Mentors help us to places our self-confidence might not otherwise be strong enough to reach. But what if they’re wrong?
For me, mentors are a part of my life. I have my closest friends and family. Two or three successful friends in business. And one or two go-to people who I trust regarding my health.
Good mentors are well-educated, perceptive, and have differing points of view to our own. And I believe all of us have a need for a different perspective occasionally. Particularly during those moments where our self-doubt has kicked in, and we’re unsure in which direction we need to head.
Mentors are observers. And in moments of self-doubt an observer is often in a better position to see what’s available to us, than what we are. It’s self-doubt that keeps mentors in business, and why not? World number one athletes still engage coaches and trainers, and not all of them mentor on the physical aspects. Psychology in sport has been around for a while.
But what if we doubt certain pieces of advice we’ve received from our mentors? What then?
I’d like to suggest we can’t believe in and blindly follow the advice we’ve asked for, to the letter, without question. Unless your mentor is an expert in the field you’ve sought advice on, it’s OK to doubt a few of the specifics. And that’s a key point, because specifics matter.
You’re an individual, and certain life stages or circumstances have specifics that influence you. Credible mentors know this and encourage you toward discovering what those specifics are, for yourself. That’s part of their role after all. But let’s not forget our own role here.
Our role in seeking the advice of mentors is to build our self-confidence, challenge our self-doubt, and act. That role is not up to them. If we’re seeking their advice or guidance or outright instruction, we need to make sure we do something with that information. Only our actions will demonstrate why our self-doubts are worthy of challenging.
And what to “do” about advice received from our mentors, that we find doubtful?
Simply put, challenge it. I know it seems contradictory to the point of asking a mentor for advice in the first place, but there’s an important distinction to be made here. And it all starts with “what fits”.
Let me share a personal example. A mentor of mine recently dismissed an idea based on a certain phrase I was using as a key message for a presentation. To clarify, this person is well respected, well known globally, and works in the industry I was seeking advice on. And yet, I doubted him on his observation. Why? Because I had been researching the use of this phrase for years. I had plenty of evidence not just in documented form, but also from within myself. What I believed in.
The reason my mentor applied his criticism? He felt my choice of phrase would lead an audience to expect I would have certain professional credentials backing up my existing credibility. Right at that moment, I doubted him. Also at that moment, my self-confidence and self-belief increased. Because I knew his advice hadn’t taken enough of ‘me’ into account.
as my mentors observations continued I didn’t dismiss anything else he had to say. Only that one specific. By adopting that stance, I learned so much more about crafting and adapting the message my presentation was trying to deliver. And that’s what I was hoping to learn from this mentor, all along. The phrase in question could still be used, but its delivery would need tailoring, and my credibility would remain intact.
To doubt those mentors we ask to furnish us with sterling pieces of advice, might seem a bit of a slippery slope. But I disagree. The big takeaway I want to share with you is this. It’s up to us to adapt, to massage, or craft their advice to suit our specific circumstances. If we have doubts about what we’ve learned, test those doubts using evidence. And that evidence needs to not only come from reliable sources, but also ourselves, specific to us and our circumstances. This is what builds self-confidence, and helps remove self-doubt.
When you find the evidence that supports your thoughts, then act on it. Trust your gut, and do something.