How Friends Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
Family Circle April 1 issue
A few years ago I was self-employed and spending way too much time working, with little to show for it. I wasn't giving my young daughter the kind of time and attention she needed. And I couldn't remember the last time I'd gone out to dinner with friends. I'd gotten into a rut so deep I needed help getting out.
That's when I learned about the power of partnering up with a goal buddy. Goal buddies are ordinary people who help each other make their dreams come true. They motivate and cheer one another on, and offer tips and advice for dealing with challenges.
"Getting an accountability partner means that you're more likely to be successful in reaching your goals," says Suzanne Adele Schmidt, Ph.D., of Renewal Resources (www.renewalatwork.com), an organization that helps people work in a productive, balanced way.
Two years ago, when my then-five-year-old daughter sat me down and said, "Focus, Mama. Focus," I knew I had to make a change. I was distracted and sometimes short-tempered, juggling myriad tasks and doing way too much work at 3 a.m. The chaos was beginning to affect my daughter, but I didn't know what to do about it.
That's when I turned to my friend Linda Formichelli, a successful magazine writer who works about 30 hours a week, leaving plenty of time for her husband and her hobbies (not to mention two cats). I knew Linda wanted to write books, which was something I knew how to do, having had about 20 books published at the time. So I promised to help Linda with her book-publishing goal if she'd help me figure out how to get balance back in my life.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
I told Linda that I was working very hard and not making enough money, but that I didn't know what changes to make or how to make them. She helped me see that I was operating under assumptions that were no longer true. For example: Early in my career I had started writing books because my daughter was very ill and I never knew when she'd end up in the hospital for long stretches of time. Meeting with clients, doing rush jobs or working within short deadlines was impossible for me back then.
But circumstances had changed. My daughter was much healthier and I could now take on short-term assignments. Working on a mix of short- and long-term projects improved my cash flow and, happily, I wasn't working any harder.
Linda also encouraged me to do more magazine writing. She gave me the names of her editors and followed up to make sure I'd contacted them. She challenged me to answer, "Why not?" all the time, and often reminded me of a saying her martial arts teacher practiced: "If you argue for your limitations, that's what you'll get." Pretty soon I stopped explaining why I couldn't do things and just started doing them.
Two Heads Are Better Than One
Tina Tessina, Ph.D., believes that women can help each other achieve anything just by putting their heads together. "Your goal buddy has a slightly different take on the problem," says Tessina. "Add her approach to yours and you can come up with a better solution."
Tessina's own story proves the point. After her divorce in 1972 she started a bookkeeping business to support herself while studying to become a psychotherapist. She turned to her friend Maggie Bialack to help run the business. Tessina eventually got licensed, and now Maggie runs the entire business. "We've helped one another a lot over the years," says Tessina. "I couldn't have done it without her."
The Goal Buddy Difference
Kim Grant of Chanhassen, Minnesota, agrees with that statement. Kim had been trying to lose weight for years when she finally decided to become weight-loss goal buddies with her friend LuAnn Engelhardt of Chaska, Minnesota, and LuAnn's sister Chris Peters, who lives in nearby Waconia.
Several times a week the friends would walk three miles around a nearby lake. Whenever they went out to dinner, they'd help each other make healthy menu choices. The women shared their successes and brainstormed weight-loss solutions. The result? Since August 2002 Kim and LuAnn have lost—and kept off—35 pounds each, and Chris has lost an amazing 48 pounds.
Pay It Back
As these women will tell you, being a goal buddy means you have to give as well as receive. In my case, with Linda's help, I became a better and smarter writer, mother and friend. So when a publisher approached me with a book deal that I wasn't interested in, I suggested Linda, who got the contract. I coached her through the proposal and writing process and, in the fall of 2004, her book Becoming a Personal Trainer for Dummies (Wiley) was published.
The moral of the story? Between the two of us, Linda and I can accomplish practically anything—and you can, too!
Friendly Advice from Hannah Storm
The co-host of CBS TV's The Early Show offers up six ways friend can help each oither most.
- Always be realistic and objective. A true friend will dispense with false flattery and tell you like it really is (in a kind way, of course).
- Be your friend's biggest cheerleader. Support her however you can and celebrate her triumphs.
- Be a good listener. Lend an ear to a friend's ups and downs, and remind her of the big picture.
- Don't be jealous or competitive. Remember that your friend is trying to achieve her goal. It's not about you.
- Be optimistic and upbeat. Forget the saying "misery loves company." You'll both be happier.
- Make a friend laugh. A sense of humor will carry you through almost any situation.
Family Circle April 1 Issue