Every December, Marc, Ian and I go somewhere. The last two years have been truly incredible. In 2012, we ventured south to the incomparable Galapagos Islands. About six weeks ago, we returned from an amazing two weeks in China. Each of these experiences has left an indelible mark and, speaking for myself, I returned smarter, more enlightened, changed. I’m often questioned, “So, where to next?” Truth is, I don’t know… don’t even care… I didn’t care where we went last year or the year before or the year before that either. What did I care about? The uninterrupted time with my husband and son.
I was describing this feeling to a new friend, Kim Specker, a professional coach. Her response was immediate and visceral. She said, “Of course you don’t care – you’re traveling to nurture your most important relationship.” Exactly!
We all get so busy – with work, with extracurricular activities, with sports and clubs, with commitments to colleagues, family and friends – we often lose sight of the unspoken commitments, of the importance of letting our most important relationships know how truly important they are. We must not measure our success in relationship building by the number of connections we have, but rather by the strength of those ties. It is critical to care for those connections lest they become a collection of names with no substance behind them.
I read a lovely, very touching article earlier this week from the well-known, Hands Free Mama, called “Choosing What Matters When Life Overwhelms.” In the piece, Rachel Macy Stafford opens with a story about her daughter who at a particularly busy moment requested, “Name 20 things you love about me.” As Rachel describes, she could’ve said, “Not tonight, honey, I’m busy.” Instead, she abandoned what she was working on to detail 20 items… her daughter’s smile, her laughter, her strong hugs. Her daughter’s response, “Thank you, Mama. I love how you love me.” By taking just a moment, literally, one minute, Rachel brought a giant smile to her daughter’s face, bolstered her confidence and sense of self, and ensured her daughter knew at that moment – and at every other moment – that she is her mama’s most important relationship.
At a retreat I attended last November hosted by my friends at the Vail Leadership Institute, our brilliant facilitator, Karah Maloley, had us write down what we deemed most important in our lives. Later, she had us consider how much time we were committing to those things we documented as most important. She reminded us: If you say family (or a hobby or running or whatever) is most important, but never spend time with your family (or on your hobby or running or whatever), the signal you are sending is that they are not as important as you claim.
So, I implore you: Take the time! Identify and communicate your most important relationships. Find ways to nurture those relationships – make sure they know how essential they are in your life. Do this every day, go somewhere together – it doesn’t have to be a trip half-way ‘round the world… go to a park, the kitchen table, for a long walk, an ice cream shop, whatever. The point is to focus and nurture your most important relationships.