Last night, we reconnected with my second cousins to watch their daughter in a prominent role in the Nutcracker. My great aunt traveled to Dallas from Columbus to watch her granddaughter with her son’s family, and my brother joined our family in our family’s carefully chosen back row seating. Happily, my daughters were in rapt attention during the entire musical–completely engaged. My two year old kept pointing to the stage saying, “That my cousin.” By the end of our time together, my daughters were certain that they too were elegant ballerinas and danced all over the Eisemann Center lobby. The lights in their eyes showed the impact this one beautiful experience wrapped in loving relationships had on each of them.
One of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud, says succinctly, “Our brain runs on three things: oxygen, glucose, and relationships.”
From the moment of conception, we are shaped by relationships and depend heavily upon them for the rest of our lives.
The holiday season is a unique time in which most of us set aside time to reconnect with those people who have been influential in our lives. Often times, this is family. Many times, this circle of deep relationships includes friends, coworkers, and other relationships. Wouldn’t it be nice to sprinkle a bit of this warm feeling throughout the year?
Unfortunately, as life gets busier and busier, relationships seem to be the first thing to be put on the back burner.
How can we prioritize relationships better in this coming year?
Following are some ideas to get you started.
- Recognize that great relationships are in necessity, not a luxury. Spending time with people is central to life. When life gets busy, nurturing healthy and enriching relationships can unfortunately be the first thing to go! When we are isolated, however, our souls can deteriorate. Our perspective can become warped. We think too much of ourselves and too little of others. Don’t let that happen in your life. You need people, and they need you. (To explore more on this, check out Henry Cloud’s latest book The Power of the Other.)
- Put relationships on your to do list. Consider including relationships in your planning process. As you plan your to dos, use a tool like our To Be / To Do Concept Clouds to prompt to yourself to think of those around you. With whom do you want to connect? Whom can you serve? Who is moving through a major life transition right now? Who do you miss?
- Sketch ideas you have to connect with these people in the Dream Phase of your yearly Think Time. Would you like to plan a camping trip with one family? Meet up at the playground with another? Go on a mission trip with another? Attend an art exhibit with another? Invite a neighbor for dinner? Babysit for a young mom? Mow the yard or hang some pictures for an elderly friend? Let the ideas flow, and when you get closer to scheduling them, you will be able to sift and sort which ones will fit into your real life in the Decide Phase of Think Time.
- Identify and maximize your relational strengths. What do you bring to relationships? Do more of it! Brainstorm how your strength can impact even more people. Are you great at organizing parties? Keep doing it. Are you one to rush to the aid of someone in need? Allow that strength to be used in even broader ways. Do you have a listening ear? Take a moment to think of who may benefit from having a chance to share their thoughts and feelings. Do you have specific skills? Carpentry? Mechanics? Design? How can you serve those around you in the coming year? Take initiative and see how you can bless others by being more fully YOU in your relationships.
- Do some internal work. Take some time to evaluate what type of person you bring to the table when you bring yourself into a relationship. What are some of your strengths and what are some of your weaknesses? Get some feedback from those around you and get to work on your stuff. A trained listener such as a counselor or a life coach can be invaluable for this process.
- Schedule it! When you have an idea to get together with someone, pencil it in the Do Phase of Think Time, and follow up! When you see someone that you really want to get together with or someone comes to mind, get it on the calendar! It is better to have it on the calendar and move it then to go months or even years without connecting with that person. Pull out your Think Time and write it down. Set up reminders on your phone to follow up and make it happen.
- Be fully present. Focus and full attention are the premium gifts in a relationship. Make eye contact. Prepare ahead of time thoughtful questions and listen fully to their responses in the moment. When your nieces and nephews are showing you something, ignore that notification that just buzzed. For portions of your time together, consider placing your phone on Airplane Mode to protect your time together. If you are an introvert, schedule time by yourself before the holidays and take quick breaks during them to maintain relational energy. Soak in these special moments…you only get to live them once.
These are some of my ideas? What are some of yours?
Co-Founder, Creative Director of Think Time
“Great relationships are in necessity, not a luxury.” Christine Wilson @thinktimetweets think-time.com
“You need people, and they need you.” Christine Wilson @thinktimetweets think-time.com
“Our brain runs on three things: oxygen, glucose, and relationships.” Dr. Henry Cloud @drhenrycloud
“Identify and maximize your relational strengths.” Christine Wilson @thinktimetweets think-time.com
“How can you serve those around you in the coming year?” Christine Wilson @thinktimetweets think-time.com
“Make it happen.” Christine Wilson @thinktimetweets think-time.com
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