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  • Dr. Lalit Chawla

E#13: Quality Friends Change Your Life!


In this episode I share with you why having a Growth Friend helps you become more successful, solve loneliness and elevates your life. I’ll share with you how to find, create and nurture friendships that matter.

We Are Who We Associate With. Who are your Growth Friends?

(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)


In the world of medicine, we interact with all kinds of people from patients, to colleagues, to people we may meet in the hospital or clinics. And in spite of all the people we interact with, we can still feel quite lonely and isolated. It doesn’t matter if you are a receptionist, a physician, a nurse or an administrator; you can be surrounded by many people but can still feel friendless.

For introverts, that can be a difficult thing to deal with because Introverts genuinely like people and we enjoy being around them; often very much so. But we also need quiet time to recharge ourselves. There is a wide spectrum in terms of how much time we need to recharge; some may need lots of time to recharge, while another may need much less. There is a misconception that introverted people don’t like to be with other people, but that's absolutely not true.

There is a misconception that introverted people don’t like to be with other people, that's not true...we recharge ourselves by being around the right kind of people

Another misconception is that introverts can only recharge ourselves by being alone in a quiet room, and that’s not true either. The way we recharge can vary between variety of different activities and methods, but most importantly, recharging oneself can also occur among other people; certain kinds of people. And this is what this podcast is all about... how to recharge by properly aligning yourself with the right people; specifically, what I call a ’Growth Friend’.

So, I’ll share with you what I mean ‘Growth Friend’ and how I use this concept in my life. About five years ago, I was at a weekend workshop in San Diego lead by the world renowned teacher Cloe Madannes, to develop skills on how to help individuals and couples overcome challenges in their life.

I was in the lunch buffet line and beside me was Dr. Chris Hersch, an Orthopedic Surgeon, who was also taking this workshop. This actually surprised me because I hadn’t heard of too many surgeons who wanted to help their patients beyond fixing their bodies and I had never thought that too many of them delved into deep level counselling in the way this workshop was designed for, but Chris is not any ordinary surgeon.

The reality is that the best surgeons have great bedside manner as well and can provide (and should provide) proper counselling too.

“Yeah let’s keep in touch”; which doesn’t usually happen, especially if you are an introvert like we both are.

So anyway, we started chatting a bit about the weekend workshop and that was that. On the following day we wound up sitting at the same table to eat lunch. We had similar interests and values and the conversations were very engaging and insightful.

We exchanged email addresses and said the token, “Yeah let’s keep in touch”; which doesn’t usually happen, especially if you are an introvert like we both are. But we became friends at that event.

After I got back home, I had sent him a couple of emails on ideas I was working on and gave him some past articles that I had written for a magazine. And after, about a couple of weeks I thought, “We both are very like-minded, and I really value his ethics and integrity; we are both physicians; we really should keep in touch more often and almost on a weekly basis”.

I thought maybe he would be a good life coach or accountability friend, whereby we both could help one another ‘be better’ and that maybe we could do a little life coaching without the formality of it.

So I sent him an email; I’ll read to you what I sent him:

“Hi Chris,

I was wondering if you have time in your schedule to talk and perhaps we can do a little collaborative coaching. What I'm thinking is that if we could chat about things we are working on and this might be beneficial to both of us. This idea spawned in that it was energizing to work with like-minded people like yourself.

I think if we chatted it would increase accountability; especially for me, to break things down into what is important for short- and long-term success. So in essence I'm asking if you want to do a little coaching for me. I really need to increase my discipline and take my performance to the next level. I think I'd feel more accountable to staying on track in terms of fitness and eating better. Oddly, it seems to be a bit of a challenge for me right now.”

Chris thought it was a great idea to have an accountability partner as well. So we scheduled every Friday morning to talk for about an hour to brainstorm, shoot ideas back and forth and share areas in our lives that we want to improve or we were currently working on.

With the exception of a few weeks, we talked consistently every week for an hour or more about many different things: What we are working on, personal health goals, work challenges or other areas or concepts we are learning. Shortly after, we met each other’s family. He now knows my wife and children and I got to know his wife and children better as well. So really, we became ‘Growth Friends’.

A growth friend is someone who makes you better by encouraging you and helping you see things you may not see in yourself or have forgotten about.

So, what is a ‘Growth Friend’?

