written by Angie Morgan

I went to dinner the other night 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 COVID stories, poking fun at ourselves for worries we had that never realized (like running out of toilet paper), 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 this 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; the most obvious one is Courtney Lynch, who’s a continuous creator of new ideas.

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 people I engage with on a frequent basis.

I know that COVID has 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 goal for 2022 is to refresh your network by getting back in touch with the individuals who can be successful thought partners.

Here are five reasons why 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

  1. 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, solve it more efficiently than you ever imagined.
  2. 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 connection in your life when you reach out and ask for support.
  3. New Ways of Thinking Can Elevate Goals. As a coach, I talk to a lot of people about their goals – I rarely hear any goal that isn’t achievable. But I do hear a lot of goals that are easy for my clients to achieve. I see my role in this situation as pushing them a little more 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 healthy and can serve as a great source of inspiration on our leadership journey.
  4. We Need Connection. I’m reading Brene Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” right now, where she cites research from Holt-Lunstad, Smith, and Layton – they share that living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%, living with obesity by 20%, and excessive drinking by 30%. 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 connection – not quantity of connections, but quality connections. Thought partners serve as invaluable relationships in our life that keep our minds fresh and fundamental needs satisfied.
  5. 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 on 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, which is the first step toward changing your behavior to achieve whatever is most meaningful for you.

Here’s to a New Year … and new ways of engaging the people around us to ensure we have quality connections for today, tomorrow, and many years to come.

Angie Morgan is the co-founder of Lead Star and the New York Times best-selling author of SPARK: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success, Leading from the Front, and Bet on You. Sign up for Lead Star’s free, weekly newsletter to get timely leadership tips delivered directly to your inbox each Monday.