Relationships – The Most Important Thing
One of the most important aspects of a Full Life is relationships. For all the good we associate with them, there’s a concept that’s often overlooked in our pursuit of relationship happiness. This one idea can really supercharge your relationships and make them happier and more fulfilling. So let’s talk about it!
When we evaluate our relationships, we’re often very egocentric. If you Google “The importance of relationships”, you’ll find articles touting benefits like
- Feeling loved and cared for
- Networking/ Partnership in business and shared goals
- Great sex (of course!)
- Even health benefits: reduced likelihood of premature death, anxiety and depression, better immune function
Now good relationships CAN give you all that, and that’s why most people think they’re great! In other words, a relationship is about what they can GET.
But here’s a key idea: Perhaps the most precious but overlooked gift from any relationship is the opportunity to love or contribute to someone else.
You see, when our focus is always inwards, we get really small in our thinking and narrow in our scope of living. We may aspire, but it’ll almost always be on a smaller scale than if we created our dreams and lived our Lives with others in it. When you contribute and love someone else, you’ll grow and live Life at a higher level of happiness and fulfillment.
In other words, the true value of relationships is more what we can GIVE, not what we can GET. And THAT’S a key tenet in the AA35 approach to relationships.
However, for if you’re still in the mindset of getting something from relationships, here are three benefits you can enjoy while you start to give more.
1. Adds Meaning and Purpose
Relationships remind us there is an ecology around us, that there is more to life than just ourselves.
You know that age old question: why are we here? No one can ever have the definitive answer, but here’s a thought. If in a day, you’ve done something for someone else, made their Lives a little bit happier or easier, with more laughter and less sadness… your Life that day can never be said to have been wasted. So maybe that’s a huge part of why we’re here.
It doesn’t have to be big and grand. One act of kindness can do so much, whether it’s to lend a hand or ear, or share an experience to help someone avoid a painful mistake. All these add up, and helping others gives you fulfillment and growth beyond what you would get if you only thought about yourself.
2. Roles and Lessons
Relationships adds layers to your Life, because in relationships, you have to take on roles. Each role requires you to develop skills, knowledge and abilities you might not have to if it was all about you.
If you’re a parent, you learn about encouragement, patience, balancing love with discipline, and probably a lot more about health and first aid than you ever thought you would.
If you’re a child, you learn about balancing taught lessons with learnt experience, gratitude, filial piety, and the pleasures of being able to give back as you grow older.
If you’re a friend, you learn about commiseration, loyalty, kicking someone in the ass to wake them from a dangerous idea or bad relationship. You learn about selflessness when you risk friendship and tell someone what they NEED to hear, not what they WANT to hear.
If you’re a significant other, you learn to compromise, love without selfishness, stay connected, empathize, be a delightful companion, and that no one’s perfect (that includes you!) And you learn how to handle pain when you have a break up despite best intentions and efforts, and how to pick up the pieces again.
If you’re a contributor to a community, you learn about issues that don’t affect you personally, how lucky you are compared to people who don’t have what YOU take for granted, and how you can make a difference with even the smallest of actions or words.
The different roles you take on in different types of relationships maximize different strengths, eradicate different weaknesses, and leverage different experiences. You will grow in more ways than you would alone.
3. Eliminates Expectation-Driven Disappointment
One source of unhappiness in relationships comes from unfulfilled expectations, and much of that comes from focusing on what you’re GETTING from a relationship. Of course we do want something from relationships, but if our first focus is on GETTING before GIVING, we’ll often be disappointed.
A relationship shouldn’t be transactional, and even in business negotiations we should be thinking about how both sides can get what they want, not milking the other party dry.
It’s not a competition.
The next time you wish to enter a relationship, instead of thinking about how that person is so great for you, how hot, intelligent, rich and so on, STOP a minute. Think about whether YOU are great for THEM. Can you contribute anything to their lives and make them happier than they were without you?
So when you give in a relationship in a reward-independent way, you won’t forever be disappointed.
A caveat: You should NOT be giving and giving indiscriminately. This is especially true if you’re a natural giver, because you’ll meet parasitic people who’ll take advantage of that, and reduce your overall resources to love and contribute to others. To read more about this, check out my articles:
Finally, think about the idea of Legacy. What will you leave behind? Often, a large part of legacy comes from the way you managed your relationships. It’s not just material stuff, like a huge bequest, but how you’ve touched Lives. How have you shown up in someone else’s Life, and what have you contributed and added to the world around you? In a way, that’s what I’m doing with AA35. It’s not just a business to me, it’s my way of trying to make a difference
If you read or watched my review on the 5 Regrets of the Dying, you know that dying people aren’t thinking about the money they’ve made and the business success they’ve created. The beautiful power of relationships is not what we can get, but we can GIVE, and what that journey does to us. And if you’re aware of this, you’ll supercharge your relationships to a happier, more meaningful, and less disappointing level.
Let me leave you with these questions.
- Who are the three biggest givers in my Life, and when was the last time I added to theirs?
- What have I done for someone lately, without thought of anything in return?
- When was the last time I connected with a friend outside of Facebook or Whatsapp?
Think about these questions, and what you can start doing will be quite obvious. So, that’s it for today, please like this article or the YouTube video, share it with someone you love, and I’ll see you soon. Till then, keep on Living and keep on Loving!