Yesterday Michael Hyatt posted “One Stupid Decision Away” concerning Steve McNair and the choices we make. It was a thoughtful post and I highly encourage you to read it. One point Michael makes is about the need to “build a support system of family and friends who will care enough to challenge us when we veer off course.” Those words brought an overwhelming sense of gratefulness to the people I have befriended throughout the years. Accountability is the best friend anybody can have and yet most people resist it as if they lose their freedom in doing so.
I’ve kept an inner circle – people whom I maintain a high level of transparency and vulnerability with. The inner circle is small. These are the people I allow to speak into every area of my life and I heed their words seriously. I hold my life accountable to them. I don’t always do what they say, but they may make me slow down and think before acting. These are relationships I bring all of me to the table not just parts of me. They care about me and I care about them.
An inner circle relationship is different than a mentoring relationship. Mentors are temporary and usually involve a specific area in life: work, marriage, hobby or activity. You can go to them for advice, but it’s not necessarily reciprocated. These relationships you only bring parts of you to the table. You may have people at work you can go to for work advice, or a friend who’s a great golfer to help with your back swing. But you wouldn’t necessarily go to them if you were having personal issues. If your mentor decides to walk away, you can go find another one. An inner circle member walking away causes a loss that is felt deeply felt.
Here are some guidelines in choosing an inner circle:
- Choose people bound by the same moral code you operate from. Know who you are and make sure you aren’t compromising your integrity.
- Recognize the proper ‘space’ in your relationships. Some relationships are like planetary orbits; certain times of your lives you may be closer, other times further apart. It’s ok!
- Choose people with different interests than you. I’m an engineer by trade, but I have no other engineers in my inner circle. My friends are diverse backgrounds, and I’m not speaking in terms of race but education, interests, sex, age and marital status. There is always something in common because I or they have been open to learn new things.
- Don’t grandfather your family into your inner circle just because they are family. I have too often seen a person’s life devastated by the wishes and desires of overbearing relatives. (This does not apply to your spouse.)
- Look for people who have vision and purpose in their lives. They may not have every detail mapped out but they are aiming at a dream.
Maintaining the inner circle is a post for another day. But always show gratitude to those in your inner circle.