Ever brain-storm new ideas and concepts for work? Use that same process in your relationships!
Whenever I hear about people who are highly effective and fulfilled in their career but struggling in their personal relationships, I think back to something that happened to me many years ago. I was flying home from a conference in the Midwest. The man who was sitting next to me struck up a conversation. At first it was the typical idle chit-chat you'd expect to have with a stranger on a plane. However, upon learning about my profession as a teacher, speaker and consultant, he began pouring out his life story and personal problems to me.
"I've been married thirteen years," Bob said, "And my wife and I never talk about anything other than the bills, the kids and where we're going on our next vacation. I'm afraid that once my kids are grown my wife and I will look at each other and see strangers."
This man was a highly successful executive at a multi-billion dollar company. He had worked his way to the top of his field from a young age. That sort of success didn't just happen accidentally. It must have taken a great deal of commitment and focus. "You've really done well by directing your creativity at work," I observed. "Did you know that you have the same opportunity with your personal relationships?"
He wasn't following, so I explained to him that we were born creative not just to be dynamite in our professional lives and in creating material success, but also so we can direct that creativity toward our relationships. Although he jotted down a few notes and seemed intrigued, he seemed deflated by the time the plane touched the ground. Perhaps it was because he considered the effort he'd need to put in. "Our marriage isn't great, but I'm sure we're not that different from most people." We can only hope that he changed his mind and decided that he didn't need to settle for mediocre in his marriage.
The point is that, like Bob, we are all born with the God-given gift of creativity. What we do with our creativity—indeed, whether or not we even perceive our own creative ability—is another matter. Our creativity can be used to succeed in business, to create art and write beautiful novels, or it can be used to build better relationships. There is no limit to how we can use our creative powers. We don't need to struggle endlessly or sit idly by while we watch our marriage or relationships deteriorate. We have the power to make our relationships great. Here's how!
1. Learn To Feel Alive (Again)
But what is a great relationship? A great relationship is one in which both partners feel very alive when they're together. The sound of our loved one's voice and the sight of their face fills us with joy. We marvel at our luck in finding each other and being together, even when we've been together for decades. We thrill at the good times and appreciate our love and support during tough times. There's a sense of well-being that spills over onto others—our extended family, our children and our friends.
If we'd like to get back to the place where a great relationship like this is still possible, there is a way to use our creative powers to make this a reality, starting today.
2. Talk To Successful Couples
We can start creating great relationships by asking a loved one to be candid with us about a pattern in our relationships that may be causing some distance. For example, is there some aspect of technology like a cell phone or television that dilutes our time together? Do we keep finishing their sentences or fighting to gain control of the conversation?
Whatever it is, when we catch ourselves engaging in this distancing behavior, we can take note of it in some way such as writing it down in a notebook. Get ready! It can be surprising how often this pattern appears and causes discord. Notice the ways this behavior effects our lives—not just in our romantic relationship, but in our work and other personal relationships as well.
3. Make Positive Changes
Once we have thoroughly recognized the patterns that are putting distance between us, we can seek to alter or clear these patterns. We can use our creativity to come up with ways to stop ourselves from engaging in the behavior in the first place, or ways we can replace destructive patterns with a behavior that’s much more considerate and mindful.
For example, whenever we're tempted to check our cell phone at lunch or dinner, we might find something to appreciate about our partner instead. In this way, we're not only removing the obstacle to our relationship happiness, we're actually opening up to noticing something that previously we might have taken for granted.
When we're not happy in our relationship, it may be that we haven't explored ways of using our creativity to make it better. Remember, we create whatever we focus our attention on. We can create relationships that are fulfilling and life-giving, or we can create confusion, excuses and copies of what we've always known. The choice is ours.
Nobody intends to design a mediocre life, or a mediocre relationship, for that matter. A mediocre anything is lived by default, by drifting. Relationships deteriorate because we stop paying attention and we stop being creative. We can choose to alter our patterns in order to consciously and purposefully design a fulfilling, great relationship.