Want a Better Life? Create Better Relationships

I’ll start this story with what the nurse says when she calls from my children’s school: “Don’t worry, everything is okay.” That’s true here, too. 

At the time though, I wasn’t sure it would be.

I moonlight as a ski instructor on winter weekends and last Saturday, after a three-hour lesson, I felt some pain in my left hip. I took the rest of the afternoon off to rest, but within a few hours, the pain was so excruciating I couldn’t walk. The next morning was even worse.

My sister-in-law, Malaika—the only other adult in our shared ski house at the time—took one look at me groaning my way to the kitchen, put me in her car, and drove me to the mountain’s emergency room. When I arrived, two medics who I’ve known for years, Kevin and Buzz, shone with warmth as they carefully brought me from the car to the facility. I was literally in tears from the pain and so many people I met handled me with care, tenderness, and kindness.

I am fortunate to have access to excellent, fast medical care. It turned out I had bursitis and, a week later, I can hardly feel any pain. But I do feel—more clearly than ever—the lasting impact of the care and kindness of the people who supported me.

Only two things mattered to me in those moments when I was hurting and afraid: my health and my relationships. And of those two, only relationships are truly, at the end of the day, in our control.

Nothing in our lives is more important than how we handle our relationships. Nothing. 

Our relationships truly are our most important assets.  Not in an our-employees-are-our-most-important-asset kind of way, which is always asserted and, unfortunately, rarely practiced. The quality of our relationships, more than anything else, determines the quality of our lives. It even determines the quality of our health.

I am doubling down on my own relationships, as well as my work helping people strengthen their relationships. How we show up in hard times and easier ones, how we listen and connect, how we give and receive support, how we care for others—those are not just commitments, they’re skills. 

The courage and willingness to really see other people, and be seen by them, is critical to any successful relationship and can be hard and vulnerable and scary. It can also be learned and developed. 

These skills are critical to any and every relationship in your life—with spouses, partners, children, colleagues, parents, employees, bosses, customers. Yes, there are differences in how you engage in a romantic relationship versus a business relationship. But the fundamentals are the same. Relationships are about being real, vulnerable, and intimate—yes, even in business relationships.

I want to live in a world in which we have deep, real, profound, tender, connected relationships with the people in our lives. The more that’s true, the more fulfilling, and even productive, our lives will be. 

Peter Bregman, MBA, MCC, RYT, is CEO of Bregman Partners, a company that coaches, teaches, and advises CEOs and senior leaders in many of the world’s premier organizations.

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