Updated: Jul 22, 2019
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn
In this past Sunday’s blog post, I mentioned how important it is to find online mentors to help you through your journey of building self-discipline. In fact, I’d advocate for finding online mentors for anything that you’re trying to do in life.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back, I can tell you that some of the people that I have been following online for years have greatly shaped the person I became, the actions I take, and the things that I’m interested in, and I’ve never met them or said a single word to most of them.
I’m now aware that it’s happening, and intentionally seek out and learn from people that I admire so that I can learn and grow in the direction that I want to go.
I opened this post with that famous Jim Rohn quote because it’s true—but what we often don’t realize is that in today’s digitally interconnected world, the people that you “spend the most time with” may not be people that you know in real life.
Those YouTubers that you watch, the blogs that you read (hi!), the people that you follow on Instagram—those are the people who are going to influence how you live your life. Whether you’ve realized it or not, your thoughts and actions are shaped by the content that you consume.
Intentionally shaping the content that you consume in a way that inspires and motivates you to live the life that you want will make it easier to start living that life. That content will shape your thoughts and actions, both consciously and unconsciously.
Just a quick little personal side note before we dive into this more deeply—if you don’t care about it, skip it.
One of the people who has had the biggest impact on how I live my life is YouTuber Kalyn Nicholson. I’ve been watching her for years and have always loved her content. She does lots of plan with me videos and talks about goal setting and routines often. I started planning out my life more and adopting tons of routines (especially morning and night routines) because she does it.
Her content has changed a bit recently as she’s gotten more into things like horoscopes and chakras, which I don’t think most of my readers are interested in, but she does still make videos about fitness, routines, self care, and things like that, so she’s worth checking out.
Anyway, back to the article.
What is the benefit of having online mentors?
I doubt that I have to tell you the value of having mentors that you trust and look up to. They’re there to provide guidance and inspiration when you need it and help you along on your journey. You’ll go farther, faster if you have a mentor or two.
But why online mentors?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many people in real life who are living the life that I want to live. And the ones that are don’t typically spend much time explaining to other people how they’re doing it. They just do it.
That’s why we go online in search of mentors. There are people on the internet who have the habits you want and are sharing how they built those habits with the world, all packaged neatly into YouTube videos and blog posts for you to consume.
No one that I know in real life got up early on Saturday mornings to do homework in the empty Computer Science lounge (hence its emptiness), which is why I shared that experience with you. Now that I’m out of school, no one that I know in real life wakes up early to go to the gym before work. In fact, aside from my dad, no one else that I know wakes up all that early for any reason, which is part of why I like waking up early.
If those rare habits—waking up early to fit in a workout before work, eating clean, balanced meals, meditating, etc.—are habits that you’d like to have, or continue to maintain, then your mentors are most likely found on the internet. (Unless you’re somehow surrounded by people who do these things, in which case, where do you live and can I come be your friend?)
The good old world wide web is ideal for connecting like-minded people together (for better or worse). Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, whatever position you’re in, you can find people doing that, feeling that, living that, and sharing the experience with the world. The internet can connect you to the best people to give you advice for your specific situation.
Rather than having one or two mentors in real life who can sort of relate to your situation, you can find dozens online who went through the same things that you’re going through right now. Their advice is going to be more helpful, more relevant, and more plentiful than anything you’d get in person.
Speaking of that advice being plentiful, having online mentors allows you to surround yourself with things that inspire and motivate you. A real-life mentor doesn’t have the time, energy, or desire to give you a pep-talk every morning, but with the existence of podcasts, there are thousands of pep talks living in your phone just waiting for you to listen to them.
(Btw, if you need some podcast recommendations, I have some here!)
When you follow people who inspire you—on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, or wherever you hang out (I even have a subreddit, and I’d love if you joined me there!)—you can keep a steady stream of positive, educational content coming into your life to help you keep moving forward.
The more that you see this content, the more it will start to impact your actions and habits, often without you even noticing. We pick up the habits of the people around us all the time. Have you ever noticed yourself saying a phrase that your friend says all the time without thinking about it? We copy other people, even unconsciously.
