By: Carter Williams, Director of Xperience Growth Coaching & Consulting
There’s a secret ingredient to your success, happiness and fulfillment. This ingredient works whether we are talking about your career, your personal life, or your health – all aspects.
The ingredient is: relationships.
Maybe that’s not so secret. You either know or at least intuitively get that the more solid and supportive our key relationships are, the better we feel and the better we perform. Forming relationships is baked into our DNA; it’s who we are as humans.
In one of my all-time favorite books, The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor talks about a landmark Harvard study spanning more than 70 years to look at the lives of Harvard students from the late 1930’s to see what made them successful or unsuccessful throughout their adult life. The study boils down to one main point: “70 years of evidence (proves) that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.”
Deep, meaningful relationships with a spouse, family, friends or colleagues helps us emotionally, intellectually and physically. This is because when we make those connections – both in the immediate and over the long-term, our brains release oxytocin, which is a chemical that decreases anxiety and increases concentration and focus.
In his book, The Power of the Other, author and psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud shares what researchers call the “triangle of well-being.” The triangle consists of three things: 1. Brain: the neuroscience of your brain and how it physically runs with electrical charges, chemicals and hormones; 2. Relationships: specifically “qualitative relational connectedness” or more simply relationships that push you to think & act; and 3. Mind: where our thoughts, emotions and action take place.
For well-being, we need all three to be optimized. And, relationships can be the biggest factor in that development. Dr. Cloud says “it is in relationships that our minds are actually built.” When we develop key relationships that are positive, empathetic and challenging (to push us into our own optimization), then we will experience positive brain development that leads to greater performance in all areas of our life.
If this seems like a lot of work to have all these GREAT relationships everywhere OR if you’re more on the introverted side and (if you’re still reading… 😀) are feeling a little overwhelmed on taking the concepts above into practice… fear not! We can focus on key relationships that we can go deep with to help us maintain health, happiness and performance. We recommend cultivating key relationships in these 4 areas:
I start with family because we can take it for granted. We get busy with work and the day-to-day functionality of the family that we can sometimes neglect the actual relationship. With family, look for quality time and not quantity time. At the start of the pandemic, Kristen (my wife) and I made Saturday nights our date night. After the girls go to bed, we order curbside carry-out dinner and have a nice meal together at home. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just make it intentional. With your kids, schedule 10-15 minutes each day for 1-on-1 time to spend with them (no devices….) doing something they like.
The biggest trick for me at least is intentionality. When I’m not intentional, I am guilty of being in the room physically, yet not mentally, on my phone or just simply not present. Clearly, not the best husband/father moves… Yet, when I am intentional and even scheduled, it makes all the difference and I am able to build deeper relationships with my family.
There are different types of friends. We can have friends that are fun to be around, that we have a glass of wine with or hangout with, yet we don’t really go deep. There’s not wrong with that at all!
Here’s the challenge and the push for some of us, find friends – maybe just a couple – that you do go deep with. Get below the surface and talk about your good, bad and ugly. Find friends that will listen to you AND help you optimize yourself.
How do you do that… Ask great questions and listen. When you ask questions of them and listen to them such that they are heard, you’ll find that it will be reciprocated. What does listening mean? Actually listening. As in not talking. You cannot talk and listen at the same time, so if you’re talking you’re not listening. The next time you’re with a friend that you believe fits the criteria of a deep relationship, consider asking some deeper, bigger questions and listen. You’ll be amazed at what comes out of it.
People that you work with are a great source of key relationships. Most of us will spend 1/3 of our life at work. Let that sink in for a second… Relationships with colleagues make a big impact on our lives if for no other reason than the amount of time that we might spend with them.
How do you show your appreciation for them? In the book The 5 Languages of Appreciation at Work, authors Gary Chapman & Paul White say that we all have a favorite way to receive appreciation. We might be Words of Affirmation – use words to affirm people; Acts of Service – actions speak louder than words; Receiving Gifts – people like things to feel appreciated; Quality Time – giving someone undivided attention; Physical Touch – appropriate touch (pats on the back, etc.).
Get to know your colleagues. If you know what their language is, show them. If not, notice which kind they GIVE. Typically, we default and show appreciation in the way we wish to receive it. Or, give all 5 and see which one resonates best.
Who are you learning from? Mentors can be in an official capacity – like a coach – or someone from whom you look to for learning and growth. And, think outside of work for this, too. Who is helping you be a better parent, better health, better spirituality, etc.? Find people to intentionally learn from.
When our now 9 month old was first born, Kristen hired a baby sleep coach to help her get Grace on sleep patterns. The coach helped Kristen with what to do AND created accountability for doing it. Most of the sleep tools recommended were hard the first couple of times. And, they worked after a couple days. It was that knowledge, the push to actually do it and then stick with it that made all the difference. If a mentor can help a baby sleep, think about what mentors in your key areas of life could help you do!
In the soup that is our lives, relationships are the ingredient that seems to bring us the most happiness and health in the short and long term. It’s also key to our performance at work. Getting targeted and intentional – just like in many aspects of our lives – can make all the difference for us.
And, I would not be practicing what I preach if I didn’t share how you can connect with me. If you are missing a relationship somewhere and need a relationship to help you optimize, reach out! Schedule a call with me and let’s build a relationship!