throw down with that inner voice every time it says you can’t. πŸ™‚

      • “Have a throw down” πŸ™‚
        What a wonderful suggestion to have a la carte mentors.

        It is a struggle to grow, to change, to be more of who we were designed to be. I think we sometimes have destructive scripts running below the surface, much like riptides, just waiting to pull us under as we are swimming towards or along the surface. “I can never be like her. She’s had all the breaks. She’s just got lots more talent than me.” Etc, etc.

        With a mentor, though, we are helped because they can view us from a more impartial standpoint, and they will encourage our movement forward and the stretching of our comfort zones!

    • Johanna, Oh my goodness, I just read your blog post on mom-fatigue! Girl – you have a gift! Your list of symptoms was right on target, the whole post so well written. I’m soooo in mom-fatigue, 5 kids to homeschool, combined with end-of-the-year— I’m so planning my time alone! Thanks for some concrete symptoms for me to read to say, “See, I do need a break. Johanna said so!” πŸ™‚

  6. Michelle says:

    I feel like I’ve been on a lifelong journey to find a mentor! God recently showed me that I have had many wonderful mentors in my life for different areas and seasons. I love how you put that Kat..an alacarte mentor! Thanks for that confirmation and encouragement that my “yoda” doesn’t have to be one person!

    A bible verse that I recently came across and has become one of my life verses is Proverbs 13:20 “Those who walk with the wise become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” I always try to surround myself with people that inspire me. One of the reasons I read your blogs. πŸ™‚

  7. So many wonderful ideas here. . .thank you! The only thing I’d add is that there are some GREAT mentors among the elderly. They’re often housebound or in a nursing home, but they freely share their time and wisdom.

    • I totally agree with you. My grandmother is the greatest mentor for me! She is so wise and always gives me the best advice (on any topic). And as you say there are many elderly people in nursing homes who would love to talk with some and share their experience.

    • Rebecca,
      Excellent point! My grandmother was a wonderful mentor to me and shaped much of who I am.

  8. I’m so glad I came across this post. There is so much good information here.

    One thing that inspires me is seeing other mothers pursuing their dreams. My a la carte mentors include a growing list of mommy bloggers who manage to work on their business while taking care of family and other responsibilities. If they can get up at 4a.m. to write, so can I. No excuses.

    P.S. Thanks for the Yoda pic. Something about him makes me laugh every time.

    • No excuses. I love that. I saw a quote the other day that said, “If you have the will, you’ll make a way. If you don’t, you’ll make an excuse.” Whew…good stuff.

      Glad you like the photo. My philosophy is “if a blog post doesn’t have a Yoda pic in it, it’s really not much of a blog post.” πŸ™‚

  9. The Lord has blessed me beyond measure with a wonderful mentor for the past 2 years. Her influence in my life is immeasurable. Thank you for the reminder not to take her for granted. What a gift!

  10. I’ve been praying for a mentor so you can imagine my excitement when I came across your blog post this morning. I am so thankful for your encouragement:)

  11. Great post Kat! My main driving force for growth are my husband and children. They absolutely inspire me to be a more kind loving and compassionate person. Its from them that all the other “growth” stems. I take better care of myself because I want to be there for them in mind and body. I commit to spiritual work because I want God to grow me into the best wife and mom I can be. I eat well so that I can model healthy lifestyle choices for them. and on and on. It all comes back to my commitment to the most important people in my life. and from there I seem to be more loving to not just them but to EVERYONE else around me.

  12. My mentor made a great point to me…she said that she had been mentored by great books during the times she had no mentor. Andrew Murray was one of her favorites and has become one of mine as well. I love to read biographies, especially missionary biographies. Mountain Rain by James Fraser is mentoring me right now in my prayer life.

  13. I like the simplicity of reading one blog post a day about your interests. Doable and easy.
    I started blogging as a way to fill a creative void. I love the challenge it presents as social media changes and it ties into my marketing background. I never want to sit in a classroom again but I still love learning new things.
    Thanks for the mentor reminder. I need to reread the previous post on how to ask someone!

