A Love that Finishes Strong

We’re almost at the end of the month, it’s been a very full month with lots of events and opportunities, challenges and changes as well.  This month one of the topics I’ve been talking about is the topic of love.  One of the challenges of love is how awesome it is when it starts.  In some ways that’s really important because it sucks us into the relationship and makes us want to keep feeling those emotions and stay in love.  But it’s a whole lot easier to fall in love than it is to stay in love.  Those initial magic feelings don’t always stick around.  We get bogged down by the realities and challenges of life.  We see things about the person we fell in love with that we didn’t see when we first fell in love, things that aren’t so awesome or pretty (like bad habits or snoring).  When a relationship gets to that point it’s jokingly called “the end of the honeymoon period.”

While you may lose the cloud 9 feelings that you initially felt towards someone, that doesn’t mean you can’t love them anymore or that you don’t love them anymore.  It just means that your love has developed, changed or matured.  After all, you can’t do as a baby what you can do now: we’re all growing and changing, so why wouldn’t love do the same?  In some ways I think it’s kind of silly that we even think that love wouldn’t change and that we wouldn’t feel, see and do things differently after a while.

So the question as we work through the last full week of the month is how can we make sure our love finishes strong?  First and foremost it has to start with being open to love and all the many dimensions of it.   Also, there has to be a willingness to change and work through challenges.  As you get to know someone you may see red flags and things that make you take a step back.  There are always issues and things to disagree over, but these are serious things like a violent temper or (not) wanting kids that show you guys may not be really the best match, regardless of how much love you felt initially.  It’s not a bad thing to call a stop to a relationship if you know it’s not going to be the right one for you, in fact that’s a healthy decision to make.  I think one of the good things about all the change we go through and how fast life moves today vs. 100 years ago is that we can do so much more to fulfill our potential, rather than being held back or stuck in societal restrictions.

Second, you and your partner have to actively invest in the relationship if you want to keep it and your love alive.  There needs to be communication, time spent, moments created, laughter shared, friendships developed and life celebrated.  You should take time on a daily basis to check in with them, a weekly basis to spend quality time with them (a date night for example) and at least take a yearly vacation with them.

Your love will change through your life, that should not discourage you from making it part of your life.  Nor should you be discouraged by setbacks or a few failed experiences, because they will happen to just about all of us.  I believe it’s worth it to be in love and have a relationship, even with all the work it may take to help it finish strong.  How will you invest in your relationship this week?

Love and Happiness

Yesterday on the Life and Faith blog I talked a bit about the topics of love and happiness.  Today we’re continuing the conversation here talking about the relationship between love, happiness and relationships.  Relationships do not equal love and do not equal happiness.  That’s not the equation.  I do believe that there can be a connection between relationships, love and happiness, but that’s not the case for everyone and it’s unfortunately not a happily ever after situation for everyone either.  You’ve probably heard people who were with someone they loved for only a short period of time for whatever reason say that those were the happiest years of their life, and sometimes the couple gets lucky and they have one of those happy love stories for the ages that their children and grandchildren talk about for years to come.   Love, happiness and relationships can last and they can be short, and both types can be real and worth it.

Love, relationships and happiness are all things that can be hurt, can fail and can be disturbed.  In a perfect world everyone would have a fairy tail ending, but there are people who aren’t good in this world and believe it’s their right to treat people poorly or do stupid things like drugs and excessive alcohol which end up causing them to make bad decisions.  I believe everyone is worthy of love, happiness and a good relationship, but for various reasons that’s not how it always ends up working out.

If you’re in a relationship I’m happy for you and hope that it works out and that you and your partner have one of those great love stories.  If it’s not a happy relationship the first person to check is yourself, not your partner.  Make sure that you’re not the one causing your own unhappiness, because the only person truly responsible for your happiness is you.  If your partner truly loves you and is invested in the relationship they should make you happy most of the time (no one’s perfect), but you should not leave your happiness up to them.  So if you establish that you’re not putting unreasonable pressure on your partner in the relationship and are doing your part to make yourself happy and help the relationship thrive, then the next person to check is your partner.  Maybe they’re not feeling loved by you, maybe they’ve got a different set of expectations for the relationship, maybe they’re not the right person for you or maybe they’re a bad person and you should not be in a relationship with them.  I believe there is more than one person out there for each of us, but with more than 7 billion people in the world it’s not as easy as it sounds to find one of those right ones, and even if you do, maybe it’s only the right person for right now.  But no one has to be in a bad relationship or one that doesn’t truly fulfill them.

