Why Relationships Matter More than you Think

The relationships we foster in life, whether intentionally or unintentionally, matter more that we think. The people that we connect with will affect our destiny – positively or negatively. Who we run with will determine how we run, the direction we run, how fast we run and how far we run. The people we associate with actually plays a major role in our lives.

I am remembered of the story of a corporate CEO and his wife, travelling by car and they stopped for refuelling and to get something to drink. While the husband went inside to get a cold drink, the wife was actively engaged in conversation with the pump attendant. When the husband got back into the car and drove away, he asked his wife what was all the talking about. The wife said she had dated this guy in high school. Hearing this the husband boasted that ‘I am sure you’re glad you marry a CEO instead of a service station attendant.’ But the wife said to him, ‘No, I was thinking that if I had marry him instead of you, he would have be the CEO and you would be a service station attendant!’

The people we choose to relate to determine who we becomes in life. Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm – Proverbs 13:20. Never underestimate the power of relationships.

According to a Harvard Medical School article, your relationships are more important to your long term physical health than the food you eat or the sleep you get. The article highlighted a study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that the lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. Apparently this can add to the mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.

Harvard Health Publishing:  The health benefits of strong relationships.

Now we must remember that we are not where we are today because of ourselves. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Everyone has got help, be it families, friends or acquaintances. We have benefited from the relationships we foster and grow along the way. No man is an island.

The challenge is then how we manage the relationships around us. How do we ensure we get the best out of relationships? Not every relationship will be good. If we are not careful, bad relationships can eat us away.

Earthquakes, hurricanes and fires get more publicity than any other national disasters. But the fact is termites cause more damage to earth every year than all the natural disasters combined. But termites don’t get publicity because they just take a little bite each time.

Bad relationships do that as well. Just a little bite at a time. Some relationships should be totally avoided or disconnected. They hinder us, suck us dry, pull us back and destroy your life. These are the toxic relationships in your life.

In general, everybody you meet in life will fall into one of these four categories:

1- People who ADD to you. They leave us better than when they met you. They inspire you. They encourage you.

2- People who SUBTRACT from you. They drain you. They sap your energy away and leave you frustrated. They always have a problem.

3- People who MULTIPLY you. They increase you. They help push you up to another level in life. They make you better, play better when you are around them.

4- People who DIVIDE you. They create divisions. Their very nature separates the best of friends. In your life, in your team, work or business, they always create division. They make your life difficult.

Assign these categories to everybody you meet. This alone will tell you immediately how close you are going to let some people come into your life. Of course we should be courteous to everyone but we need to be selective about who you are going to let close to influence you.

Some people we cannot completed avoid. Co-workers, employers, students in your class, teacher or relatives at home. While we cannot totally avoid them, we can control the influence they have in our life. How? By controlling the time we spend with them.

Learn to identify people who adds value to your life. Arrange your life in such a way that you can spend more time with these people. Even a little time spent these people can bring significant positive impact to your life.

So, take stock and have a look at what type people you have been spending your time with. Continue to build good relationships from people who adds and multiplies you. Stay clear of those that subtracts and divides you.

I would like to end by sharing a TED video featuring Robert Waldinger titled – What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. In his talk, Waldinger shares three important lessons learned from a 75-year-old study on adult development, based on unprecedented data on true happiness and satisfaction. Needless to say, his research found that the number one ingredient that keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life (warning, spoiler alert) is meaningful relationships.

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. There are three big lessons derived from the study.

1- Social relationships are really good for us

Loneliness kills. People who are socially more connected to families, friends, and to the community are happier and live longer than people who are less connected.

2 – The quality of your close relationship matters

It is not just the number of friends we have or whether or not we are in a committed relationship. Living in a good and warm relationship protects us. People who are most satisfied in their relationships turn out to be the healthiest.

3- Good relationships don’t just protect our body, they protect our brains

It turns out being in a securely attached relationships in your old age is protective. Our memory stays sharper and longer. And those people in relationships where they cannot count on the other, they experienced earlier memory decline.

We can continue to desire and go for fame and wealth and high achievement, thinking that these are what we need to get a good life. But studies have shown again and again that people who fared the best are those who have lean into relationships, to families, friends and community.

The good life is built with good relationships. It is a lifelong endeavour and it never ends.

Get the good stuff from Waldinger’s talk here.

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