  14. This is a fantabulastic post, Kat. Truly inspiring. We are looking at having to move in the next month or two and having permission to “Be My Own Mentor” is both freeing and reassuring. Many thanks!
    (I, too, <3 the Yoda pic and the Scrabble pic is also full of win.) πŸ˜€

    • Fantabulastic – you get serious bonus points just for coming up with such a great word! Love it!

      Glad you liked the pics. Makes all the Flickr searching for the perfect pics feel worth it!

    • Jessica.. I just hopped to your blog.. what beautiful thoughts our LORD has given you to share. Wonder if you have moved much? I have found for me that I need to give myself TIME for a new community and church to feel like home. I plan to come back to your blog I have it book marked. You’ll be in my prayers. Erin

  15. Thanks for this inspiring post! πŸ™‚

  16. Great article. You are right. We are the sum of our surroundings. That is such excellent advice. I have been mentored mostly through books, but older women have also given me some great help through the years on a la carte items. Thanks!

  17. Jessica says:

    I really appreciate this post. Since moving back to our hometown, 10 years ago, I feel like I’ve been through a few mini-mentors that helped me over the hump of babies, toddlerhood, etc. But when we started homeschooling, and choosing to pursue a simple life and eventually homesteading, the mentors seemed to dry up just a bit. I’ve been discouraged by that at times. But I finally realized that going against the flow means I’m just going to have to get my inspiration and “mentoring” from women I may never meet. So now I read as much as I can in books and online and frequently visit blogs of those people who have gone before me.

    The only downside to this…you can feel a little alone and unsure.

  18. This post was very inspiring! I need to get off my bum and mentor myself and read more blogs to get inspired! And then get off my bum and do things!

  19. Great post and fabulous ideas..

  20. I just realized as I was reading this that I already have a mentor! I’m very blessed because my church sort of has a built-in mentoring program, where women are assigned to visit other women in the congregation, about once a month. Of course, many times, it becomes more than an assignment.

    My own “mentor” has been such a tremendous help to me that the other day I called her out of the blue because I needed to talk. She came over immediately after work and we talked for 2 hours! It was exactly what I needed, and the fact that I felt comfortable calling her was a big deal for me.

    I hope someday I can be that for someone else.

    • Michelle says:

      “…My church sort of has a built-in mentoring program….”

      What a fantastic idea. Sounds like in your case, it’s a good match!

      • It really is a good match! I’m a member of the LDS Church (otherwise known as Mormons) and it’s a church-wide program called Visiting Teaching.

        It is the main way we make sure that every member is taken care of. I think many times people fall through the cracks of a system, but if you have someone who cares visiting you at least once a month, it’s much harder for that to happen.

  21. As always, thanks for this post! I was one of those women and then someone just popped into my head while reading this…wish me luck!!!

  22. I really appreciate your posts! There are a wealth of good ideas here! πŸ™‚ Having mentored other young women and also availed myself to be mentored, there is one thing lacking that keeps coming to mind…the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can structure and discipline our lives without the Lord. Many people do. To really attain the goal of being spiritually vibrant and God-pleasing women, wives and mothers that we would like to be, we need to first and foremost seek the Lord. I believe that without the work of the Holy Spirit to motivate and ultimately transform us, it is just a religious exercise and nothing more. Mentoring is only a “tool”, if you will, to get you to the One who transforms you! The actual work can only be done in our hearts by the Lord Himself. Our relationship with Him is the heart of it all…

    • ‘Go and make disciples’ comes to mind here. Mentoring and discipling can be very side-by-side in a lot of situations. Karen, I see your point in the reminder that we should always turn first to the One who knows us like no other. And yes, we should never underestimate the power in the prompting of the Holy Spirit – This is, more often than not, how we get led to those special people in our lives that come alongside us in the transforming journey! There is definitely joy in having someone relate to you and provide you with wise counsel along the way.

      I appreciate the wisdom in your comment and also your willingness to mentor and be mentored, as you said. I know it takes guts for both. πŸ™‚

  23. again – you struck the nail on the head for me – I have been contemplating these very thoughts for the past few weeks and you summed it up so beautifully that now I definitely know what I need to do moving forward. Thank you so much! πŸ™‚
    I love your blog.