Happiness, love and relationships aren’t always picture perfect, they can get a little messy sometimes.  But if you remember back to being a kid or think about your kids, some of the happiest memories were pretty messy, and even in the movies there’s usually at least one dramatic rescue scene or cringe-worthy episode.   Don’t give up on a dream of having a happy, loving and fulfilling relationship, I’ve experienced it and so have others, and so can you.

Learning to Love Yourself

This month we’re talking about a topic related to one we talked about a couple of months ago, the topic of love.  I know, it may seem strange to talk about love in a month that’s not February (we talked about the topic of heart in February), but love is something we should talk and think about all year long.  It’s not just a topic for couples or those interested in being a couple, but for everyone.  Love isn’t just about being romantic, love is about all kinds of relationships we find ourselves in, whether work, earth/nature, family, neighbor or romantic.

Today though I want to start off the week with talking about the topic of self love or loving yourself.  It’s a double edged sword topic because when we focus too much on self love we’re accused of being selfish, and usually rightly so.  But at the same time if we’re so selfless that we only think about others, our own needs can be ignored and others can forget that we too have needs.  We’re not talking about missionaries who intentionally are selfless, but about the rest of the people in the world who, faith background or not, tend to live a more “normal” life of people, work, and daily/weekly/seasonal activities.

Why choose to love yourself? It’s about more than just making sure you’ll be around for the needs the other people in your life have.  We should all have a reason we want to keep living, to stay alive, to wake up another day.  We all have gifts that we bring to the world, for some of us it’s a question of figuring out how or where we best fit in, and sometimes there’s not an easy answer to that.  But loving yourself is about more than just making sure you’re alive and breathing, it’s about contributing to who you are as a person and becoming better because you’re worth it.

We may not all agree with the same faith beliefs or agree with how the world and we were created, but I can’t see us being disposable, lemmings or robots.  I believe that each and every one of us has value to add to the world, and for most of us that has to start with us believing in and accepting who we are.  I challenge you this month to open yourself to learning what you love, adding that love to your life on a regular basis and learning how you can best help love grow and multiply in the world.

Lots to Love

This month the topic we’re talking about is love.  I know, in February we talked about heart which is in the same family as love, but I’m continually reminded of the power of love and the difference it can make in our lives and the lives of others.  I’ve seen what a little bit of love can do, and even the most dense people can often see love and the power it has when it’s in front of them (even if they’re not so good at loving personally).  So as we dive into loving ourselves, each other, loving the earth (Earth Day), and loving spiritually (Passover/Easter), and even loving our country (tax day), I’ll encourage you to keep an open mind as always, and consider thinking about love outside of whatever box you’ve put it in.

One of the reasons relationships fail is because people don’t take the time to nurture their love. What feels so great initially can get neglected, become routine, and get overwhelmed and pushed aside by life, ironically the life that the two people were so excited to build together when they were brought together by their love.  It takes intentional action and communication on a regular basis to sustain a relationship.  Yes, there are relationships that even when worked on just don’t work out for one reason or another.  But in most cases when you’re intentionally working on the relationship you’re able to work through the changes you both experience and ways the relationship grows as you get older and grow personally and individually.

Love is an opportunity, it’s one that some only think about in February around Valentine’s Day or when they attend a wedding or see a happy couple.  But love is something you can and should do every day.  Why? For thousands of reasons.  I believe that love makes the world a better place, one that’s more comfortable to live in, creates better respect in relationships of all kinds not just the romantic type, and helps us work together better.  Love can hurt, especially when tragedy strikes, but I believe it’s better to have loved for one day than to never have loved at all.  What will you tap into this month by choosing love?

Choosing Love

Love is a powerful emotion.  Emotion might even be too weak a word to use to describe what love is, because love is more than feeling happy, or sad; love lasts, endures and exists through those times of highs and lows.  Love makes our happiness conditional on the other person’s happiness.  Simply, love means we want those we love happy, and if they’re not happy we’re not either.  This is one area where all of the technological advancements of the past few decades have really made a big impact: it’s even easier to spread the love around even when we can’t be that physical shoulder to cry on.  You can send love through a Facebook or email message, a quick tweet or text, or send it over as a big photograph.

