Working Out Loud is about the work we do, except when it’s not. Working Out Loud focuses on professional goals we set for ourselves and professional networks we create, except when it doesn’t.

As my first Working Out Loud group enters it’s 7th week, our group is beginning to see the amazing benefits of pursuing a variety of different types of goals. Some goals are purely professional in nature. My goal, for instance, is to connect with other professionals who manage Yammer networks for non-profit organizations. Other goals in our group, when not professional, focus on habits that prepare us for success.

And what about those non-professional goals? In a very real way, it is those goals that are more personal in nature that have really brought our group into sharp focus, and made us something much more than work colleagues.

During our first meeting, one by one, we each shared our goals. One person announced “I want to develop a skill which will enable me to…”, the next person said “I want to become better at…”, and then someone else said “I want to learn more about…”

Then the last person shared their goal, and said “I want to lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks.”

A moment of silence. We all processed what we just heard.

We were all, frankly, a little surprised that someone would choose to be so open and vulnerable in our group, especially during our very first meeting! We talked about how a network could be created in pursuit of this goal. We talked about websites, resources and contacts that could help.

This disparate of group colleagues and contacts, people with only the most tenuous of connections to each other, became “we.” Through the bravery of our friend, we all became more invested in each others goals, and we realized together that our work related goals were very personal in nature, and that any personal goals we pursue will greatly improve our work lives as well.

As we gather week to week, we check in with each other on the progress of our goals. “How is your relationship list?” “Has your Twitter activity picked up?” “Has your network grown?” Never did we ask our friend how much weight was lost, we were only interested in how collaboration efforts, skills and habits were improving.

Imagine our delight when, during our Week 6 Working Out Loud meeting, our friend said “Proud to announce I’ve lost 10 pounds. Only two more to go!” So, it was not 12 pounds in 12 weeks. It was 10 pounds in only six weeks. “I have tried to lose this weight before, but it was only because of this group that I was finally able to succeed.”

Too often, we talk about achieving a balance between our work and personal lives, as if a balance could ever be found. Balance suggests a separation. Work stays at work, and personal life stays at home. But, as I have learned during our Working Out Loud circle, it is really a smooth blending of the two we are trying to achieve, and a recognition of the fact that a positive work life will always result in a better personal life, and a happier personal life will always make for a more successful work life.

My friend will lose two more pounds in six weeks, if not more. I have no doubt.

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