December is intruding on November’s territory way too soon this year. (Did anyone see that ridiculous Home Depot commercial the day after Halloween?) And while it might be tempting to spend time indulging in some holiday tunes and treats, it’s important give this month and its special holiday the attention it deserves—like your ONE Thing.
Because this month is all about personal relationships.
No one succeeds alone. Nobody. When we take a look at what we’ve accomplished this year, we always find a few key people who made our success possible. On the other side of the coin, when we look at what we didn’t achieve, we often find there are a few key relationships that are missing in our lives that made failure inevitable. With that in mind…
What Relationships Do You Need to Build or Improve?
Just like everything else, nothing matters equally. And that includes the relationships we keep in our life. When thinking about the relationships that need improvement and the relationships that need to be built, it’s important to keep in mind the outcome you want each relationship to achieve.
Those outcomes, whether you want to get ahead in your job or business or if you want to simply keep from feeling alone in the world, will determine the direction of your focus and the actions you will take.
Below we list several different types of people we have in our lives and a little bit of information on how they can help us achieve more. Go through the list with your own needs in mind. Later, we’re going to ask you to do a little exercise to narrow what your focus should be this month.
If you don’t have a mentor, you might want to consider finding one—but don’t make it official.
Although we may think that clearly defined mentor/protégé relationships would be a good thing, the truth is, they’re not as effective as informal mentorships. At least that was the takeaway from a landmark study of 250 protégé’s conducted by a team of researchers at Michigan State University in 1992. While they found that those who engaged in both formal and informal mentorships fared better than those who had no mentors at all, those with informal mentorships fared much better on a variety of measures including career support and salaries.
They define informal mentorships as relationships that are not managed, structured, officially sanctioned or recognized by an organization. They’re typically spontaneous and shy away entirely from external involvement.
While at a first glance this kind of information on the benefits of an “informal relationship” might lead us to believe that mentorships are excluded from the principles of The ONE Thing, that’s not the case. The point is that mentor/protégé relationships work their best when both parties involved genuinely value the other person.
Formal mentorships are rigid and bureaucratized. They confine what the relationship can become and in doing so, prevent it from blossoming into its full potential. Mentorships don’t need certification to be effective. They can be relationships you hold with anyone you respect, admire, and value.
Running through the list of people in your life, it might be easy to identify someone who informally invests in your life. When we’ve identified that kind of relationship, it’s a good idea to invest in them, too. There’s a trove of research and experience out there that shows that one special mentor can spell the difference between succeeding at our goals and failing. (Or failing and then succeeding, which is more often the case.) So this month, while you’ve got other people on your mind, make a point to dive into that relationship a little further.
When we look at our big goals and the path we must take toward achieving them, we know that there is more involved than just chipping away at the goal. There are a handful of relationships that must be built along the way to make it possible. The people at the core of these relationships, very simply, are “strategic relationships”, and they can take many different forms.
A big one that is often overlooked are the relationships you already have in place like those with your co-workers. The workplace and those who inhabit it are critical to our success. Some people believe they can try and succeed alone. But unless you’re a masochist, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot better if you include the people who are working around you. Not only is it better to share the workload, but you may learn things from your coworkers that you can apply elsewhere in your profession. In addition, people who have better workplace relationships are more engaged in their work and have higher overall job satisfaction. If you feel the ties between you and your desk-mates slipping, it might be a good time to invest in strengthening the relationship.
It goes without saying that our spousal relationships are important. And while there are always holidays or occasions where we give them our uninterrupted focus, we don’t have to wait for a special date to come around to give them the attention they deserve.
Considering we’re at the end of the year, this is a perfect time to schedule time as a couple to piece together your collective goals for the next year.
Studies show that couples who set goals together receive more support and experience a higher level of satisfaction in their relationship than those who don’t. And before you start thinking “they were probably like that before they set goals with each other”, think again. Bringing a partner in on what we want to achieve actually has the effect of drawing people closer together.
Our Couple’s Goal Setting Retreat is sold out, but we’re offering a course on our website to take at your leisure — keep an eye out! You can also plan a retreat on your own. We even wrote a guide to help you do that.
Friends and Family
It goes without saying that the end of the year is traditionally a time for families to come together. When things are right at home, we feel free to go out and push ourselves to do and become more.
It’s also important to refrain from overlooking your “framily”. Some friendships are so valuable that they extend beyond the formal definition and extend into something a little more family-oriented.
We all get by with a little help from our friends, but as it turns out, there might be a little more to it than that. The friends we keep and the quality of our family life impact us more than we’d probably like to think.
Last year, a study came out that kind of took everyone’s breath away. It found that a person’s popularity in high school was directly correlated to as much as a 10 percent pay increase through a person’s adulthood.
What? If that doesn’t sound right, it’s because it wasn’t “technically” right. Recently, another team of researchers tackled the topic and found that maybe it wasn’t just a person’s popularity at school that determined the pay-gap, but their relationship with their family at home. Our family provides an incredible support system that has a lasting impact on nearly every area of our life — they can’t be ignored.
