Blog | Personal development

Do You Need a Coach or a Mentor?

Coaches and mentors teach you while providing experience and guidance. They are there for you when you need direction and when you go off course.

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I’ve talked a lot in the past about building a support structure to help you reach your dreams of financial freedom. And this includes coaches and mentors. These are people who teach you while providing experience and guidance. They are there for you when you need direction and when you go off course.

But what’s the difference, and which one do you need?

Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Although the two are closely related — and there are more similarities between coaching and mentoring than differences — a mentor is usually someone who has more experience and success in something that you are doing or want to pursue. This is a trusted person who guides you along the way. And because mentors are successful at what you want to be doing, they can relate to what you are going through themselves.

On the other hand, a coach is someone who helps you reach a specific goal with more structured training, usually complete with strict deadlines. With a coach, you’ll discuss your goals, set a specific action plan to get there and be held accountable for your actions. You tell your coach your goal and he or she will hold you accountable to do specifically what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. If the goal is too big, they’ll help break it down in manageable “chunks” of work and together you’ll check off each milestone until you reach the final goal.

Why I Use Mentors and Coaches

I have used many mentors and coaches throughout my life, in many different areas. For example, I have a fitness coach, named JR, who helps me stay in shape physically.

I was working out with JR at the gym the other day, and he said, “Kim, pick up the red ball for your next set of exercises.”

I walked across the gym, and leaned over to pick up the ball, expecting it to be pretty light. I slowly stood up, realizing it was a lot heavier than the blue or yellow ball I was used to. I hesitantly walked back to JR, red ball in hand.

“Okay,” JR said, “I want you to do 40 lunges with the ball over your head. Next, do 20 sit-ups on the incline holding the red ball. And last, 20 squats with the ball.”

I gave him a questionable look and set off to do my lunges. After the lunges, the sit-ups, and the squats, I came back to JR huffing and puffing, but quite proud of my accomplishment and ready to move onto the next, and hopefully easier, exercise.

Instead, JR said, “Good job. Now give me two more sets.”

“Two more sets?” I protested. “This red ball is heavy! And you want me to do this two more times?”

JR just smiled and said, “Do you want me to take it easy on you? Are you paying me to hold your hand, or are you paying me for results? It's up to you.”

He certainly had a point. The reason I have coaches and mentors is because I like to win. I like to achieve my goals. In order to win, sometimes you have to do things that are uncomfortable, difficult-and even scary.

My coaches and mentors keep me on track, especially when things get uncomfortable. I know my weaknesses, and I get lazy at times. I have coaches and mentors because sometimes I need people to push me harder than I will push myself.

Professional golfers, the best of the best, have coaches to keep them at the top of their game. It’s the amateurs and hackers who think they can do it on their own. Mentors and coaches can keep you on track whether you're having a winning day… or a "learning" day.

Similarly, if I have questions about investments, real estate, the economy, and more, I have numerous mentors I can turn to — each with a wealth of experience and opinions to share. These people help me brainstorm ideas and work through problems. I even have “spiritual coaches” who help me focus on what’s important to me and what I want to accomplish in life.

How Coaches and Mentors Help

Coaches and mentors help you stay on track. Let’s face it. Pursuing anything that’s worthwhile in life takes time and effort. And with all of the distractions today — social media, the Internet, television, cell phones, etc. — it can be easy to procrastinate and avoid the things that really need to be done in order to obtain your goals.

For example, in a study about distractions published in Psychology Today, Larry Rosen, Ph.D. notes students were, “only able to focus and stay on task for an average of three minutes at a time and nearly all of their distractions came from technology. The major culprit: their smartphone and their laptop were providing constant interruptions.”

The study also found that, “those who stayed on task longer and had study strategies were better students. The worst students were those who consumed more media each day and had a preference for working on several tasks at the same time and switching back and forth between them.”

When I am not where I want to be — whether I’m bored, upset, angry, or something else — my team of mentors and coaches are there to help me. As I say in It’s Rising Time!, “mentors and coaches can be the difference between mediocrity and excellence.”

What to Look for in a Mentor

One word of caution before you run out and latch onto the first mentor you meet: Choose your mentors wisely. It’s crucial to carefully choose the person you take advice. If you want to go somewhere, it is best to choose someone who’s already taken the journey.

For example, if you decide to run a marathon next year, obviously you would seek advice from someone who has run a marathon before. Not a 5k. Not a half marathon. The full thing. So be picky in your pursuit for the perfect mentor (and all the people you surround yourself with).

If you want to be successful, ask yourself, “Are they good role models for me? Do they have the same goals as I do?” If not, I suggest you spend more time with people who are heading in the same direction you are.

Reach for the Red Ball

That day in the gym with JR, I quietly walked away with my red ball and began my next set of lunges. That’s when I remembered that, in order to get results in anything, there are times you’ve got to reach for the red ball.

So often, we (myself included) go for the lighter yellow or blue ball because it’s easier and more comfortable. It’s familiar, and it keeps us where we are and with what we know. But in order to get the results that we want, to be willing to do what it takes, we’ve got to stretch for the red ball.

With this in mind, ask yourself: Where in your life are you taking it easy and where are you reaching for the red ball?

If you’re ready to reach for the red ball, I encourage you to start looking for a mentor and a coach who can help you stay on track and make sure you do your “sets” even when you don’t want to. Conduct research and ask for referrals from people you respect. Make a list of names and then start approaching these people to see if they are right for your support network. It will make a world of difference.

Here at Rich Dad, we offer many different ways to succeed in gaining your financial independence — including coaching services. If you’re serious about the red ball choice, I encourage you to check out our Rich Dad coaches.

With coaches and mentors, you’ll reach your goals faster, but more important, you’ll learn more about yourself in the process.

Original publish date: December 06, 2012

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