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The New Year provides a great opportunity to reassess where we are and to make new goals. But, what should be the focus of our resoltutions? I think we need to include at least one major resolution that has to do with an area that is critical both to leadership sustainability and happiness: our relationships.
A recent study of New Year’s resolutions confirmed that Americans tend to focus on self-oriented changes. The top pledges relate to weight, diet or health, money, personal improvement, addiction, and career. Personal improvement responses included being a better person, giving more, having more personal or leisure time, organizing one’s life or home, and having a better life in general.
What is strikingly absent from the responses to this research is developing my relationships with others—have we have become so individualistic that we no longer value relationships?
The Christmas season is about two things: it’s about the content of the Christmas story and it’s also about relationships. In other words, it’s about our beliefs and ideas, on the one hand, and people, on the other.
Inevitably, as our families get together, we find ourselves in situations where our ideas are challenged—even to the point where relaxed faces may become red and veins begin popping out of stiffened necks. It’s easy to get caught up in arguments about whether George Bush was a great president or the devil incarnate, or whether Jesus literally walked on water.
During family reunions, we need to decide whether we will focus on relationships or ideas. I think the primary focus should be relartionships. This is not the time to “correct” the flawed thinking of my inlaws. It is the time to develop my relationships with people who, because of family connection, will always be a part of my life.
I don’t use these moments to evangelize or persuade; I use them to listen and to learn. I use them to try to see the world through the eyes of another.
I encourage you to focus this year’s resolutions on your relationships. What is your relationship with your children, your spouse, your parents, your neighbors, your workplace peers, or your extended family? Set some concrete objectives for the year such as, by December 31, 2012,
- I will be able to provide real conversational support to my son about his future.
- I will learn to talk to my wife more openly about my feelings.
- I will renew my relationship of trust between my wife and myself.
- I will have at least three people with whom I have shared my personal vision and ask them to hold me accountable.
- I will learn to accept my husband’s family even though they constantly judge me behind my back.
- I will not just state these as a wish list and then forget them, but I will research my resolutions and develop a specific plan for achieving them.
The New Year is a great time to set some personal goals, but a great resolution is one that sees the inter-connections that we have with others around us. During this year’s family reunions, don’t worry about winning the argument—focus on improving your relationships.
What do you think? How important are relationships to the leader’s long-range sustainability? What are some ways you have improved your relationships?