I was collaborating with a dear friend and colleague, Ben Whiting, and we couldn’t help but laugh out loud for the two hours we were together. As we were swapping our stories, poking fun at ourselves, we also spent time imagining our futures in ways that were invigorating and inspiring.
When dinner wrapped, I asked him, “Hey, can we do this again? Not just have dinner, but continue to push and encourage each other on our visions for our future? I know you can help me with my creativity; I know I can help you with some of the initiatives you’re interested in next year.”
From this little exchange, a fresh thought partner relationship emerged!
What’s a Thought Partner?
I’ve had many thought partners throughout my career for which I am grateful. I can’t begin to quantify how a quality thought partner – a person who pushes your thinking and helps you shift your perspective so you can see your life, your challenges, and your goals in new ways – changes your life. All I know is that I’m a better person because of the quality of the people I engage with frequently.
I know the events over the last few years have made us hunker down and focus on the most fundamental priorities in our lives. For many of us, maybe our social and professional networks have gotten a little small. Perhaps a quality goal is to refresh your network by getting back in touch with individuals who can be successful thought partners.
Here are five reasons that having a thought partner isn’t just a “nice to do” goal; but, rather, a “need to do” for your continued success.
Five Reasons You Need a Thought Partner
- You Need a New Way to Solve Your Challenges. Your approach to challenges probably hasn’t changed a whole lot lately. Wouldn’t it be great to share with someone a problem and see how they’d approach it? Knowing, understanding, and respecting different approaches gives you important insight into other, compelling ways to solve problems. When you change your approach, you can unlock a new way of addressing an issue and, potentially, solving it more efficiently than you ever imagined.
- You Don’t Know Everything. There are many times we behave as if we have all the answers, even though we know we don’t. Sometimes, just calling a trusted friend and saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about ‘x,’ what do you know about it?” can enlighten you more than a quick Google search can. Plus, you invite connections in your life when you reach out and ask for support.
- New Ways of Thinking Can Elevate Goals. As a coach, I talk to a lot of people about their goals – I rarely hear of any goal that isn’t achievable. But, I do hear a lot of goals that are easy for my clients to achieve. My role is to push them to set higher goals because I have a different insight into their talents and capabilities. As their thought partner, I get excited when I can share with them that they’re more capable than they realize. Likewise, when you get a thought partner, they’ll probably push you with your goals, too. It’s great to hear from others what they see as our potential. This type of challenge is wonderful, healthy, and can serve as a great source of inspiration on our leadership journey.
- We Need Connection. I read Brene Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” and she cites research from Holt-Lunstad, Smith, and Bradley Layton: living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%, living with obesity, 20%, excessive drinking 30%, and living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45%. Bottom line: we need people. We’ve got it within our power to form connections – without focusing on how many (quantity), but rather on quality connections. Thought partners serve as invaluable relationships in our life that keep our minds fresh and fundamental needs satisfied.
- Thought Partners Keep You Inspired. No one … and, I repeat, no one … can have enough inspiration in their life. When we have thought partners, we engage in the highest levels of communication – we talk about ideas! (Not people, not gossip, not petty things … ideas!!!) Ideas are inspiring! Ideas get you to imagine new ways of moving through your day. This is the first step toward changing your behavior to achieve whatever is most meaningful for you.
As you gather with family and friends – look around you. Is there someone that could be a thought partner? Find new ways of engaging the people around you to ensure that you have quality connections for today, tomorrow, and the many years to come. For this, you will ultimately be grateful – Trust me.