The day has finished. We have spent today thinking about the following question:
Am I putting enough effort into my relationships?
For the longest time, I have been focused on self-improvement. How can I be more effective at speaking, at writing, at my job. I have experimented with changing the time I went to bed and woke up, the times I worked out and ate, the times I scheduled meetings. I researched and worked to arrange and then rearrange my office to be more efficient. Daniel H. Pink, in his new book, When, actually speaks to this and how timing is not luck but in fact a science of how and when things occur.
But while I was working on all of these improvements to advance myself and my career, I did not take the time to do the same with my romantic relationship.
After going through a break-up, I realized where my flaw was.
While I had been reading every business and self-improvement book I could get my hands on, I never took the time to do the same with my relationship. While my career bloomed and I improved in efficiency, work produced, and money earned, my relationship stayed right where it was. This is not to say that I neglected my relationship in lieu of personal growth. We still spent time together, I was present in the moments we shared, we still took trips. But I wasn’t asking the questions or reading the material I should have been to strengthen my relationship and the needs of both parties.
Once we broke up, I realized just how foolish this logic was.
I read and listen to books all year round. I average 50 or more books per year, most in business, biography, and self-improvement. But I hadn’t read a single book on relationships. I hadn’t thought about how to improve my relationship. By all accounts, I felt as though we were in a good place, that we could continue to coast the way we had been.
But that’s what we’d been doing, coasting. And it was because of my thinking on the matter.
K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist who studies how experts attain mastery, hypothesized that in order to attain mastery of a subject, one had to devote over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to a craft. This was made even more famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, which used this rule as his argument throughout the book.
While Gladwell’s book is devoted to subjects such as sports and business, I realized that the idea of dedicating the time, energy, and deliberate practice to your personal relationships could help greatly improve them as well. It wasn’t until I reread Gladwell’s Outliers after my breakup that I realized how important it was to devote this same dedication and time to making sure my relationship was as high of a priority as all of my other endeavors.
What did this mean?
This meant that I went about reading every book I could get my hands on that had to do with relationships. I read about masculinity, about male versus female power dynamics, I studied emotional intelligence and how to better understand people when they were speaking. I even delved into body language and linguistic styles to understand how a person communicates on a conscious and unconscious level.
I realized this was the type of time and devotion I should have been putting in from the beginning. If I had been wise enough to take a step back from my day-to-day attempts at self-improvement, I would have seen that this type of devotion was needed for my relationship, just like it was for my business endeavors.
As painful as that time period was for me, it built me into being a stronger man, and a better partner. As Marcus Aurelius reminds us:
“Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it can’t degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination.”
I now have devoted myself to taking a step back from work and my relationship once a week to better assess the position I am in. Is my relationship being given the necessary treatment it deserves? If not, how can I improve this?
And this doesn’t just go for romantic relationships. This type of analysis extends to close-friendships, acquaintances, family members.
Take the rest of the night and examine your relationships. Are you as close as you want to be with those individuals? If not, how can you go about improving those relationships?
Some of the books I read to better understand my failures in my relationship:
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves (Emotional Intelligence)
The Way of the Superior Man – David Deida (Masculine vs Feminine Energies)
His Needs, Her Needs – William F. Harley, Jr. (Needs of a Partner)
5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman (Understanding Partner’s Language)
The Definitive Book on Body Language – Barbara & Allan Pease (Body language)
The Art of Seduction – Robert Greene (Understanding Seduction)
The Language Instinct – Steven Pinker (Linguistics)
How have we grown from this? Did we execute any differently today because of this? Do you feel that you have new tools to accomplish tomorrow?