With the number of people out there sharing their lives, the internet allows you to find mentors who fit your situation well. This journey isn’t one-size-fits-all, and some people will be much more helpful than others. The internet allows you to find the people who are most helpful in your journey.
How do I find mentors?
Many people know that finding the right people to follow will help them, but they aren’t sure where to find those people. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are plenty of people out there who are faking their lives for Instagram or just trying to attract an audience because they want to be well-known or make “easy” money. Those people aren’t the people who you want to be following.
I’d also like to note that, even if someone is leading the life you’d like to live, if they make you feel bad about yourself, don’t follow them! If someone’s life seems too perfect, remember that it probably isn’t real. Find people who are closer to where you are in their own journeys so that their content relates to you.
One of the best ways that you can find people to look up to is to see if the people that you already follow have recommendations. Often, they have mentors of their own.
Here are a few of my own favorite people to follow:
Yoga with Adriene (Youtube)
Michelle Khare (YouTube)
JTM Fit (Instagram)
Intentional living and going after the life that you want:
Another thing that you can do is find out who wrote your favorite articles and see if they have a website or Twitter that you can follow. If you’ve read an article from a larger publication at some point that resonated with you, that author is probably out there writing other things that you’ll like as well. Find them.
You can try out the Instagram explore page. Now, I will admit that Instagram has a lot of crap that you have to dig through before you can find the good stuff. A lot of those “fitness models” are just there to show off their butts, and their workouts are crap. Don’t buy workout plans from fitness models.
But there are some Instagram gems out there of real people showing their real fitness journeys and athletes who know what they’re doing and sharing that knowledge with the world. Vet carefully.
You could even check out those pages that exclusively repost other people’s content. There are plenty of fitness and food Instagrams that share content made by other people. This offers you a way to scroll through lots of content quickly and find people who inspire you. Check out the original creators of those posts to see if you’d like to follow them.
Read more books. In general, I think that reading more books is a positive thing to pursue. The more opinions and perspectives that you expose yourself to, the better. I know that the rest of this article is specifically about finding mentors online, but many of those people have also written books. If nothing else, the internet makes books way more accessible.
Books are a great way to dive more deeply into a topic than can be covered in a 10 minute YouTube video or 2000 word blog post. Granted, there are plenty of terrible books out there. If a book isn’t resonating with you after a few chapters, don’t feel like you have to finish it.
If you’re not sure where to start and what to read, check out my recommendations, where I’ve listed a handful of the most impactful books that I’ve read. If you’re looking for even more recommendations and want to explore more than just self-improvement, come hang out with me on Goodreads where you can see everything I’m reading and have read.
Focus, and don’t over-research. While I do think that it’s important to have mentors, an issue that I see people running into all the time is analysis paralysis due to the sheer volume of information that’s out there.
Rather than going on an information binge and consuming 300 different pieces of content by 100 different people and then feeling unable to act because there are too many options, focus on one topic at a time and find three to four people who do that one thing well. Look for the answers that you need in what they’re saying, and then apply it.
You don’t need advice from 50 different people about how to organize your calendar. Get advice from a couple of people, and then do it. If you run into a specific issue while you’re taking action, that’s the time to do more research. But before you’ve taken action, too much research is typically just a tool for procrastination.
Take action. I know I just said that you’ve got to take action, but it deserves its own section.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
If you don’t allow your mentors’ advice and actions to start impacting your life, then the whole pursuit is kind of pointless. Ultimately, your actions are the only thing that matters. You don’t have to overhaul your life to match theirs but instead make slow, incremental improvements.
When you watch a YouTuber do a Plan With Me video, plan with them! If someone embarks on a challenge, do it as well! Take the actions that you’re seeing, modify them to fit your life, and then do them.
Take it one step at a time. The changes that you make should be small enough that they feel easy and unintimidating. It doesn’t matter how much you know or who you follow if you don’t act on it.
I’ll wrap this up by pointing out something fairly obvious: I’m followable. I’m one of those real people sitting here on my couch writing this and sharing my story for you to follow along with. If you like my blog, you’ll likely find inspiration in my Instagram where I share my fitness journey, healthy meals and recipes, and inspirational quotes. I’ve also got a Twitter with similar content, and you might want to get on my email list.