Those of you who are in touch with your Inner Mentor will have discovered the profound ways she can offer insight. I visit mine most mornings to create intention and general on-purpose-ness to my day.
Yesterday, I’d had some difficult and disappointing conversations with project collaborators, and (of course) then a restless night. I was especially looking forward to connecting with my IM this morning.
My usual process is to take a few deep breaths, and picture myself walking up her garden path and saying hello. Then I usually ask her a question along the lines of: “What do I need to know today?”
Most days, her answer is not spoken, and instead we will head out to the cliffs above her wild beach. Sometimes she leads me away from her house, to a lush forest. She shows me moss, oak trees, stones, glades of wild flowers. She still doesn’t say anything – just brings me to some greenery or other, laughs with joy and kindness, and expects me to understand that this is her answer.
Today, she held a buttercup under my chin, and I did not like it.
As the youngest child with a 5.5 year age gap between me and my brother, I learned how to play by myself when I was small. I liked solitary card games, steering convoys of matchbox cars and drawing stories. I especially loved sorting and re-sorting mahjong pieces, daydreaming that each tile had a personality and a deep backstory. To me, they were less mysterious and more easily organised than friendships. Other children seemed completely unpredictable and random.
Today’s buttercup under the chin brought some sharp memories of standing alone in the front garden of my childhood home, holding the simple yellow flower below my face, and wondering if it knew that I liked butter. I stretched my face around a bit and held the flower at different angles. There was just No Way To Tell. I remember thinking “Well, I already know I like butter. This is just superstition. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t matter.”
But today, my Inner Mentor held the buttercup under my chin, looked, then nodded seriously: there’s a glow. Confirmed at last. The flower knows.
I didn’t like it.
I sat with the image and my discomfort for several minutes, trying to work out what she was showing me. [This is especially important to do when I don’t like it].
A slow dawning: yes, I am very comfortable working on my own. Yes, I strongly value my independence. Yes, I am totally capable of making stuff happen alone. Yes, it feels safer. When I’m flying solo, I can loop into an exhilarating flow state, and there’s my bliss. If I can just spend more time working on my own, all these difficult problems with collaborating with others will go away. I already know I like butter.
But buttercup: it’s also true that other people bring me knowledge and insight and information that I can’t get on my own. Even if what they bring is superstition and redundant information and mucking about with weeds – they are also offering me connection.
Connection to fun and silliness and different perspectives and to the wonderful vagaries of human thinking. Other people connect me to yellow when I tend towards black and white. Other people connect me to myself. So, it does mean something. It does matter.
Then finally I get it: she is showing me an absolute core value of my work. People bringing buttercups and chins together, and learning from the glow together. You are important. You do matter.
To find out how to work with your Inner Mentor, with me as your growth coach, and/or whether you really do like butter:
- Read about the your Inner Mentor in Tara Mohr’s book Playing Big. I use the Playing Big tools in my coaching practice and workshops.
- Register for a Coaching Discovery session, or to hear when the next Breakfast People Inner Mentor workshop is running, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org