Late last winter, I read this great book called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. I am self-employed in an industry that can test your mettle and I was doing some personal development to get better at being consistent. I have tremendous respect for Darren and I really enjoy all of his publications. The book was phenomenal and I guess if I was looking for a bible on how to achieve success, this was it. It was raw, it was real, and it gave real-life examples I could relate to. There was an exercise in the book and I vowed to try it, regardless of how difficult the outcome and how much the honesty of a few trusted friends might hurt.
I was engrossed in a section about mentorship and relationships and in it, Darren suggested that if we wanted real, honest feedback, we should identify people who cared about us to be brutally honest. He suggested we ask them these questions:
How do I show up to you?
What do you think my strengths are?
In what areas do you think I can improve?
Where do you think I sabotage myself?
What’s one thing you think I can stop doing that would benefit me the most?
What’s the one thing I should start doing?
Tough questions, right? Before I ventured out to find my “friends,” I asked myself those questions. Quite frankly, I think I was wondering if I cared enough about myself to be brutally honest. The end result of my self-inquisition was that I had tremendous strengths, but I didn’t yet know how to utilize them to the fullest. I also had the bones of someone who wants to be successful, but I self-sabotage myself in a lot of ways. I was resolute to the fact that I had some work to do, and I felt comfortable enough to set out on my quest to find my brutally honest friends and gather their perceptions.
I started in the most logical place — with my husband. I honestly don’t think he was eager to answer my questions (probably feeling that a fight or hurt feelings would ensue if he was brutally honest), but in the name of love he agreed. The nugget I took away from his comments was that I put myself last and I have to treat myself like an appointment. He sees me putting everyone and everything else first, at the expense of my own goals/dreams/desires and he wanted me to carve out blocks of time every day that I could dedicate to working on my business, being an entrepreneur, or just working out. He felt I second guessed myself too much. He asked questions like: Do you really want to be successful? Did you do food shopping in the middle of the day when you worked for Babson? Then why are you doing it now in the middle of your work day? Why do you let your mother convince you to come over when you know you have deadlines and a bunch of calls to make? Why can’t you sit in your car and make phone calls or walk around the track while the girls are at pactice? Hard for me to swallow — I try to make sure everyone else’s needs are met first — but I know he was right and even though it would be difficult to make changes, I needed to start working on them — PRONTO!
Out of the other friends and family members I reached out to (some who did not call back and some who agreed to help but never did), I value my friend Elaine’s feedback the most. She was tentative at first when I told her what I was looking for. She didn’t want me to be mad and I promised her that I was asking because I wanted to be better and I promised her no retribution. She hesitantly agreed and we made arrangements to talk on the phone. Her responses came with such love that there was no way I could be mad at her. She praised me on my strengths and told me how she genuinely envied me for the risks I have taken. She was caring and encouraging and I could tell a little piece of her heart was breaking when she had to answer the “bad” questions. She is not one to hurt people’s feelings, and I know this was extremely difficult for her, but she was doing it because she loved me. She touched on the clutter in my house and how it was probably cluttering my mind and making it difficult for me to work (no secret — she is right) and then she talked about my weight and how I needed to take better care of myself and make a commitment to be healthier. She eluded to te fact that I work for the predominant anti-aging/health/wellness company in the world, but I wasn’t exactly being a good representative of their products. Ouch– but again, right on target! Elaine has been there before and she knows how being unhealthy can take a toll on you and zap your confidence. She also knows what it feels like to run marathons and be at your healthiest. I took her feedback to heart.
It took me about five months to do anything truly actionable with her feedback, but it was always in the back of my mind. I found myself trying to clean out my house in fits and starts (I emptied a dining room of clutter and slowly started to chip away at the rest). I eagerly joined a fundraiser where the more I walked, the more $$ would get donated to starving children in Malawi. I walked almost 300 miles in a few months, but the eating right still eluded me and there were no tangible results from all that walking. I watched her get fitter and fitter and healthier and healthier and it lit a fire in me because she was walking the walk and doing things that benefitted her despite being a full-time working mother of two.
I had a conversation with Elaine, who I know is genuinely happy for my lifestyle change, last week. I thanked her profusely for answering those questions so many months ago and told her that ultimately, she was one of the catalysts for me wanting to be healthier. In true Elaine fashion, she took no credit….and then cried a little. But, it’s true! Outside of my husband and my immediate family, she was the only friend who cared enough about me to take the time to hear me out, listen to what my needs were, and answer some really difficult qustions. She was willing to discuss things that might strike a nerve (weight, lifestyle choices) with me in a way that was kind, genuine, and from the heart. She weighed the options and knew that I might bristle at her honesty at first, but that the honesty might also prolong my life and help me be a better mom/wife/friend/person. Friends like that are hard to come by and I know that when the holidays roll around, the novelty of the weight loss has worn off, and it gets more difficult to balance a healthy lifestyle with the temptations that are constantly gnawing at me, Elaine will still be in my corner and I know she will help keep me honest.
So, Elaine, you may not ever read this. But, hopefully you know how much I appreciate you and your friendship. You possess that rare characteristic of wanting the best for others, all while knowing it doesn’t detract from you getting the best for yourself. Bobby and I may have done all the work this past month, and we proudly have almost 60 pounds less of us to show for it, but you were like the lens that slowly helped put it all into focus for me. I knew if you cared enough to be honest with me about my appearance and my overall health, then I owed it to myself to care enough to do something about it. I love you and I am forever grateful for your friendship! XOXO