We’re not ready to discount the monetary value of worthwhile friendships—just about anyone with a network will tell you that connections just make things easier. Instead of focusing on sheer “popularity”, how about focusing on a few of the friendships that matter most to you? The people who you simply can’t live without should be given the type of attention needed to where you won’t actually ever have to live without them.
Here’s where the exercise we mentioned earlier comes into play. Look ahead to the relationships you want to build or improve this month, and list them all out on a piece of paper. (Think about the categories of relationships we’ve listed above!) Next, rank them on a scale of 1-10. Once you’ve done that, prioritize each relationship in terms of their value to you.
Like we mentioned earlier, in The ONE Thing we show that nothing matters equally. And that includes your relationships. If a relationship ranks high in your mind, but is rated poorly, then it’s probably something worth focusing on. Now that you know, without a doubt who you should focus on, the next thing to do is to develop an action plan. Reach out, make a date, and sit down for a meal. It’s an easy way to show you care.
Some Wisdom and Science Behind Improving Relationships
The above content is to help you organize your thoughts around the relationships you value. Now that you have an idea of who you want to focus on, there are few things you can do to begin working those relationships. Above all, the first thing to do is acknowledge the role we play in the quality of the relationships we value most.
In an interview with The Paris Review, Ray Bradbury, famous science fiction author of books like Fahrenheit 451 and Dandelion Wine, offered up a prime piece of wisdom from his marriage of over 50 years:
“In that film Love Story, there’s a line, ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’ That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Love means saying you’re sorry every day for some little thing or other. You make a mistake. I forgot the light bulbs. I didn’t bring this from the store and I’m sorry.”
When it comes to the relationships that matter most in our lives, we have to accept responsibility for their outcome. That truth doesn’t just apply to those we love, but just about anyone we want to be in a relationship with—friends, colleagues, acquaintances.
It takes two to tango—there’s no escaping that, however, when we accept that we have the power to initiate a positive change in a relationship, we create an opportunity for improvement. If we avoid all responsibility, then we leave the possibility for improvement in someone or something else’s hands.
That means the first step to improvement is going to be finding and committing time to invest in the relationships you’re wanting to build.
Time Blocking for Your Relationships
There’s a common saying that “if it’s not on your calendar, then it doesn’t exist”. And that’s unfortunately true when it comes to our relationships.
Strong relationships have proven to be flexible. However, the time we invest in them does influence their strength.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, time blocking is a time management strategy of reserving our most productive hours for our most important work.
When it comes to finding quality time to focus on our relationships, our most productive hours are probably going to be later in the day, but the philosophy is going to remain the same. Looking into your own schedule and the schedule of the person you want to invest more time in, key in on a block of time that will leave you both mentally and physically prepared to spend quality time building your relationship.
If you’re the type of person who is absolutely exhausted by 9:00 PM, then it’s probably not a good idea to schedule your relationship-focused time at night. Just because the time is available on your calendar, doesn’t mean that you’re capable of providing quality interaction during that time. And the same goes for the other person. Remember that.
Facilitating a Growing Relationship
There’s this thing—com-mun-i-ca-tion—and it’s said to be the foundation of every good relationship. And if you really want to improve the quality of a relationship, then at the very least, you’re going to have talk regularly.
Studies show that one of the keys to maintaining a good relationship over a long period of time is to continue behaving the way we would in a close relationship, despite the distance. Given physical limitations, what it means is that the frequency and the quality of our communication has the power to transcend geographical road blocks. If it’s that important to keeping up with an old friend from college, then it’ll be just as important when trying to keep up with someone who lives nearby.
The general rule of thumb out there is that to maintain a relationship, you need to at least communicate with that person once every two weeks. This keeps us top of mind, but also offers a regular opportunity to socialize.
One thing that really helps facilitate regular communication—and makes time blocking for it easier—is sharing a common interest that involves a habit-building activity that occurs within a social venue. Clubs, neighborhoods, professional sports, recreational sports, exercise, fairs, conventions, festivals, coffee shops, restaurants all offer a regular, habit building activity within a common venue.
More than making investing in your relationship a habit, it’s actually proven that if you want to get closer with someone else, then one of the best things to do is to literally be closer to them.
A 2014 study on relationships showed that a lack of meeting places and opportunities was an important reason why many relationships end. Moreover, there’s a ton of research that says that physical proximity is a key factor in determining the likelihood of a relationship forming in the first place. Co-workers and neighbors are much more likely to become friends than a stranger who lives thousands of miles away. (Sorry “internet friends”.)
Whatever common interest you wish to build your relationship around, the important thing is to find something that it’s regularly occurring and that it provides social context. (Remember: rituals are habitual!)
There are several different strategies and principles to pay attention to when tending to the relationships we value most. That’s why years ago, we put together a whole guide on the topic. We wholly recommend reading it to get the most out of this November!