As I write this, Hamish (black Lab, eight and a half years old, apple of my eye) is lying on the rug nearby, gnawing on what must be a tasty bone, judging by the amount of noise he’s making – so much so he even has one in reserve. This does require careful management of course; when I speak to a client they would understandably be bemused by the amount of noise he’s making, so I’ll make sure I’m out of earshot.
So why do I mention Hamish? Here we are almost halfway through January 2016 already. It doesn’t take long to go in, does it? No doubt many of us have made (and jettisoned?) some resolutions for the year ahead. Good luck – it takes time and effort to break old and make new habits. This year I have been preoccupied with how to strengthen my relationships with those people who are important to me, and make better use of my physical environment. Here's why.
As Kissing With Confidence’s resident Scot in exile, a lot of those people are hundreds of miles away, meaning face to face contact is a challenge. When I’m working in Scotland I often treat my trips north as “secret” visits; I feel that if I tell people I’m coming there’s an expectation that I go to them, which often isn’t practical, and of course I am working, so there often isn’t time.
Nonetheless. It’s important to keep those relationships alive and attend to them regularly. I’ve had cause to think about this a lot recently, having just read a wonderful book – Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” – and a wonderful talk on TED.com by Robert Waldinger about “What Makes a Good Life”. Both extol the virtues of having a life with purpose, and how over time, the purpose that matters most is that of relationships.
Waldinger’s talk in particular struck a chord with me. He is the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the very few long-running studies of its kind. Beginning in 1948 with 724 men, half from Harvard and the rest from the poorest of the Boston tenements, they have followed them ever since (at the time of his TED talk, filmed in November 2015, 60 were still alive; their 2000 children and eventually their wives have been included in the study too) to find out what makes for a good life. The findings are startling in their simplicity. Irrespective of where you start or end socially, no matter what ills befall you, no matter how much material success you have:
- Social connections are really good for you
- It’s not just the number of friends you have and whether you’re in a relationship, but whether the quality of those relationships is good, is warm, is, in other words, protective
- For people in their 80’s (that may or may not be you, but it may well be your parents), having a good, warm relationships protect not only the body but also the mind. The mind stays sharper, longer.
So we can start/continue/improve how we attend to those networks of connections at any time in our lives. I’m pretty good at staying in touch with people but have resolved to do at least one call a day to my nearest and dearest, every day.
And as someone who mainly works from home when not with clients – and who can feel isolated because of it if it’s a day when nobody else is home - some of the findings in Gawande’s book were of huge interest to me. Having something to look after – dogs, fish, birds in my case – is helpful. Living things in other words – even plants do the trick. Something to get you out of yourself.*
How do we apply this at work? Well, look around you. Do you know/like/care about your colleagues? If not, what could you do to change that? How about your clients? When did you last get in touch to say hello, as opposed to simply touting for business? Can’t remember? I suggest popping up to say hello in that case. They’ll feel better – but so will you.
You can even personalise your physical space around you at work (if that floats your boat) with some photos, that plant again (cacti thrive in arid office environments), or anything else that it important, but appropriate, to you.
So, good luck with your resolutions once more, and wishing you a wonderful start not only to 2016 but to the rest of your life!
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about the author
Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.