  24. Kat, I appreciate wholeheartedly your sharing and your own feelings about your mother. I am so sorry that you lost her before you knew her. My heart breaks for you over that. I rejoice with you that your own mothering can be a channel through which so much healing and encouragement can flow. I do need some help with my life so “thanks” for the great encouragement. It is from God Himself! Keep doing His will! What a huge blessing! Thank you for sharing! It means everything!

  25. This is the first time I’ve responded to a post. So much wisdom in what you said….thank you for saying it.
    I plan on sharing this with others….

  26. This post was encouraging to me. I will refer to it often, as I love the idea of “a la carte” mentors. My favorite kinds of friendships are those in which mentorship goes both ways in a symbiotic-type flow. I may be able to offer ideas and encouragement in one area (homeschooling, organization, etc.) while my friend may be mentoring me in eating healthier, gardening and more.

  27. I know you are probably going to delete this but I really feel like this is impossible for me. I’m not sure what the Lord has in mind for me but I’ve tried to get mentors several times, they push me off, put me off even when I’ve been in crisis mode! They act all pitiful but when it’s time to just meet or call me they forgot, etc. I’m not sure when a true mentor environment is an actually for most women and those that get it BETTER be thankful. Be my own mentor is faulty too because I’m not accountable to anyone.

    • Rose, from what you are briefly saying here, are you perhaps mistaking mentoring for a counseling relationship?
      My understanding of a mentoring relationship is found in the book of Titus, chapter 2, verses 3-5 (this is the Amplified Version)… “Bid the older women similarly to be reverent and devout in their behavior, as becomes those engaged in sacred service, not slanderers, or slaves to drink. They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble, so that they will wisely train the young women to be sane and sober-minded – temperate, disciplined and to love their husbands, and their children; To be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured (kindhearted), adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands, that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach – blasphemed or discredited.”
      What I have seen in a mentoring relationship, is an actual give and take. We mutually give to one another. Both the older and young woman spend time with one another. This is where I see hospitality being very important. To open our homes and allow others to see right where we live. Older women have had more experiences in life and should be able to share a much deeper and broader knowledge with the younger woman, all the while encouraging and building up the younger woman and helping to establish the young family.

  28. Three points from your post stuck out to me. First, “we can impact our FUTURE actions by being intentional about our CURRENT surroundings.” So many women feel trapped in who they are and unable to change. Starting with small changes in our surroundings can add up to major change over time if we build on it. Second, “unless we are ALREADY pushing ourselves, a mentor isn’t going to make a long term impact in our lives.” Our culture likes to blame others for problems and mistakes instead of taking ownership and responsibility for one’s own life. We must start by mentoring ourselves through the ways you mention and add to that. Internal mentoring needs to come first and then be built upon. Third, “great women aren’t made inside comfort zones.” Again, a product of our culture is to be comfortable. While being comfortable is good to certain extent, too much comfort is deadly. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That means you’re growing and being challenged. I still don’t know who to have as a mentor, but I do feel better about the choices I am making toward being influenced in my life. Great post!

  29. I feel fortunate to have found many mentors in my travels & time and now am stoked to be providing that role back to others.

    I find the easiest way to find mentors is focus on the people who inspire you .. and then reach out to them simply to let them know them know. The concept is well explained in this TED talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVCBrkrFrBE . Most will respond and in some cases relationships that begat mentoring will form. I’ve found that most people who inspire, tend to want to help πŸ™‚ Seems to go with the territory.

    • I like what you said – “those who inspire, tend to want to help”. A lot of truth in that!
      What inspires me… I love getting to know families that I can look at and find myself thinking, “I want our family to be like them someday.” I’ve only found a few like that, but they are so precious, and it’s so worth the effort to get to know them and gleam from their wisdom.

  30. I guess I’ve been taking the a la carte approach without realizing it πŸ™‚ If I want exercise accountability, I ask my older sister. When I want to be a better friend, I think “What would my mother-in-law do?” For web design help, I ask a friend of mine who’s a web designer. For spiritual discipleship, I meet with my pastor’s wife once a week. It really works πŸ™‚ I definitely need to create more of a mentoring environment, something that fosters creativity. Thanks for an awesome post, Kat!

