Who’s Got Your Back?

As we’ve crossed into another year I begin to realize more and more that our current season can be no different than the way we choose to behave. I have seen people change cities, spouses, hair styles and even churches only to find themselves in the same nonsense as before. Why? Because they did not ascribe new behavior patterns to their lives. Trust me, I have witnessed this vicious cycle of insanity far too often. But once you get off the merry go round, you can start navigating towards a better life.

I was pondering the small, but powerful circle of people I call friends. And I began to notice similarities that were common in all those relationships. I appreciate the laughs, good times and encouragement I receive but something else stood out to me, the accountability. Understand this; unless someone is connecting with you on the level of accountability, you’re probably not getting much accomplished. Someone has to hold you to your word. If not, you’re sure to fall.

I watched a really cool program about rock climbing and saw a parallel. There is a position on a climbing unit called the belayer.  To simplify the definition, a belayer is responsible for applying pressure to the opposite rope in the climber’s harness so in the event of a fall, the climber can only go so far. Now describing this doesn’t do it justice. You have to see this concept in action. It is amazing. The belayer anchors the climbing post and adds security to a dangerous situation.

I want to show you a few lessons we can learn from climbers:

1.  The first job of a belayer is adding stability: Have you ever had a friend who was all over the place? This week they’re a bartender and next week they want to be a vet. Their life is in shambles and you certainly don’t feel comfortable asking them to hold you accountable. That’s not a good belayer. The first order of business for a climber is getting solid footing. You can only do that with someone who knows how to hold you steady as you climb.

2.  A belayer knows when and how much friction to add: In a typical climb, the belayer wears a harness that has a belay device attached. The rope threads through the belay device. By altering the position of the end of the rope, the belayer can vary the amount of friction on the rope. In one position, the rope runs freely through the belay device. In another position, it can easily be held without moving, because the friction on the rope is so great. This is called ‘locking off’ the rope. Adding friction at the wrong time can spell disaster for the climber. You and I need people who inspire us, not crush us as we climb to our dreams.

3.  Invest this year in the company of people you truly enjoy: I don’t know where we got the novel idea that we had to be friends with everyone we meet. Life is too short to feel stuck with someone. You owe it to yourself to seek out and engage with people who inspire and challenge you. Not wear you out mentally. On the side of a mountain you should have people on your team you actually like. Can you imagine climbing at 10,000 feet in the air and you’re worried if the person holding your rope is talking about you behind your back?

If you are like me, you will probably never go rock climbing on the side of a mountain. But understanding the function of the people in your life as a belayer can be critical to achieving your dreams. Why leave yourself dangling in the air hoping someone will catch you. Make sure as you progress through the year you are pre-qualifying those around you. Can you trust whoever is at the end, holding your rope?


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Cherese L. Jackson
Cherese L. Jackson is co-founder of New Direction Coaching Associates, an organization dedicated to developing individuals, groups and companies to the core beliefs and visions that make them profitable in all they endeavor.