A growth friend is someone who makes you better by encouraging you and helping you see things you may not see in yourself or have forgotten about. This is a friend whose values, aspirations, passions and life struggles you admire.

Now, this might be a person that you already know well, or it’s someone you might want to know better. Having this type of connection is about engaging or creating a relationship that is mutually beneficial and where the conversations elevate one another.

I don’t want to make this sound like a transactional type of relationship, but I believe certain guidelines help to ensure the interactions are positive and productive, so that things don’t subconsciously develop into a negative pattern of simply complaining. Note: There may be a bit of complaining, but that’s not where your conversations live predominately. Put simply, effective complaining constructs viable solutions.

I love the old saying:

“There are some people who find problems in every solution and then there are others who find solutions to every problem...which one are you?”

I’ll explain what I mean by that soon enough.

No one is immune to feeling let down, tired, incompetent etc.; you pick the emotion. Struggle is a universal human experience.

I want to address the question, “Why should I have a Growth Friend or an accountability partner, or a Life Coach anyway?” The reality is that even the most successful people in the world, no matter what field they are in, whether they are an athlete, manager, counselor, physician, nurse, teacher, great parent, need encouragement, a different perspective and someone to charge them when they are down or have self-doubt. And believe me, everyone experiences those emotions. I’ve experienced this personally and I have counselled many highly successful individuals who, on the outside, look like they have their act together, but they are struggling with something in their lives; whether it’s their health, relationships or performance at work.

No one is immune to feeling let down, tired, incompetent etc.; you pick the emotion. Struggle is a universal human experience; how we overcome that struggle is something we all can navigate better. We can do this more effectively when we align ourselves with more effective thinking; when we align ourselves with people who excel so that we ourselves can excel. So, ‘Growth Friends’ help us maneuver tough and uncertain times. It is incredibly useful and necessary if you are in the field of medicine.

If you think about it, ever since we’ve been kids, we’ve had teachers or mentors who have helped us develop and mature, but for some reason, as soon as we have a career and start working, most of us never have another teacher or mentor in our lives again. We stop seeking help or knowledge from others who wear the very shoes we wish to walk in. We never stop learning, but ‘how’ we learn can certainly make an important difference in our long term health and achievement’s.

when you create deep meaningful friendships you become a better person and that makes other people better

So, having a support structure, ‘Growth Friend’ or life coach, whereby you connect with someone and can empathize with them, is incredibly powerful. Also, ‘Growth Friends’ usually implies having a deep meaningful relationships and when you create deep meaningful friendships you become a better person and that makes other people better as well.

Another subtle point of having a ‘Growth Friend’ in your line of work is that they know the intricacies of what you deal with on a day to day basis and that gives them the ability to empathize with you.

Empathy is the ability to relate to the details of another person’s challenges because they have literally ‘been there’! They know almost exactly what you are experiencing because they too have experienced it or have been near that experience or event.

Having a ‘Growth Friend’ also helps curb loneliness and creates support systems so that you can not only be energized toward your own productivity, but also, be connected to those who can assist with personal and professional challenges; they can also give you a different perspective and insight you may have missed. I can’t say this enough, ‘Growth Friends’ see things in you and your abilities that you may miss and they remind you to use your strengths. It’s hard to know what our own strengths are sometimes without having someone else there to hold up a mirror to show us how we truly look.

The special thing about ‘Growth Friends’ is that they continually remind you, in a caring way, about what’s important in life: Your health, your relationships, managing your finances and making wise choices. They remind you of how principles such as honesty, integrity, and cooperation are important in creating a life of purpose, no matter what we are doing and with whom we are with. It’s so easy to get side tracked with obligations that may not fit into our key priorities such as our health, relationships our family, or work goals. ‘Growth Friends’ help us stay on track or get onto a more important track if we are not on the right one already.

people we hang around with affects who we become and how we show up in the world

In my life, I have two growth friends who elevate my ability to do more and whereby we learn from one another. Chris Hersch, who I just talked about and is also in the field of medicine; and my other friend Anthony Cheam, who has his own podcast, “Power, Purpose, Passion” who also is an amazing life coach.

Both of them have really helped me become more focused in all that I do. They have also kept me accountable to my own aspirations and they were one of the several people who encouraged me to do this podcast.

