I came home from work one day recently, tired and lacking the desire to be present with my wife. I just wanted to eat dinner and watch a TV show or something else that did not require brain power. Luckily, my wife had prepared a lovely meal and bottle of wine for us to share and we ended up talking late into the night about life, dreams and struggles. I remember going to bed, so grateful I didn’t give into the desire to veg out in front of the TV.
Relationships, though messy and unstructured, are worth the effort. I would argue the time required to build strong relationships is rewarded 10X.
For instance, after following the 1938 Harvard sophomore class for 75 years, researchers found that the number one indicator of a long, fulfilling life was the satisfaction subjects reported with their relationships. Close, meaningful bonds seemed to buffer participants from the hardships of old age.
Imagine, in a study of Harvard graduates, it was not success and fortune that lead to a full, rich life. Instead, it was the time invested in their relationships that had the most lasting effect.
I admit this wisdom that close, healthy relationships bolster our well-being seems obvious, but it is so easy to ignore. Relationships are complicated; they take work to grow and sustain. We convince ourselves it will be painless to focus on our own desires and not become vulnerable with others.
I wrote this list, as a reminder, to intentionally invest myself in those around me. Again, I am speaking to myself so please don’t take offense to the aggressive statements.
- Time is not an issue. Stop claiming you are too busy. You reserve so much space in your schedule for personal errands or projects, but end up procrastinating with the excess Give away your time to others, and you will be refreshed and more productive in the end.
- Don’t shy away. Stop trying to avoid that acquaintance you see at the grocery store. You may feel too busy to talk to someone, but you never know how much an encouraging word might mean to that person.
- No strings attached. Focus on what you can give to the relationship and not what you can get out of it.
- Think twice before saying no. Quit hesitating when a friend asks to grab lunch. Yes, spending time with this person is more valuable than completing those 5 items on your to-do list or watching your favorite TV show.
- Breathe some life into a stale relationship. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to liven up an old relationship. Close bonds are built around memorable experiences. It takes more than proximity. Put forth an effort, and your partner or friend will notice.
- Pay it forward. If you receive a kindness, pass it on. It can multiply.
- Now we got bad blood. Sometimes relationships fall apart over an argument. Holding a grudge or built up resentment takes a terrible toll on your body. Ask for forgiveness and make amends.
- Trust others. You judge people too quickly. Your natural cynicism of others inhibits your ability to grow. Get to know someone and find out what you have in common.
- Life is unpredictable. You can’t always “fit” people into your schedule. Give up your need for control and open up to spontaneous opportunities to connect with someone.
Good relationships make us better people. They refine us, inspire us, and push us forward. Only a foolish person believes they can brave this world on their own. Be someone who cares for someone.
If you found this article helpful, check out my free 3-Day Contentment Challenge. You will learn 3 simple techniques to help you recognize discontentment in your life and eliminate it.