The Appreciation Audit: How to Create Relationships That Last

Life Coach Carolyn Mahboubi on creating relationships that last using three specific life practices

There’s a secret to identifying our most robust relationships.

The secret is that if asked the question, “which one of you gets more out of this relationship?” each party would honestly and easily respond, “I do, of course!”

This is a concept that our brain doesn’t like. As it considers our various relationships, it wants to believe that the other (lover, child, client….) is getting more out of the relationship than we do.

If you reflect on your many relationships and the response is “they do,” then you may want to reconsider your approach to the relationships that matter most to you. 

Many of us can relate to this idea when we apply it to our relationship with our pets. Dog owners will often admit that surely they receive more love, inspiration, and benefits from their pets than their pets receive from them. I have a feeling (not backed by science) that if the dog could talk, she would want to convince us that she’s the greater beneficiary in the relationship.

Many of us experience this personal truth when we consider past relationships in the rear view mirror of our lives. We look back at our relationships with our children, partners, and friends who are no longer in our lives in the manner they were before, and experience a measure of regret for not having recognized in the moment how much we were getting out of that relationship.

It seems that as humans, our default setting is to not be in the present moment. But if we want to taste the joy of experiencing this level of profound and mutual satisfaction, we must cultivate three very specific life practices.

  1. Practice becoming a fierce giver. To understand the difference between being a fierce and a selfless giver, read this blog here. Fierce givers don’t keep a scoreboard and they give to please themselves. The satisfaction of the receiver is simply a byproduct of their focus on expanding their own abundance, success, and love.

  2. Consider the relationship as 100% yours to create (I didn’t say this was easy) and at any given moment remind yourself you are in the relationship because you choose to be. This shift from the “victim mindset” to an “owner mindset” is the most profound and life-changing practice we can cultivate and it’s at the heart of transformational coaching.

  3. Regularly do an Appreciation Audit. Nothing brings the message home more powerfully than writing a list of what we get out of the relationship with the other.

I recently spent the last 30 miles of a 50-mile race with Elena, a beautiful and highly intelligent young ultrarunner. There’s something magical about spending so many hours with another human who shares the same crazy goal. Most ultrarunners will agree that the best part of our sport is the connections we make during races.

With 30 years between us, Elena and I first did the social dance which on my part was insecurity that I’m slowing her down and constantly (and annoyingly, I’m sure) asking, “would you like to pass me?” I’m not sure what was going on for her at that time, but pretty quickly we fell into a rhythm that bonded us for the next eight hours and beyond.

Finishing this race was far from a given for me. I had attempted it twice before and was pulled due to not making the cut-offs. I was attempting it again, this time as the oldest runner in the race. 

When I was able to complete the race under the cutoff time, there was no question in my mind that Elena was one very big, if not the main, reason I was able to succeed this time. Clearly, I was on the greater receiving end of our brief but deeply impactful relationship.  

So when Elena messaged me on Instagram to say how grateful she was for all I did for her, I was actually kind of shocked! There was a part of me (the part that still has trouble receiving love, appreciation, and gratitude) that jumped in to take over my mind and discount Elena’s touching statement.

“Nah…she’s just being nice. You know you slowed her down and she probably would have finished much earlier if she wasn’t stuck with you.”

But you see, I’m not a professional coach for nothing, and it was time to coach myself as I would a dear client.

So I asked Elena if she could write the reasons she believes she got so much from me. In other words, I asked for an Appreciation Audit. Trust me when I tell you that simply making this request of anyone in our lives will not be easy. Most of us have been trained to discount our contributions, not celebrate our wins, and be “humble.” So asking someone to tell you what you mean to them will not come naturally.

Do it anyway!

I did receive Elena’s response and it confirmed to me that the best relationships have each side convinced that they’re the clear and obvious winner!

From Elena:

10 Reasons why Carolyn helped me finish my first-ever 50 miler: 

  1. Being able to talk to someone about my “why” for signing up for an Ultra motivated me to not lose sight of my goal and keep putting one leg in front of the other. 

  2. Great music taste that made me sing out loud and helped ease the miles.

  3. Witnessing her reaction to seeing her son at one of the aid stations reminded me that we don’t just run ultras for ourselves, but also for our loved ones and to inspire others that they can sign up for something crazy and do it.

  4. Being able to talk about my parents who would be waiting for me at the finish line. 

  5. Sharing snacks and meds for the pain.

  6. Becoming inspired by her strong work ethic and being a badass queen.

  7. Being able to hear stories about some of the other ultras she has participated in and seeing other support staff recognize and cheer her on. 

  8. Being able to confirm what I was thinking: “Wow we just keep going up and up this mountain. Where is the aid station?” 

  9. Being able to celebrate making each cut-off time and eating the best tasting pb&js from the aid station. 

  10. Knowing that this person who I just met had my back and we were going to finish this together. 

Thanks for everything Carolyn. You were my trail angel too! ☺️❀️

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