One of the greatest abilities love has is the ability to tear down barriers of loneliness and separation.  The only reason distance relationships work ever is because the love in that relationship is powerful and well developed.  Love doesn’t consider our differences, it just sees people and hearts.  Love isn’t concerned with politics or culture, it just wants to break down walls.  When we let love in it can do powerful things in our lives and in the lives of those connected with us.

However, it’s not just about being loved, it’s about loving too.  It’s one reason people who suffer from depression are told to get pets or do community service or spend time with kids: you feel better when you’re spreading love and helping others.  But just like many other things in our lives, love is a choice.  It’s a choice we have to make on a daily (or hourly) basis.  It’s a choice no one can make for us, and one we can’t make for them.  If you don’t want to feel alone, do something about it!  Choose to accept the love that is all around you and make it part of your life.

“It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.”  John Bulwer

A Heart for Greatness

One of the things we’re talking about this month is having heart.  I believe that having heart is something that applies to all our lives, whether we’re the CEO or homeless on the streets, whether we have lots of people we call “family” or we’re on our own, or whether we’ve got a degree from Harvard or from Life.  Heart isn’t something you can really put in a box or write on a card, it’s something you weave into your life and becomes part of you, the choices you make, the friends/associates you keep, the people you’re in relationship with and how you interact with the world.

Sometimes we do need to make decisions that are based primarily or even solely on fact.  Maybe we make those decisions because of how personally invested or emotionally attached we are or because we have no gut feeling.  It’s not wrong to make decisions based on fact, but I don’t think most decisions can really be made just with the facts, I believe that we have to take into account the human element.  People can’t always be put into neat and simple boxes, we’re complicated and complex, and that’s describing those of us that are considered “normal,” not those that would fit into a pathological diagnosis.  And then when you add in things like drugs and alcohol the complications increase.

If you really want to become the best person you can be do take time to learn the facts, explore the world, see other perspectives and try new things.  But never forget that a little compassion, a little caring, a little kindness, a little heart may go farther than the facts could.  If you really want to be the best leader, boss, employee, mother, father, parent, sister, brother, partner, neighbor, or friend you could be, take a step back and let your heart out of its box for a moment and let it guide you.

“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness.” James E. Faust

Loving Your Business

Valentine’s Day is Tuesday here in the USA.  It’s big business for some businesses and for people as well.  Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts about how you can love your business more and why.

Let’s start of with why.  I was talking with a client about their website and the importance of having a mission or vision statement on the site or at least something that helps reveal the passion of the business owner for their products and services and for their customers/clients as well.  People are often convinced to buy something because someone told them about how great it was or because of the testimonials on a site.  So adding the personal connection of getting to know the owner or the person behind the business and hearing their passion and mission for what they’re offering says that they’re not just interested in potential customers because of their wallets, but because they truly have an interest in making their life better.  The happier you are with your business, the happier your employees will be to work for you and the better experience your customers will have with you.

But we all know that business can be a lot of hard work, and it’s not all fun.  So if you’re looking to love your business a little more the first thing to do is to really sit down and evaluate what’s causing you the most stress, what you like the least, what you enjoy the most, and what you wish you could do now that you used to do.  There are things that you as the person in charge will always be required to do or always have to be involved in. But there are many things you could pass off and with a little better time management you’ll be able to get back to doing some of the things you miss doing or would make you more interested in the business.   But there is one other question you need to answer first: am I really still interested in this business?  Because if you’re really not still interested in and passionate about doing the business you’re in, it’s time for a change, and not just with the activities you do each day, but with your entire career.

If you decide that you’re still passionate about the business but that passion has gotten buried, it’s time to make a commitment to passing off some of the things you dread each day and bringing back the things that make you happier and more invested in the business.  Even doing just one thing you enjoy that is business related each day will help you love your business more.  Maybe that one thing is getting on Facebook and interacting with some of your customers and fans.  Maybe that one thing is actually getting on the floor and helping customers.  Maybe that one thing is creating some of the products you sell.  Or maybe that one thing is brainstorming what could come next.

So what do you love about your business?

Relationship Reflections

It must be February: my email inbox is filled with talk of love and relationships!  The thing is, this year a lot of the posts and emails have been really great.  Usually it seems like it’s all the same stuff or it’s the standard Valentine fare, but this year it seems that people are really diving deep and wide into the love conversation, which has led to some very interesting reading.  It may seem like a tired topic, love and relationships, but the simple fact is that our lives are all about relationships, and that more often than not whether we’re having a good day or not depends on our romantic relationship.

