Many of us have had someone who has been in a mentoring position within our lives. As we reflect on those relationships, we can say that from some mentors we have gained much and from others we gained not much at all. In reality, there are those who are in a position to be mentored by us who could say the same thing about their mentoring relationship with us. Much of this variation can be attributed to a lack of awareness on the primary purpose of mentoring.
We get a picture of the purpose of mentoring in the Greek classic - The Odyssey. The Goddess of Wisdom transforms herself into a well-respected older male (an elder), in the process, naming herself Mentor. Mentor's purpose was to provide nurturing, advisement and words of wisdom to a young man. Thus, the purpose of mentoring is to pass along the ‘Wisdom' of living. Often we talk about the need to transfer the traditional values that allowed our forbearers to endure and ultimately to thrive. Whether we have parents or not, ‘Mentoring' is one of those methods needed to make sure this transference takes place.
In essence, Wisdom (Mentor) teaches us....We are born into a society already structured with multiple socio-economic categories. Each category contains groupings of people with similar characteristics regarding race, gender, wealth, professional relations, degree of decision making regarding control or distribution of resources, amongst others. Each is also characterized by certain expectations that represent standards of behavior. In large part, our identities, sense of self and some of our standards of behavior form based upon the degree to which we view ourselves similar or dissimilar to a particular group/category. Thus, much of our identity forms as a reaction to what is already present. It is a reaction!
In identifying with a group, we also accept the perceptions, history, and emotional underpinnings supporting that group's existence. The sense of belonging to a group also subsequently connotes self-perceived dissimilarities with other groups. The characteristics of the related group are perceived positively and the characteristics of dissimilar groups may be viewed negatively. Self-esteem can increase based upon this dynamic; hence the development of sub-cultural perceptions of anti-intellectualism, victimhood, ‘talking white', and, in some instances, avoidance of careers based upon math and science.
Interestingly, the stronger our level of group identity, the higher the probability we are de-personalizing our own life experience and replacing it with a group experience. This is the case particularly when there is no impetus to separate or distinguish ourselves from our groups. This is even more so the case when dealing with racial or ethnocentric identities. It also is the reason why so many of us can develop anger regarding what we see, although it has not been our personal experience (consider race relations).
The variety of our life experiences may cause us to develop more than one identity to support our existence in the multiple contexts within which we interact. When our group identity is operating at its peak, there is a tendency for our sense of self to be subsumed under our group identity. In order to counter-balance our various identities, we have to build the strength of our sense-of-self. One way to do this is to build those components of our identity that are based upon competence. Instead of focusing on our inadequacies or those things we feel inferior about, focus on your passions and on those things that support your competencies. As we grow and develop, our interactions become based upon our competencies not our inadequacies. This new identity, we now call our ‘Master Identity'.
Identity formation processes pick up steam as our exposure to society increases and we become further involved in the process of socialization. In a broader sense, the information we process and the experiences we have influence the development of our mental orientation and builds connections between our identities and the groups with which we identify. Once we become aware of such, we can develop experiences that broaden our horizons and potential, or we can simply be limited to the minimalist type of thinking that comes with limited exposure and experience. This socialization shapes our personal perspectives, the ideas we have about how our lives should be, the interests and activities we are comfortable with, and the opportunities we take advantage of to determine our quality of life.
Through socialization, we may also inherit perspectives on living that are more aligned with previous generations. If this is the case, then our present mental orientation may keep us from developing the mental traits and skills that help us compete in today's market. In fact, it may keep us from even competing at all.
Consequently, how can we effectively mentor our generations for the future if we are stuck in time based neutral or reverse ourselves? We must be required, as well as require of others, to make sure our own identities reflect our evolving humanity along the lines of our ‘Master Identity' within the context of today and the future. In essence, we must make sure that in mentoring we are transferring our traditional values forward as well as teaching others how to continually upgrade their ‘identity'. This takes place when we Take Ownership of our Identity and how we are Socialized!