As I’ve said in episode three (podcast), the people we hang around with affects who we become and how we show up in the world. You can’t be with people who agree with you all the time, you need people who stretch your ideas; you need to have a growth mindset.

As my friend Anthony will say,If you hang around 9 broken people all the time, you’ll become the 10th broken person and if you hang around 9 people who want to enhance themselves and the world around them, then you will be the 10th person to do the same. We are who we associate with.”

But here are some important guidelines and tips to help you in your path to choosing a ‘Growth Friend’ and growing the relationship.

1. Now your life partner can be a ‘Growth Friend’ but it is useful to have someone who you are not in constant contact with. Having an external source creates some objectivity and they can see things from a different perspective that your life partner might have overlooked or forgotten because they see you all the time.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your partner as growth friends at all, or not spend time with them, in fact you should, but many times it’s useful to have someone else who you can bounce ideas off and who has a different life experience and therefore a different perspective. Change and growth happens when we have conversations that challenges our way of looking at the world.

2. Here’s a question: How do you find a growth friend? Well generally speaking, you more than likely have someone in your life that you know or knew in the past that can fill that role; someone that you had or have some positive encounters with, even if it is brief. In the world of medicine, we interact with so many people that finding someone is not difficult; it may just take a little bit of thought and reaching out to them. If you still run into a dead end then you may need to look for a certified life coach.

When asking someone or looking for a ‘Growth Friend’, focus on commonalities such as values and belief systems that you admire. Focus on what you like about them and how they may have improved your thinking or helped others.

Using phrases like “You are encouraging, your perspectives are insightful, and unique. I like your energy. I feel better after talking with you.” Then ask them if they wouldn’t mind connecting regularly and talk to them about creating a deeper connection.

If you are afraid of introducing this concept of growth friends, let them know you heard this podcast and was wondering if they’d like to try this?

You can say “I’ve heard there are many benefits of this type of connection and I thought you’d be amazing to do this with.”

It can be scary to ask someone to be a friend, so don’t feel pressured if they say no. They may not be ready in their life to spend time with you. At worst they will feel flattered that you found something in them that you admired.

Good, caring people generally don’t respond in a hurtful way unless they themselves are in some type of pain or personal challenge, so if they can’t do it this time, they more than likely will be eloquent in communicating that with you.

“Let’s level up the conversation.” This refocuses our awareness and gets us back on track if we find ourselves dwelling on the negative too long.

3. When asking someone, also focus on how you can possibly help them. We all have something to offer; you also have something to offer, so saying something like “Perhaps I too can offer you some of my life experience” or “I’ve done XYZ and if you ever wanted to know more of that I’d be happy to share”. The old adage ‘To have good friends, you have to be a good friend’ always applies.

It’s like being a good neighbour. When I moved into my neighbourhood, I offered a neighbor of mine access to some of my tools as a kind gesture.

I said “I have a full workshop in the garage and if you ever needed any tools, don’t hesitate to ask”.

4. Schedule a weekly meet-up of phone call for at least 45 minutes and try to stick to that time. You can add an activity for the meeting too to help keep things interesting for both of you. Chris and Anthony both live far away from me and when we chat, I am generally out for a walk and I talk with them while wearing my headset.

We usually have a one hour conversation. The benefit of having an agreed time is that you know it’s going to end at a decent time. Most of us are super busy, and it’s hard to carve out lots of time. If you make it too long, you both can feel intimidated or overwhelmed to keep that commitment and then stop connecting altogether. Certainly, you can talk longer and more often, but a general rule to keep to the agreed time limit.

Don’t worry if you miss a time; life happens. But you should at minimum do three conversations a month. If it works for both of you, you certainly can and should connect more often. If they live near you then that’s even better as you can do more face to face discussions.

5. Commit to talking about something that is meaningful and purposeful. A book that you are reading, an article you read, a podcast you listened to. It’s useful to even choose a book that you both might be interested in and agree to talk about the book one chapter at a time; kind of like a mini book club. Keying into meaningful areas of discussion helps grow the friendship and deepens the quality of the interactions. From my general observation, I don’t think many people connect on a deeper level or talk about topics that increase one’s aspirations or abilities, or feeds into one’s dreams on a regular and needed basis. We all deserve that kind of connection consistently.