  31. Kat,
    I subscribe to Inspired to Action and I always find such simple wisdom in your posts. Thank you for making such critical truths so applicable. You have a gift for turning an elephant into a series of bite sized pieces. We are about to go through a major life transition, including a big move, and I am so encouraged that until I find a place to belong and begin to cultivate inspiring relationships I can still be moving forward in my life. Thank you!

  32. Bethany says:

    The Blessed Woman by Debbie Morris was written to show others, the Biblical mentors available to us, and how they mentored her, when she did not have a mentor herself. I read it. I recommend it!

  33. This is awesome! Thank you Kat. I’ve looked and I don’t think I can find an older version of myself but better, unless you count my mom. :p Love the suggestions…and always with the action steps. πŸ™‚ Love it!

  34. Great post!
    For too long, I was searching online bulletin boards and mommy groups for a mentor, but what I found were moms just like me–mired in cluelessness. πŸ˜‰ I signed up to be an AWANA helper at church for the first time this year, and I found a mentor for myself there! She has raised her own and others’ children and is a wealth of encouragement and knowledge, and she has become a dear friend. I love my cyber friends, but there is nothing quite like a real hug when you need one!

  35. Just found your blog and I’m hooked after reading your first post! I’ve been thinking lots about wanting and needing a mentor for a long time now. This year I decided to stop wishing and start doing. I’ve made specific efforts to hang out more in areas and with people sharing my interests, and I’m slowly building up a good network of friends and finding we are kind of mentoring each other. It’s also helping me recognise motivation all around me and to make use of it!
    You’re so right that just by taing small action steps, interest builds and things start to snowball!
    Thanks for a great post!

  36. What a fabulous post! It’s so true that the people around us really do influence us. The trouble is that often in my life stage my friends and I have a hard time seeing each other or spending time together and I end up just being by myself with my kids for so much of the week. So then I should become my own mentor! But how do I exercise that muscle like you say? I’m very bad at motivating myself πŸ˜‰ Any suggestions or things to read? Thanks again!

  37. I’m so glad I came across this post, too! I’ve been on a quest lately to find a mentor, mainly for blogging. I am doing things to work toward my goals there, however, it’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, who has done this before! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  38. This is awesome! Thank you so much. I have been blessed with a wonderful older woman who become my mentor quite naturally. She has raised a child with the same special needs that some of my children have. I admired her godliness and was easily drawn to her. I have wanted a writing mentor, however, and find that very difficult to find. You gave me some good ideas to chew on here!

  39. Oh, love this! I act as a mentor for other mamapreneurs, but my business partner is definitely MY mentor and I couldn’t live without her!

  40. My children always inspire me to grow because it is important for me to be a role model for them.

    I’ve recently decided to grow as a mompreneur and as I go through this journey, I realized how important it is to have a mentor, or a teacher if you will, who is already doing what you want to do.

    And the amazing thing is, once I’ve made that decision and I’ve committed to it, I find myself drawn to the people and resources that could help me achieve that growth.

    This is definitely way beyond my comfort zone but learning from someone who has already done it gives me confidence that my goal is doable and anything is possible.

    Thank you Kat for the helpful insights!

  41. Thankyou!

  42. Beautiful post!!
    I hope its okay to post this but this is my mentor which is done all online. http://smokinhotmamaclub.com/mentor/

  43. But many of you came back with the same problem, β€œThere’s no one around here to mentor me.”

  44. I am a single dad (and I emphasize ‘single’, no girlfriend, wife, just gone), and I always gravitate more towards looking for inspiration from the writings of moms like this regarding life, More and more I am seeing writings about mentoring and motivation and entrepreneurship which always seem to come as a separate area, but I am so thankful that mothers are sharing on this, it’s difficult to balance family and dreams/career.

    • Oh and by the way I am treading into uncharted waters with some risks I am taking now and could totally use a mentor. If you want get in touch with me on my totally unrelated website. I know it is not the mentor that seeks out the mentee but maybe I will be surprised again.

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