I believe you need and can benefit from both in your life. And I would encourage you to intentionally pursue both.
What’s the difference?In a broad sense I would define a mentor as someone who walks ahead of you. Imagine a tour guide. This is someone - usually older - or at least more experienced in a specific area of life or business who can “show you a better way.”
When I was newly married, my wife and I looked for couples who could “mentor” us on how to have a great marriage.
In business I’ve always sought out wiser, wealthier, healthier (as in balanced) men than me. I wanted them to mentor me along the path.
Usually mentors are those you can stay connected with over a longer period of time. It’s someone who can speak to the “heart” and help you recognize and avoid pitfalls along the way.
Mentors are invaluable. A successful man will be able to clearly point to good mentors in his life. If you can’t, then intentionally seek one out.
What about coaches?
Of course I believe a great coach will be concerned with your whole person. But they usually have a very “narrow” and “focused” approach in the way they help you.
While a mentor will often be someone who you don’t pay, coaches usually will be someone you actually “hire” to help you.
A coach will get real specific with you in identifying and developing clear objectives you want to reach.
Think of a running coach. An Olympic hopeful will hire a running coach.
Someone they can trust to look intently at their current techniques, habits, exercises, etc. And show them areas they can improve on.
My friend Dan Miller (a coach himself) is always talking about how he is quick to work with a coach on an area he wants to quickly and clearly improve on.
When he wanted to improve his podcast, he hired a coach who helped him learn all the ins and outs of successful podcasting. This allowed Dan to quickly improve in an area that benefited his business.
So how do you decide if you need a mentor or a coach?
Take a look at what you are trying to accomplish. If you need to improve a specific area of your life or business and you are hoping to see some measurable improvements, in a relatively short amount of time - then I think you are ready to engage with a coach.
If you are looking to improve the general quality of your life, marriage, spiritual, physical, or emotional state then find a good mentor in your life. Someone you can continue to walk the road with.
I’ve found it’s not an either/or situation. But there are times where even though I’ve surrounded myself with great mentors, I need a little more intentional focus to increase my own capacity or skill.
Do you need intentional focus in areas in your life? You can make it happen.