I don’t know about you but I’m interested in getting more out of my romantic relationship.  My partner and I have a great relationship and of course we have our challenges and issues, but overall it’s a very peaceful, fulfilling and loving relationship.  We’ve been together for years and I’m still excited when I get to see him each day.  I know that’s not the case for many couples and I know there can be many reasons for that unhappiness.  If you want to get more out of your relationship you have to put in more, have a different attitude about your relationship and each other, and/or do something different than you’ve always done.

Every relationship does go through changes.  There are learning opportunities every day about how your relationship works and to learn things you never knew about each other.  There are countless resources available, often at your fingertips, that can help you work through some of the challenges or just get more out of an already decent relationship.  But ultimately it comes down to whether or not you’re happy with who you are as a person when your partner is with you, who they are when they’re with you, who they are when they’re not with you, and what your relationship has created and is creating in your life.

So today I encourage you to ask yourself this question: if I had to do it all over again would I choose my same partner again?  If the answer is yes, I encourage you to put in the extra effort in the coming days and weeks to rebuild your relationship if necessary or grow it from where it is.   If the answer is no then you need to evaluate what’s not working for you and sit down and have a discussion with them about what you’re feeling and struggling with.

Thankful for Relationships

I’m super excited to be looking ahead to Thanksgiving and wanted to take time today to talk about being thankful in our relationships. Relationships are full of challenges, sometimes heartbreaks, and often opportunities for joy.  They’re not for the faint of heart and take work if you really want them to be successful.  But there are also plenty of reasons to give thanks for them.  Relationships mean that we’re not alone in the world, they mean that we’ve got someone there to support us, they challenge us and help us grow, they give us a helping hand in raising kids and in fulfilling our dreams.

One of the things my partner says to me is “thank you for loving me.”  It sounds like a very simple phrase but it’s got so much power and says many things.  First, it’s an affirmation of our connection, he recognizes that I love him and am invested in our relationship.  Second it’s him admitting that he’s not perfect and may be difficult to love sometimes.  Now, if you’ve been reading along for a while you know that I don’t see a point in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, so even on his most challenging day he’s still someone I want to be with.  So the value in him admitting that he’s not perfect is in part him wanting reassurance that I do love him regardless or in spite of his faults, and a promise to do better because he’s as committed to us as I am.

It kills me when I see so many hurting, hurtful and broken relationships because some of them could be healthy relationships if some steps were taken sooner, while others I’m amazed that they’re still hanging in there for some unknown reason when they could very possibly be happy with someone else.  Being that this is the holiday season now I’m going to say that the glass is half full today and encourage you to take time this holiday season to rip off a few band-aids and really talk with your partner about how you can make your relationship healthier and more fulfilling.  Stop looking elsewhere, stop with the threats, stop faking it, stop lying to yourself and start talking about the problems and how you can resolve them.  Take time for just the two of you this season and build on the good that you have or rebuild the good you once had.

Love and Fears

Today I want to talk about a very Halloween topic: fear.  In all areas of our lives at one point in time or another we’ll probably experience fear. We experience fear when we let our kids go out into the world with new activities (trick-or-treating with other families and not ours), we experience fear when they’re better at things than us (catching Pokemon), we experience fear when our mind gets the best of us (how long our partner is spending at work), and we experience fear when it comes to who we are (am I good enough?).  Maybe you don’t have to deal with a lot of fear in your life because you’re super confident or conquer (smash) your fears really quickly.  Or maybe you’re one of those people who are paralyzed by fear and struggle with it for a long time before being able to even contemplate moving on or next steps.  Some wisdom I read recently has a great insight that not only will help us with our fears but also strengthening our families in general.

“The more we love, the less we fear; the less we fear, the more we love. Sometimes we can address our fears head on and simply dismiss them—or at least manage them. Sometimes love can overwhelm our fear. Sometimes doing some completely gratuitous act of loving-kindness will break through the sclerotic accretions of fear and the fountain begins to flow again.”  Br. Mark Brown

That’s right: love.  I can’t say I’ll be trying love on any of those movie monsters in the near future, but I do know that applying more love to life will help me reduce any fears I have and conquer them quicker and in better form.  There isn’t anything that can make your life, family or relationship perfect.  But there are things that you can do to make them better and healthier, and one of them is love.  If you’ve established a foundation of love within your family and between your partner and you it’s much easier to begin the tough conversations, realize that some of your are baseless, and find the courage and strength to get over the fears that do have foundation.

I believe we can all use more love in our lives, how will you love more this week?