Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Practices To Enlist The Right People On The Journey Of Life

If life is a journey, who's on that journey with you?  Easy enough question to ask, but much harder to answer.  I think we all, intuitively, know that we need people to do life with us.  We know that there are areas in which we are weak and need others to teach us, support us and even challenge us.  I probably won't get a bunch of push-back from that concept.  If you can't even embrace the idea that you can't do it all alone, you truly do have a problem.  It's called arrogance and it will absolutely destroy you.  But, if you're a rational person looking to lead yourself and those you love to a preferable future, this concept is probably not a problem for you.

The problem, I've found, is that most of us who know we need people to journey with us don't know how to enlist their help.  This used to seem like a mystery to me, as well.  But as I've experimented with this for years now, I've found several practices that can be extremely helpful in bringing the right people around you on your journey.  I hope you'll find these as helpful as I have found them.

5 Practices To Enlist The Right People On The Journey Of Life:

1.  Find + Ask 

Sure, there are people you can think of right now who "have it made" in your eyes.  Those may or may not be the people you want to identify as those you want on the journey with you.  Just because they have a great life or make a lot of money doesn't necessarily qualify them.  I know plenty of people I respect, who I don't need speaking into my life.  The key here is looking for the people who are now doing what you hope to be doing someday.  This could be someone in a career position you aspire toward.  If you're young and don't yet have kids, it could be someone you see as a great parent.  If you struggle to manage your time, you might look for someone who you believe is a great time manager.  If you are not understanding how to grow in your faith, find someone who is a few steps ahead of you and see what you can learn.  It could be anyone in any area of life.  Again, the key is to identify a person who is where you hope to be.  

Once you find them, you have to ask them to participate with you.  That sounds simple, but let me caution you here.  If you go about it the wrong way, it will get weird really fast.  I'm not talking about approaching a total stranger and asking, "Will you be my mentor?".  Almost everyone is going to say no to that.  First off, understand that most of the people you need on your journey are people you already know.  It's just a matter of you helping them see where they are strong and you're weak.  A little sincere flattery will go a long way.  I know I'm much more likely to give time to people who I know respect me.  It's just human nature.  

One more word of caution here.  If you are looking outside of your normal sphere (which is ok from time-to-time) be very careful about how you approach people you don't know.  Will Mancini recently wrote a fantastic article about that.  Please give it a read here.

2.  Lean into these relationships during non-crisis times

Ricky and Shawn are two guys I consider mentors of mine in the realm of personal health and fitness.  For a season, I actually paid for their services as coaches.  I'm not in a season of paying for their services any longer, but the relationship has been kept alive.  Since the season they have been my official coaches, I've texted both of them regularly just to check in and see what's up and how I can pray for them.  It's not super often and it's not real deep.  But the lines of communication are open regularly.  

Yesterday I texted them both asking for their prayers.  Although I've taken quite a bit of weight off in the last 18 months and have learned some new habits, I've felt myself slipping into some of my old, unhealthy, habits lately.  I told these guys as much in my text yesterday and they both responded super-positively.  In fact, Ricky said, "Hey, text us both every day until you get back into the right habits.  We don't mind."  Then not long after, Shawn send a few tongue in cheek pics to inspire me. Honestly, I was blown away by their responses.  That is really generous of them.  I would have been totally satisfied with, "You got it bro.  You're in my prayers."  But they offered so much more than that.  

Do you think it would have been the same if the lines of communication had been silent for the last 12 months?  I doubt it.  I doubt I would have even contacted them.  And that would not have reflected poorly on them.  It would have reflected poorly on me.  If you really care about your relationships, you'll keep the lines somewhat open.  

3.  Don't just take

How much more do I really have to say?  Even if you can't contribute to someone on the same level they contribute to you (which you probably can't), you can show your appreciation and gratitude in all kinds of ways.  If you think the relationship is there just for your benefit, any healthy person will intuitively feel that and move on.  Don't make this mistake.  Find non-weird ways to give back and show your gratitude.

4.  Take responsibility for your own growth

The relationship will get old really quickly if the conversation is the same every time.  To use the example above, how many times will I get the same response from Ricky and Shawn if I'm texting them saying I'm struggling with the same things every month for the next three years?  There comes a time in every arena of life where you need to just put up or shut up.  I'd encourage you to do one of the two - preferably put up.

5.  Understand when a season begins, changes or even ends

Whether you're talking about the relationship changing in nature or ending altogether, this can be awkward at best and painful at worst.  But, that does not negate the reality here.  There are people in my life who I used to be a mentor to who have become a peer of mine.  There are people in my life who used to be daily close mentors of mine who I'm just not connected with any longer.  There are all kinds of reasons these relationships change and even cease, but you have to discern where your relationships are and where they should go.  

Another wrinkle to this it that very often certain relationships seem to "go dormant" for a period of time - sometimes years. But, even in this phase, be discerning (see #2 above).  I've seen many dormant relationships come back to life and be twice as vibrant the second time around.  

In the end, this is all an art much more than a science, but these 5 practices will serve you well if you take them to heart and put some action to them.  If there are some additional ideas I missed, I'd love for you to share them with me. Leave a comment below.  Good luck on your journey!

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