Love Lesson #6: Making Positive Changes with a Friend
These are true stories of hope and transformation from my career as a lifestyle success coach. The names have been changed, but you may recognize yourself or a friend in these messages.
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Shawn was extremely unhappy and depressed. Life was boring and tedious, and there was nothing to look forward to. She got up, went to work, and paid bills. There was no money left for fun. She only took her job to pay bills, and now she felt stuck. She lived in constant fear that the car would break down again. How would she pay for that?
Shawn had no social life. She had recently divorced a man who had kept everyone away from her and made her feel like she would be nothing without him. Last year she gave birth to a stillborn child and he never even came to the hospital to see her because he was off having a fling. She remembered lying in the hospital bed feeling so empty and abandoned, watching the door to see if he would come to comfort her. She also remembered waiting alone in her bed at home wondering when he would come home and be abusive to her. Now she did not have to wonder, at least she had peace, but she had no idea how to find happiness or joy. She came home and went to bed by 7:00 pm. She didn’t own a television and had no friends, just a dismal life of fear and work, entering numbers in a ledger, before computers were routinely used for that purpose. This was stagnation. This was depression. Why go on?
Well, yes, why go on that way? Shawn was letting life run her instead of taking charge and doing what she wanted. She was a very pretty blonde, 25, petite, with a warm personality and a few years of college to her credit. Why was her life so awful?
She did not have the slightest idea how to please herself. She only knew how to please others. When she was offered a job, she just took it. She gave no thought to whether it would further her growth, or if it had good benefits, or if it would increase her skills. She took jobs simply to pay bills and that was all she got.
Shawn was raised with a strong work ethic and good morals. Work hard, and you will be respected. Pay your bills first, and you will have a good name in the community. If there is any money left after the bills are paid, save it. No one had also mentioned this one: When you work for survival, all you get is work and survival.
One day, Shawn found a book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. This book opened her mind to important new ideas. It challenged her thinking and her way of believing. She began to see how her own thoughts and fears were keeping her from happiness and fulfillment.
She read stories of people who were miserable, as she was, and how they turned their lives around and became successful and happy. She yearned for that kind of happiness. Because some of the people in the book had stories much worse than hers, they gave her hope.
She began to understand that she was like an untilled piece of land, neglected and fallow, full of the weeds of negative thinking and low self-esteem. Even though she had attended college, she took just basic courses and then just did what she had to do to get good grades. None of the classes challenged her to expand herself. She learned only to cram for tests in history and English and other traditional courses of study. The school she attended was a small, conservative college that only trained teachers, so experimentation was frowned upon. She was determined to please others and to excel at getting good grades.
Shawn began to examine herself. She had never done anything just because she wanted to do it. What did she want? She didn’t have a clue. She stumbled and stuttered and couldn’t write anything down on paper. Then she met a man who was taking a course called “Leadership in Action” through the local Jaycees. There was a workbook, and he helped to guide her through the same lessons he was learning. They were having a great time discovering themselves and each other through this course.
One of the course lessons was to write down what you like about yourself. Neither one of them had very high self-esteem, so this was a very difficult assignment. However, they helped each other by complimenting one another on what was good about each of them. It centered around what each liked about the other.
Because their self-esteem was so low, accepting compliments was a lesson in itself, but they supported each other through it and they grew in self-esteem and in love…
Shawn had made it clear when they met that she was not interested in being more than friends, so they were friends only. Gradually, however, they took their friendship to a much higher level through coaching each other to think more positively and take action in their lives. As they began to know and understand themselves better, they became more lovable and desirable.
Love Lesson Tip:
Sometimes, when one friend decides to make some changes and starts to grow, some friends will pull back and hope the person who needs to make the changes will return to the old way. Often, people who are afraid to change their own lives will pull back and discourage a friend from growth. Individuals and their relationships can thrive and flourish in new ways when friends support each other in positive new ways. These two people were coaching each other, and Shawn’s self-esteem was raised tremendously, just from the knowledge that she could help Tom as well as herself. It was more than learning new things about themselves. Putting it into action by helping another human being really raised the self worth of each of them, and improved both their attitudes about their value in the world.
Within just three months, Shawn had become so positive and energetic and aware of what she wanted in a career, that one day she marched into a United Way agency and convinced them that she would be the perfect person to be Director of Volunteers. She was hired. She loved the job. She was constantly involved in supporting people to get their needs met. Some were volunteers who wanted to help people, and some were agencies that needed caring volunteers to help with their work. Within a year, she was head of 152 programs and 800 volunteers, and she loved it. She was thriving and growing, and it was all because of a new book and a new course of action, and the love and support of a friend who became her coach--and then her husband.
Tom’s 18-year career also thrived as his attitude soared. He was promoted and received a large raise for the first time in 15 years (over and above the normal cost of living). He recommended some changes in the department, and the company created a new department and made him its head. He hired new people, and the department now has its own research and development building in the Fortune 100 company that employs him.
Shawn and Tom have continued to share the lessons they learned together in the "Leadership in Action” course, coaching and guiding others through the leadership positions that their new attitude helped them to attain.