Five Ways to Pursue People Over Productivity

 

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The world can be a lonely place.  Even in a crowded room it’s easy to feel alone, like no one notices you, no one cares. 

When it comes to extraordinary living, busy isn’t always better…

One problem with our Western culture is that we’re just so busy.  We rush here and there, pursuing our passions, hopes, dreams and goals.  We try to get ahead, accomplish, improve our circumstances yet move further away from what brings us ultimate life satisfaction:  our relationships

What if, instead of pursuing your passions, you pursued greater intimacy with others? 

What if your relationships became the center of your life instead of something you squeezed into the crevices of your very busy day/week/month/year/life? 

What if your life was defined by your connections with people:  your spouse, children, extended family and friends, yourself?   

What would change from the life you have now?  What would you spend more/less time doing so that you could free up time to be with your loved ones?

King Solomon, possibly the wisest person ever next to Jesus, shared these words:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has not one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

We need each other, but do we make time for each other?

What are you pursuing that you value more than your relationships? 

If life feels empty despite how busy you are, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Here are five ways to make people your priority, instead of productivity:

1. Value each relationship as an investment of time that pays dividends

If time is an investment, are you investing wisely? 

We all get the same allotment of time.  We all get the same freedom of choice on how to spend it.  Anything you do that brings a return for your effort is an investment.  It’s easy to think in terms of money, but your greatest return isn’t financial. 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:21)

What kinds of deposits are you making into your relationship bank?  How often do you make those deposits, and in what ways?  Are they small, daily deposits, or infrequent but large?  Which ones give you the best ROI (return on investment)?  Or are you the kind of person who withdraws from your bank more than you deposit?  Are you draining your reserves? 

Do your loved ones feel loved by you, or used?

In monetary terms, a dividend is a percentage or sum of money paid out to a shareholder that is based on the amount and current value of those shares.  From a relationship perspective, a dividend is anything positive you gain from investing in people:

  • Verbal/physical support and encouragement

  • Expressions of love

  • Commitments of time from others

  • Understanding and connectedness

  • Loyalty

  • Trust and respect

  • Intimacy

  • Health benefits, including longer life

  • Lowered stress

  • Contentment and life enrichment

Do any of those sound like something you could use more of?

2. Prioritize your relationships

Relationships belong on a pyramid, not a continuum.

It’s impossible to give everyone the same amount of time, or the same quality of time.  You have to prioritize because not all relationships are equal

How do you determine this?

Think of a pyramid.  With God at the top and yourself right below, the next relationship needs to be with the person you are most deeply connected to. 

Perhaps this is your husband/fiancée/boyfriend.  If you are married with children, your children come after your marriage.  Not because you love them less, but because the foundation of their world is built upon the solidness of your marriage, which takes a significant investment of time. 

An ideal pyramid for many married women might look something like this:

 

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The people who mean the most to you need to know the most that they matter.

Your loved ones may not receive the greatest quantity of time because that’s not realistic.  It does mean, however, that they need to see you demonstrate how important they are to you.  You do this, not just by what you say but in how you say it, how you make time for them, make them feel valued, needed, appreciated…loved.  The little, daily gestures that translate into love for them (think love languages) go a long way.

Unfortunately we often invert our pyramid over time.  An example of that might look like this:

 

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An inverted pyramid, over time, can lead to imbalance, stress, marital discord and spiritual emptiness.  Or, we place all relationships on a continuum, as though they all have equal value. And then we find ourselves stretched thin, trying to please everyone.

3.  Be proactive

The irony of living in such a technologically advanced society is that we actually have less quality communication than ever before.  I actually think technology doesn’t help.  It gives us a way to connect yet not feel connected; a way to be in contact with others, but on a very superficial level.  Sometimes we make excuses:

“I don’t have time.”

“I’m too tired.”

“I don’t like texting/talking on the phone.”

“I’m better face to face.”

“I’m busy.”

Other times it may feel like you’re the one making all the effort with little to no reciprocity.

It can be easy to assume the worst when that happens.  Either way, waiting passively for others to reach out to you instead of being proactive about what you want only serves to keep you alone.    

As the Bible says, you reap what you sow.  (Galatians 6:7)  If you want close connections with people, then it’s up to you to make that happen. Over time, as those dividends roll in, it won’t matter who initiated first.

Here are some ways to be proactive and say “I’m thinking about you”:

  • Send a text/email/snap

  • Send a link to something your friend will enjoy

  • Send a handwritten note/card

  • Pick up the phone and call

  • Schedule a video conference

  • Invite him/her out, or over for coffee/lunch/dinner

  • Treat your friend to a getaway morning/afternoon/day/weekend

Keep in mind that the deeper you want the relationship to be, the more you will have to focus on quality of communication.  That means live face-to-face time with that person, in person or via platforms like Skype and Facebook Messenger.  There is no substitute for dialogue that takes place in real time, because it allows for an exchange, verbally and non-verbally, that is essential for the relationship to develop.

One way to make sure your efforts don’t fizzle out is to write out your pyramid of relationships and then keep track of ways you’ve communicated with each person lately.  Who have you neglected that it’s time to reach out to?  Is there someone you constantly try to connect with but he/she doesn’t make much effort back?  Perhaps it’s time to give that one a break for a while and focus on someone else.

4. Focus on the positives and show appreciation

Remember the last time you felt under-appreciated by someone?  How did that impact your relationship?  Did it make you want to try harder or pull away?

Everyone needs to feel valued.  

Often our focus tends to be on what we need to feel more appreciated.  When a relationship deepens you may start to notice that person’s flaws; the way he or she doesn’t always make you feel valued or special, or just behaves in ways you find annoying or frustrating.  If you focus primarily on those flaws, you overlook the positive benefits the relationship brings, and over time it will likely shift the relationship in a negative way.

Instead, focus on what the other person needs to feel special. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Thank your friend for something he/she did for you with “energy,” i.e. let your tone, pitch and words match, so that they are truly heartfelt.

  • Do something thoughtful for your friend, like a favor or act of service, something that isn’t necessarily convenient or fun for you (it’s a greater act of love to step out of your own comfort zone on behalf of someone else).

  • Buy your friend a meaningful gift that has relevance to him/her.  It’s not the size that matters but the amount of thought you’ve put into it.

  • Acknowledge the “small” things your friend does for you to show that he/she cares, not just the big gestures.

  • Give more than you take…and don’t keep score!  Sometimes you need to lean on your friend, sometimes he/she needs to lean on you.  Don’t be the kind of friend who always needs something, but very rarely (or never) deposits anything back into the relationship. 

5.  Self-evaluate

All relationships go through periods of discord.

Life stressors, differences of opinion, arguments …there are many factors that can contribute to conflict.  If the relationship is important to you but you find your friend/loved one pulling away, it may be time to evaluate why.  Is there something about you that needs to change?  Letting the other person know that you’re open to examining that and then making that change (as opposed to attacking the other person’s flaws) for the sake of the relationship is essential.

Relationships are by far the most important investment of time you will ever make.  How does your relationship portfolio look?  Have you invested wisely?  Intentionally?  If you find yourself, not just alone but lonely, then it’s time to think about the way you’re investing your time.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Purnama Annur on July 8, 2023 at 10:14 am

    Lovely post thanks for posting

    • Debbie Caudle on July 9, 2023 at 2:46 pm

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

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