Who Inspires You?

Elderly Woman Smiling Wearing a Swimming Cap in a Swimming PoolWhether it’s someone you have known for years, someone you have just met or someone you have never met yet admired from afar, there are people who come into your life and inspire you. Who inspires you? What does that person inspire you to do or be?

It happened to me this past week. I returned to our local recreation center to begin exercising again. (I usually take a break in the warmer months because outdoor activities like bicycling, walking and gardening take the place of indoor exercise). I walked into our circuit exercise room and said hello to a woman who I had not seen in nearly six months. It didn’t take me long to realize that she had lost a lot of weight. “Wow. You look great. You’ve lost some weight,” I said. “Yes…I’ve lost 79 pounds total. It’s almost the weight of another person!” she replied. “I’ve had to replace my entire wardrobe. My daughter says she remembers me being this size when she was growing up. That was a few decades ago.” Diane started her fitness journey 11 months ago. She comes to the recreation center just about every day, works the circuit room and walks three miles. She also eats right. And…she is in her 70s. She has succeeded because she has a goal and the discipline to reach that goal.

I continued my workout, going from machine to machine, lifting, shifting, stepping and thinking about that five pounds that I have wanted to melt away for years. Five pounds? Are you kidding me? I could lose that in one month…if…I had the discipline. There is nothing stopping me from achieving this small goal. Diane inspired me. I found myself saying, “If Diane could lose 79 pounds, I could certainly lose 5.”

Consider all the people who have inspired you and who continue to inspire you in your life. Then ask yourself, “How can I inspire others?” And ask a much bigger question, “How can I inspire myself?”

Nelson Mandela: Mentor to the World

MandelaCroppedThere is not a more fitting capstone to this series on mentoring than ending with a tribute to Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, a man who was — and remains — a mentor to the world.

Qualities: Nelson Mandela possessed many endearing qualities. As a humanitarian and peacemaker, he gave a voice to human rights and demonstrated the capacity of the human spirit. As he fought to end apartheid in South Africa, he united people not only in his country but also around the world. His carefully structured messages were spoken from his lived experience and the heart. As he advocated for social justice, freedom and equality, his actions and intellect positioned him as a powerful world leader. Even in his later years, Nelson Mandela founded The Elders, a group of seasoned global leaders, to work together on human rights issues and world peace.


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

“Courage is not the absence of fear — it is inspiring others to move beyond it.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Questions: Reviewing Nelson Mandela’s purpose-driven life, I am inspired to pose several questions for all of us to consider as we move our lives forward in a more purposeful way:

What voice lies dormant within me that needs to come out? On whose behalf can I speak or serve as an advocate?

How can I treat others with greater dignity and respect?

What contributions can I make to my community, my country or the world? To enhance education? To eliminate poverty? To feed the hungry? To model sustainability? To live in peace?

What small changes can I make in my life, every day, to become a more positive role model for others?

What bitterness or negativity can I rise above and begin living my life more fully and wholly? Who do I need to begin building positive relationships with…whether at home or at work?

When you find yourself struggling with a big question, a challenge, or an altercation, ask yourself, “How can the wisdom of Nelson Mandela guide me with courage and grace?”


Remain Open With Mentors

605542_balance_primeFifth in a series.

Learning from someone who has more experience than you do and who can share successes and failures openly is a tremendous gift. The key to getting the most out of a mentoring relationship is your ability to maintain as open a mind and heart as possible. Here are a few tips to help you maximize the experience:

Be honest about what you need. Honesty allows the relationship to be more open and transparent. As the protege, you drive the relationship. When you are honest and open, your mentor will reciprocate. Open conversations are more productive and tailored to your needs.

Don’t be judgmental. Your mentor will share thoughts, ideas, opinions and feelings with you. When you immediately find fault with what your mentor is saying, you are being judgmental or overcritical. In the process, you may miss what is being offered to you. To open your mind and heart, tell yourself, “I am open to what s/he is saying.” That way, you receive information without judging.

Weigh your choices. Your mentor may offer you different solutions or tactics to consider. Use critical thinking skills to weigh those choices carefully. Identify solutions that work best for you. Take time to make important decisions. Ultimately, the choice is only yours.

Expect the unexpected. Your mentor may surprise you with tactics or solutions that might seem off the wall or even odd to you. Be open to them. You may find yourself saying, “I would have never thought of that” or “That’s a different way of approaching this.”

The key to a successful mentoring relationship is remaining open in your mind and heart. In what way can you open your mind and heart to the wisdom and advice that your mentor is offering to you?