Does the company we keep affect our quality of life?
Quality of life: we all want it, but what is it? – Probably a whole other article in itself but it’s widely accepted that the desire triangle (health, love, career) or the list of priorities most commonly given by first world inhabitants (family, spirituality, health, finance, career, romance/sex, leisure/free time) reflects pretty well what we gauge our quality of life against. A commonality that runs through many of these things is relationships; that is, the quality of the relationships associated with these priorities has a huge bearing on how happy we are with each. For example, your family is a huge priority for you, but how satisfied are you with the relationships that live inside that Family (however you define it)? Are you more likely to prioritise a quality family dynamic than you are a dysfunctional one? Quite probably not; the things that truly matter to us are intrinsic to our core values. Quality of life therefore is equal to the degree in which we are living our values combined with how well our values are met by our priorities. Think of it in terms of goals; if we have a goal that is totally aligned with at least one of our core values, chances are we’ll hit it with relative ease, and have a wonderful time on the way. If we’re doing what makes us happy, we’re probably doing it well.
Aristotle stated that friendship (philia) is key to human happiness; the paradigm case of friendship being a relationship that is mutually recognised and taking place between two adults of equal standing. Or more specifically: the mutually acknowledged and reciprocal exchange of goodwill and affection that exists among individuals who share an interest in each other on the basis of virtue, pleasure or utility.
Aristotle noted that whilst other, non-equal, friendships, could exist, they were of an inferior nature.
Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker famously quoted that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with – for example, economically this would mean that you can take the salaries of the five people you spend the most time with, add them up, divide the total by five and you will probably have a figure that represents your own salary. Likewise then, with intellect, confidence, spirituality and contentment, to name but a few qualities.
Personal insights gained through my coaching clients indicate this to be accurate. Granted, my coaching style probably dictates the kind of clients I attract and am attracted to (they tend to be aspirational, creative, compassionate types), but they come from all walks of life. Some are rich and materialistic; some are humble and utterly benevolent with what they have. Their upbringings and life experiences vary from the chaotic, dysfunctional and traumatic, to those verging on idyllic. However, at some point, I’ve witnessed each and every one enact something I call the frenemy shoulder slump (FSS). They each have people in their lives that literally bring them down.
Me: How are things with your mum?
Coachee: (FSS) urgh.
Me: Did you talk to your manager about your idea?
Coachee: Yeah, (lights up) she’s excited to try it, she suggested I get a few of the team together and (sighs) enlist some support from (FSS) Karen in marketing
We all have these people in our lives, if they’re not one of the top five we spend time with, then there’s more chance we can manage them effectively, but if they have full access to us, they can cause us real problems; when a friend obstructs (or we perceive them to) our important goals or our other relationships, the impact is negative and often stressful. The more time you spend with friends that have bad habits, the more likely you are to adopt or continue those bad habits for yourself (just look to your drinking buddies!) Of course, the opposite is true too; spend all your free time with your marathon running bestie and your couch-potato days will soon become a thing of the past.
I ensure that when feelings of betrayal, disappointment and stress come from my clients’ friendships that we address them urgently; these things undermine your best self and are not representative of healthy, positive influence.
There is then, compelling evidence that it matters who we surround ourselves with. And in order to feel contented and fulfilled, we should think carefully about who we invest in emotionally and otherwise. The adage do less, have more seems apt; select and develop a few close, valuable relationships. It’s almost always about quality not quantity where life satisfaction is concerned.
As the weather finally warms here in rainy Northern England, thoughts turn to change and growth. It’s only natural to want to clear out the cobwebs at this time of year. We make our resolutions; we desire shifts and improvements in our lives.
Some time ago, a friend told me to read Doreen Virtues book on time, I expected something around management, but actually it's smarter than that; a refreshing and interesting take on how we perceive time and the impact that has. Many fabulous leaders have their version of this, but Doreen explores our conditioned beliefs in detail and some of it really stuck with me. I've distilled the overarching message, as I perceive it:
There is always something that we want more of, be it time, love, money, sleep...the list goes on. In order to grow ourselves we must look inwards: we hold the key to our own successes, and by taking total responsibility for our lives, we can transform, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed we could. All that we desire is possible, but sometimes our challenges seem insurmountable.
How often do you find yourself saying:
Or in other words: I’d change my life if I had the time!