6. Also, remember to share something you may be working on, such as a project at work, something with the family, or anything that interests you, with self-improvement as the goal or something simply fun. Keeping it personal improves the depth of the friendship. When you share your life with another, you develop a deeper friendship. People who have deep friendships become healthier and happier people, which in turn has a ripple effect to every other person they come across. You never know when you are making an example for someone.

7. Think about accountability; that’s why people have life coaches. Pick a personal challenge or goal that you are working on, for example: Say you want to stop indulging in too many deserts. If you tell your friend what your goal is, you know that at the end of the week you have to be honest and if s/he asks you “How’s the not eating too many deserts going?” You have to answer that question. You have to be accountable to your goal. And if you didn’t keep to your objective, you both can discuss what went sideways; was there a trigger? Etc. Then you can discuss how to modify your behavior, or change your goal. And that leads me to the next point, and that is...

8. Both of you naturally and inherently agree to be free of critical judgement and to be supportive in a kind, productive way.

My friend Chris, kindly has said to me “You know, I know you’ve been talking about doing XYZ for quite some time now, when were you going to make that happen? I’m just asking as a friend who wants to help you with your goals. Is that something you are still interested in?”

This is not always the easiest thing to hear but if we really want to grow and improve, we need some accountability. Only the people that care for you will step up in that way. In essence that’s what great teachers, mentors and parents do as well.

Our children don’t become people of character unless we uphold some standards and create some accountability for them. I know if you let most kids do what they want, they’d sit and probably watch TV, play video games and eat Cheetos all day. So, if accountability is good for them, why should it be any different for us?

9. A word about complaining; It’s okay to complain... venting can be useful, but don’t stay there for too long. Put a time limit, 10-15 min then one of you should say “Well time to wrap that up don’t you think?” or pick a phrase or word that works.

One thing is to develop good language to improve the conversation. Sometimes conversations can take a negative turn and you both can find that you are dwelling on a negative issue for too long. My friend Anthony Cheam came up with a great sentence “Let’s level up the conversation.” This refocuses our awareness and gets us back on track if we find ourselves dwelling on the negative too long. Either one of us might use that sentence and we both know what that means; it’s the pause that has a real purpose to readdress our attention.

10. An important note: Don’t get into a Doctor-patient like a relationship. If there are medical concerns, let them deal with a medical professional. It’s been proven that clinicians need to be bias free and this is not always possible when you are dealing with your family or friends. And that’s why doctors should never treat family or friends. You lose objectivity.

11. Now what happens if the friendship doesn’t work out? What if it kind of fizzle out on its own? Well that’s okay; that may happen. Trust also develops with time. As in all relationships, the trust will grow and you both will know if that growth friendship is going to last in a more meaningful way, so be patient with the process. You may also need to revisit the timing or try connecting with a different friend. Life just happens sometimes, and deep friendships don’t always happen as quickly as we may like, but creating the aspiration to nurture areas within you and your life is important and we should be working to obtain that. You, me, we all deserve deep friendships that can elevate our lives. You don’t need many growth friends either; my dad always said to me when I was younger “If you can count the number of good friends on one hand by the end of your life, you are a lucky person.” From my experience, there certainly is some wisdom in that statement.

12. Final point: As you are ending the time limit, end on a positive note and ask them what they plan to do today, and for the upcoming week; clarify when you will reconnect in the following week. And that is it, these really are the key points of this podcast on finding, creating and nurturing meaningful friendships.

So, think about who can be your ‘Growth Friend’ and if you have one, are you connecting, challenging and supporting one another to live your best life at work, home and play consistently?

We can’t always choose our family members but we can certainly choose our ‘Growth Friends’. Take a leap and find those meaningful friendships. There are a lot of kind people that want to connect with other kind people. There are a lot of value driven, talented, passionate people that want to help others and in turn also require help to become better as well.

We are all a works in progress, so let's work together in friendship!

Thank you so much for listening and I hope this episode was helpful, Let’s together make a greater, more effective community and inspire people to live with Greater Harmony, Joy and Magic in their lives.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share with a friend or colleague and subscribe to us Apple podcast, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.

I would love to hear any comments about this podcast and what would you like to hear in future episodes?

Have a fantastic day wherever you are and be together in friendship!

Lalit Chawla

(A special thanks to the talented William Brown who edited the above transcript)


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