Mentors and Role Models
Many of us have mentors throughout our lives. Usually, our parents are our first mentors/role models.
As we grow older, we sometimes pick up more along the way: teachers, professors, career-related mentors, even friends sometimes.
Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have such caring people in their lives. In the past, I have worked with many people who do not have immediate access to positive, influential people who can offer them advice and support on regular basis or in person. Many times, such clients come from environments filled with ignorance and intellectual poverty. They have spent much of their lives toiling on their own and figuring things out as they go along.
When I work with these clients, I like to get them to idealize their perfect mentor, I even encourage them to research both historical AND fictional figures. I will usually ask...what kind of characteristics and traits does this idealized mentor have...what makes them heroic in your eyes? This type of questioning on my part is a form of counseling called Narrative Therapy.
Once a client has fully discussed the personal values and beliefs they hold, I may ask them to write them down in some type of personal declaration. Once this has been accomplished, I like to give these clients an outside homework assignment to complete. If my client does not know anyone who has the positive traits and characteristics he or she listed, my client has to research someone in history, literary fiction or even pop culture who displays these traits.
It is always interesting to see what people come back with and why. Once they have completed this homework assignment, we discuss our that person can be a role model for the client (sometimes we even do some play acting). Remember the old What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) bumper stickers??? Well, questions like that are popular because they do help people when people are struggling with decisions in their lives.
We all have historical figures we look up to as heroes or people we would like to model our life after. Jesus and Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) are two popular examples, as well as Mohammad. One of my heroes is a seventeenth century samurai by the name of Jubei Yagyu (Yagyu being his clan). The actual person doesn't really matter, what matters is what traits does this person have that you aspire too and what kind of obstacles did they have to overcome (which you may have too as well). A mentor or role model can be found anytime and anywhere in a person's life...even if that person is not living or breathing.
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