I’ve always thought that a mentor would be someone who had your back who would encourage you in a positive way.

Listening to Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat, Love, Pray describe her relationship with her mentor, I realized, not always. In her twenties, she had moved to New York because she wanted to be a writer and she felt this was where she needed to be, in order for that to happen.

But it didn’t. She held down three jobs, lived in a grubby apartment with a weed-smoking group of friends and had a demanding partner at the time. In other words, she found she didn’t have time to write and her setting wasn’t conducive to writing.

She had spotted a woman in the community – an “old woman” – (in her fifties) that she wanted to recruit as her mentor, so she kind of stalked her until she noticed Elizabeth. This woman posed difficult questions to Elizabeth wanting to know why she wasn’t writing if that was what she wanted to do.

Elizabeth was quick to explain that she didn’t have the time, but her mentor didn’t let her off that easily and probed further and pointed out that she did indeed have time, but she hadn’t made writing her priority. Elizabeth had planned a week’s vacation out of the city and was looking forward to the break. But her mentor advised her that if she took the vacation, they were done.

Elizabeth didn’t go. Instead she used that week to write. Her mentor had used tough love to make her take action and focus on her priorities.

Knowing your priorities was a key thread in Elizabeth’s talk and they can change overnight.   When she heard that her wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, she dropped and cancelled everything to fly home and look after her.

She observed that with this news she’d created a golden circle and everything in that circle – like family – was sacred. Setting boundaries made her decision-making that much easier.

She would receive constant requests; had a barrage of emails in her inbox and her response was the same, if it wasn’t part of her golden circle, she didn’t care and the requests were declined and the emails deleted.

Sadly her partner died but Elizabeth has not forgotten the lesson she learned in creating a golden circle and she encourages women to determine their priorities and to protect them from all the other demands on their time.

“Women are taught to care about everything. It’s a lie.” observes Elizabeth. You have choices. Pick wisely.

Anne Day

Anne Day

Company of Women

I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.