For most people, success in life is measured by the job they hold, the money they make, and the possessions they acquire. We raise our children to aim for this trifecta, focusing on school and grades and constant “upward” movement. Unfortunately I feel the most important skill or tool that we can provide our children with to help them “succeed” in life is often the least focused on – relationships.
Relationships are the essence of our lives and without the ability to maintain good relationships, I believe we truly cannot succeed. From home life to the office, if you cannot communicate and work well with people, your forward movement is limited. If you do not have a supportive group of family and friends (co-workers too), all of your challenges and hardships rest solely on your head and shoulders.
But a person who cultivates and cares for relationships above college degrees, money, and acclaim is a person who will get further than just their career/life experience will take them. Did you know that people who were in fraternities or sororities are 60% more likely to have successful careers because they have a network of built-in friends to gain support, leads, and referrals from? Again, it’s about relationships!
Consider two people with the same exact education and experience applying for the same job. Person A has not learned the fine art of conversation, improvisation, and the ability to find something to relate to with everyone they meet. Person B puts relationships and real communication paramount over everything else they do, and they want people to be comfortable around them. Guess who gets the job?
In this age of technology-focused society, the current generation(s) are learning texting instead of talking. We are pushing our youth to stay ahead of the curve with their computer skills and educational goals, which is essential to stay competitive with other countries, but they’re missing out on skills that can really make the difference in the quality of their lives, as well as their careers.
It’s the same for intimate relationships (marriages, partnerships). A person who is content with only their significant other and/or children for company and does not work at maintaining relationships with life-long friends (who often have moved far away) or does not seek to create new friendships is keeping their world (and therefore their growth) very small and limited. This also teaches children that friendships and the work required to maintain them is not as important as having a family and plowing forward.
My mother instilled in me the fine art of conversation, something seriously lacking in so many adults, not to mention children, these days. She said there was always something to talk about with anyone you meet. She taught me to ask questions, and then listen to their answers. While this skill has helped me more times than I can count (garnered me many a job lead or an awesome new friend), I am saddened to see how many adults cannot reciprocate. Often they do not engage in asking questions back – a “get to know you” kind of exchange. Once I’m done “interviewing” and offering a few clever anecdotes of my own, the conversation ceases as they do not know how to communicate back. So many people feel uncomfortable unless they’re only talking about themselves (which is very one-sided). How do you fare where you are forced to mingle with people you do not know?
In the next week as you think upon this post, look at how you communicate with friends and strangers. Look at how they communicate back to you. See if you can find examples of where your relationships with someone benefited your goals, or where not having certain types of relationships have held you back. Then see what you can do to improve the quality of your relationships and communication skills. Remember there is value in having true, honest and reliable relationships in your life, and those relationships start by you being true, honest and reliable.
In my role as a life strategies coach I regularly utilize a few choice analogies to help my clients cope with and solve issues by seeing their situation from another perspective. Stepping back and changing your perspective on an issue or problem is the best way to remove emotional triggers and baggage which in turn allows you to find the best solution.
Today’s blog, while it might seem rather heady, is designed to help those of you who are feeling the stress of the last quarter creep into your bodies. Many of my friends and clients suffer from stress induced headaches, illnesses, and depression this time of year because they panic that goals set in January have still not been met, and/or the kids and their schooling require more attention, and/or the expensive holidays are around the bend, etc.
Here are my three favorite and most used analogies to help you gain perspective on a goal not met; relationships stuck in detrimental cycles; and the ever-present pressure of time ticking away from your life. So look at it this way:
Swim upstream, find exhaustion; float on the current, and find dry land.
Often we get so emotionally focused on achieving a goal even when things aren’t working, or an expectation or what we felt we deserved, and what is just, that we plow through muddy waters swimming against the current and downpour of debris just to make our point (risking drowning in the process). But imagine if you simply stopped fighting and floated along with the current. You would undoubtedly eventually be lead (or easily steer yourself), towards the safety of the shore, and to your further benefit, often what was upstream finds its way downstream as well. In other words the issue could resolve on its own or be revisited another time when there are less impedances or emotions are calmer.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.
Having spent years riding horses, this analogy is a favorite of mine because it’s simple and true. Imagine leading a horse to water…then what? You cannot force their heads to the trough. If they aren’t thirsty they’re simply not going to drink. If you have a spouse, child, family member or friend that repeatedly requests your advice or repeatedly makes the same unfortunate choices and then anguishes over them – you can advise, negotiate, dictate, plead and bargain, but even if that person agrees completely with the right course of action – if they do not feel full conviction in taking that path, they simply won’t. Save your breath, save your strength, show them where the water (salvation) is, but then let the rest be up to their fate.
This moment is but a speck on the road.
The road of life is long, and for all of us there are ups and downs, some are high or lower than others, but we all walk the same concept: born – walk – live – walk – grow – walk – age – walk – end. My point is that what seems crucial, urgent or important at this very moment in time, with a little distance (more time) becomes a barely recognizable speck on your road. Granted, there are issues we face that cannot be trivialized (like unemployment, divorce, cancer, or death), but almost everything else that upsets us on a daily basis is trivial, and if you can just remember that it’s ONLY a speck on the road, your anger, frustration or sadness will lessen almost instantly, and most certainly in a day, week, or month, you’ll look back and think what was I so upset about?
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I hope one or two of these will pop into your consciousness the next time there is a circumstance befitting the use of these life-strategy analogies, and please feel free to share any analogies that you have come to rely upon when a coping tool is needed.