Expanding on the 6 Essentials For a Good Life, I want to share my thoughts on putting in the time and effort required to build strong relationships.
Research coming out of Harvard’s recent 75 year-long study on what makes a good life has shown that good relationships lead to a long and fulfilling life.
It seems that the only relationships I can make time for these days are my young kids, and when I am lucky, my husband. I do try to see my friends as often as I can because I value and appreciate them so much. Even though I’m exhausted, time spent with my friends leaves me energized and rejuvenated.
Many of the people I coach struggle with life-work balance. That’s not a typo….I write it that way deliberately to remind us that life should come first. I have one client who is constantly connected to work and to his phone. And with good reason – he is actually saving lives. Most people can draw the line with work and justify taking personal time by saying ‘well, we’re not saving lives’; this is not his case, so I understand why it is hard for him to disconnect. I can also see that with such a high pressure profession, it is more important than ever for him to disconnect.
He recently told me a story about a time in his early twenties when he had to choose between a job and the girl that he was in love with. He chose the girl, and they have been married for almost 30 years. A lifetime ago, he made the grand romantic gesture and it was the right choice. As we talked more about the need for balance, it became clear that over time, in little choices he made day to day, in the competing demands of work and life, he wasn’t always able to choose the girl.
This is how it happens; we lose perspective bit by bit and work begins to creep into the cherished spaces reserved for family and friends. When work takes priority, it can become difficult to reconnect to the people we have been putting aside. Different versions of this can happen to any of us. But it’s crucial to make a conscious choice to reconnect with the people who are most important to us. It may take some apologizing and redeeming ourselves through genuine and heartfelt actions to show our loved ones that they are important to us but it’s worth the effort.
At the end of the day, it is those that we love who are the most important thing in the world. We often realize this when we lose them, and we yearn for just a minute more with them. Don’t wait until someone is gone to comprehend the value of the time spent together. Make space for them now – be deliberate about this. Whatever stage of life you are at, whatever is going on at work, choose the girl, the boy, the child, or the friend; whoever is competing with the job, choose them. Time is the biggest gift that we can give; it’s the way that we can show our special people that we love them.
Work gives us many things but not all things. When you find yourself slipping into focusing more on work, take a step back and remember that no one at your funeral will speak of what a good employee you were – they will speak of what a good parent you were, what a good friend you were, and what a good spouse you were, because you made the time for your cherished relationships.
Steal back your time from work, go home early, put the phone away. Ask the people you love to spend time with you – time when you disconnect from everything but them. Give them your full attention. Put the time and the effort into having quality relationships. It’s the most important thing you can do to have a good life. Choose the girl.