The thing is, you do have the time, and you have all the resources you need to make changes for the better. Sometimes it’s just a case of looking at things differently, of learning to stop striving and to start living the life you truly desire. We must remember to live in the present, that future planning is all well and good, but is not the means to contentment. Our ongoing happiness is a continuous journey with no end, so by dropping all sense of reaching the finish line, we can focus on what matters, and welcome the knowledge that time, wealth, peace and joy are abundant.
Some simple ideas about getting things done:
These days, Doreen's main area of focus is Angel Therapy and she lives here if you want to visit!
I lie every single day. Whilst there is certainly an exhilaration in truth, but there is also perpetual conflict. Your truths will offend, they will cause difficult conversations, sometimes it just doesn't seem worth being honest; the price is too high when all it takes is a lie.
In his interview with Philippe Bartu, an ever-so-slightly incredulous Michael Serwa asks where's the gain? It's an interesting exchange of ideas, view it here
After interviewing Dr Brad Blanton (creator of the Radical Honesty website/community and author of many publications on the subject) for Esquire magazine, A.J Jacobs makes some fairly amusing if not rather uninspired observations: children offer unfiltered truths, life gets a bit more complicated when lying is absent, blurting out sexual desires to relative strangers doesn't necessarily create a positive outcome...you get the picture. It's an interesting interpretation (read it here) of the concept, as is Blantons. He may have coined the expression, but telling the whole truth has always been an option open to all of us.
Don Miguel Ruiz distills some Toltec Wisdom into The Four Agreements - probably one of the most practically applicable philosophies I've come across. In context, alongside the other three agreements, Number One agreement reads: Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
Gentler advice perhaps than Blanton, but infused throughout the book. Agreement Four is Don't make assumptions; by not assuming, we're forced to articulate what we want, again something that requires truth.
There is definite simplicity in truth telling, our relationships become closer (or breakdown more quickly, depending on where our truth journeys are taking us), our worlds become distilled into the essence of what matters, our boundaries made clear. We become adept at laser articulation, with no fear of forgetting our stories or being exposed. As a coach I get paid to tell the truth, with my truth comes challenge and introspection. Stuff gets done, or identified as needless, either way my clients are left with clarity and focus, a deeper understanding of their core values. They know what matters and how to have more of what matters, and less of what doesn't, in their lives. If I let my concern for a clients feelings get in the way of what I perceived as the truth, then I wouldn't be serving them to the best of my ability. Strange then, that I cannot apply this 100% across my life. Maybe some times, some people, don't need my dose of reality, maybe I could just keep quiet and let them go about their business.
However, I turn my radical honesty dial up to 11 when it comes to me. If I can't tell myself my truth, how can I expect others to? When it comes to the self, we must aspire to be radically honest, of this I'm sure.
In order to be compassionate and benevolent, and to provide ourselves and others with love and understanding, we need to be honest about our own inner challenges. Our self awareness and honesty provide an authentic and helpful outlook. If we reject or deny our inner selves then we cannot truly grow or assist others in growth of spirit. If we are not humble then not only do we create an attitude of inequality to our fellow beings, but we reject our true selves and therefore our spirituality is clouded by an artificial perspective that prevents true development.
Through self awareness, acceptance of ourselves with all our flaws and challenges, we can develop and change, and offer something of value. It is important that we do not act as islands, or ‘solo performers’; the cosmos is as one and in doing so we isolate the power of the universe that we hold, and will not be acting to our true values. Spirituality in all religions and none so more as in modern spirituality is about serving, practicing gratitude, and giving the best we have in order to help the greater good. Knowing ourselves is key to this, and to connecting as we know we should. By showing respect for ourselves and others we contribute positively to the universal flow, and this is a key activity to behaving in a spiritual manner, and also of great benefit overall.
By seeing the best in others we can develop our relationships in a way that provides positive influence, can assist in helping and improving, and maximise the potential we all have. Having a positive mental attitude towards people, aiming for unconditional love, empathetic understanding, through listening and focus, and by being authentic and true, provides a truly mindful connection at a much deeper level.
Modern spirituality takes the most positive aspects of historical religion, and does not focus on the hierarchy and status that created the elitist attitudes that have existed previously. Our care of ourselves and each other should extend to encompass the entire natural world, for we are all part of the same thing, and what surrounds us is as important as what resides within us. By creating a happy and safe environment we make the universe a positive, joyful, better place. Our actions should be grounded in reality and good humour, and so being humble, self-aware, and open is key to delivering this.