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Life Design: The Shady Ladies

photo by gollygforce via flickr creative commons

photo by gollygforce via flickr creative commons

Sean always laughs when he sees “Shady Ladies” written on the calendar, but he doesn’t dare schedule anything that conflicts.  “Shady Ladies” (long story re: the name) is code for a dinner I have with two friends every 4-6 weeks.  These meetings initially started in an attempt to create a community of practice among four of us (one has since moved to Chicago) with similar professional pursuits.  I would still call this a community of practice (work is still definitely a core topic), but it’s evolved beyond that into something even more meaningful: a time to talk (and give each other feedback) about the way we’re designing our lives.

Peer coaching sounds too formal for the Shady Ladies (we’re friends above all else), but that’s essentially what we’re doing.  Beyond specific work scenarios and learning and reading, we talk about very wellfesto-y things like whether our work feels aligned with our life purpose/mission, whether we’re doing enough to support our wellbeing in each part of our lives, and how integrated versus choppy or messy our lives feel at any moment in time.  For example, we’ve teed up the following article for dinner next week: Running Your Family Like a Business (worth reading if you haven’t ready, btw).

These dinners are enormously valuable to me for a few key reasons: They remind me that I’m not alone in life’s challenges…they validate/reinforce great ideas and help me filter out the not-so-great ones…they give me space to freely both ask for and dole out help and advice…they push me to think differently…and they leave me feeling inspired.  In an ideal world, all friendships would deliver this; but in reality, they all don’t.  It’s hard to strike the right balance between structured and unstructured conversations, and I think our success is grounded in the fact that it was set up for professional growth and support…and from there, grew into something even deeper.

A community of practice can revolve around anything you want to work on – knitting, parenting, learning, starting a school, etc.  Its beauty is in its intention, and its gift is in what it has the potential to become.  Do you have one?  And if so, what value has it added to your life and how is it different from other friendships or relationships?  If not, carpe diem!

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