Paying attention to our core relationships can be one of the hardest things to do in our world today. It can seem as though everyday is wrought with a choice between family, friends, work, finances and an endless list of to do’s. Because the to do’s are often tied to obligations, they frequently win our attention.
Not without a cost however.
The truth is that the endless tasks we have to do each day are just that—endless. Chances are we’ll seldom have everything done. In our attempt, however, to constantly check off our lists, our children are growing older, our partners more distant and our friends become people we check in with every now and then. We end up spending most of our time paying attention to obligations and shoulds rather than relationships. Eventually this catches up to us.
I can feel when I’ve been so caught up on work that I’ve allowed my friendships and family to become a distant second in my life. My children talk less to me, I start numbing out with technology more and more and my husband and I can be like two ships passing in the night. My priorities got derailed and off track. The last thing I want my family and friends to think and feel is that they’re second best in my life. Too quickly, however, it can seem that way. And I know many other families are struggling with this same issue.
Below are a few suggestions on how to reset your priorities and pay attention to your relationships before you lose them.
1. Take time: Put time aside for your family and friends. Schedule lunch with a friend once a month. Enjoy the lunch—guilt free. Do not feel bad about the work you’re missing or check your phone constantly. Be present. Put aside a weekend day for family each week. Honor that day and be present during it.
2. Laugh: One of the best connectors for families is laughter. Be playful with your children. Tell jokes, run around and be silly, watch a funny movie—just relax and have fun. There are few things more wonderful than a full belly life of a child—take in the moment.
3. Listen: our loved ones tell us all the time what’s missing in the relationship—we just need to listen. Take in their comments and stop defending against them. Here are some common comments to listen for: “Why are you always on your phone?” “You’re always working.” “Wow, you’re coming with us? How come you don’t have to work?” “How come you never play with us?” “Honey, will you be working late again?” “Why don’t you stay home tonight instead of going out with your friends again? Let’s do something as a family.”
4. Make relationships not work your priority: the way we spend our time speaks volumes about our priorities. If your family were a priority than your weekends and evenings would not be spent doing work. Carve out times in your week that are for loved ones only. Safe guard your weekends for relationships not work. There’s no reason to be gone all week working only to come home on the weekend to work as well. You’re escaping. Be present to your family, friends and loved ones.
The bottom line is relationships require attention. Everyday we are faced with the choice between to dos and relationships. Although there are times when the task list will need to get done, our relationships should far out weigh tasks. Our family and friends should know they are a priority in our lives, not because we say they are, but because we show that they are. Take the time to create a life where your priorities and behaviors are aligned. You and your loved ones will reap the benefits of that decision a hundred-fold.
Challenge: Tune in to what your loved ones have been saying to you. Do they feel as though they are a priority in your life? If not, fix it before you lose them.