“The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life” – Esther Perel. I’d like to take that statement back a notch. What I’m even more interested in is, what determines the quality of my relationships?
Here’s what I’ve come up with. The quality of your inner landscape determines the quality of your relationships. Let me put it another way. If you’re sad, angry, depressed, frustrated, confused, lost on the inside, guess what?
Your relationship problems are never the issue. You are the issue. Period.
So let me ask you a few pertinent questions
- Has holding hands together been replaced with pointing fingers?
- Has having each other’s back been replaced with turning your back?
- Has looking forward to seeing each other been replaced with looking around or looking back at what you once had?
- Has looking into each other’s eyes been replaced with looking at your phone?
- Has understanding each other’s needs been replaced with neediness?
- Has building a future together been replaced with building a wall?
Or maybe you’re just bored, lonely, afraid, busy, stuck in the drudgery of everyday life.
Whatever the case may be, if your relationships aren’t quite where you want them to be, it’s time to look within, so you don’t go without.
I’m as guilty as anyone, of looking outside of myself to find reasons for my unhappiness. I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking, if only ‘that’ would change, if only ‘she’ would understand, if only ‘those’ things were different. If only!
The problem with that line of thinking is, it’s all externally focused. And the problem with external focus is, our problems mostly, some say totally, come from internal turmoil – your inner landscape or your inner world.
The other part of external focus is, we have no control over what other people say and do. But we do have control over our own responses, behaviors, and words.
Now, I’m not saying that external forces don’t play a part. They most certainly do. If you find out your wife is having an affair, that’s external right. It affects you and your sense of wellbeing. It hurts like f*cking hell.
If your car has broken down and your late for an appointment, it’s downright annoying and could cost you money, time and opportunity, especially if it’s a job interview you’re heading to.
There are a thousand external circumstances that can and do affect our lives. No question. But here’s the thing. It’s how we respond to, and/or react to these things that make the biggest difference in our lives and wellbeing because you cannot control external forces.
Now I hear you say, “yeah Steve, but …”.
Of course if you’ve just lost your job, or your car got sideswiped in the street whilst you were sleeping, or you fell down some stairs in the middle of the night and snapped the bicep from the bone, or your ex-wife thought the grass was greener over there (all these things have happened to me), then you’re gonna have to have some pretty strong internal boundaries to keep yourself emotionally stable.
Why is it, that two people can manage the exact same situation in totally opposite ways?
Why can one keep calm whilst the other rages? Why does one breakdown whilst the other stands strong? Why does one turn to alcohol whilst the other turns to meditation? Why does one blame whilst the other forgives?
Let me tell you, I’ve been on the wrong side of those reactions more than once.
My inner landscape, the one I’ve cultivated (or not) over time, is the difference.
Most people, if we’re honest, just bump through life hoping for the best. Like the safety barriers that go up on a ten-pin bowling alley for little kids to bowl down. We roll the ball (our hopes and dreams) and hope for the best. We bump off the rail a few times (lose a job, a friend, don’t get that thing we wanted for Christmas), and hope that our ball ends up in the right place at the other end. Strike!
If that’s how you choose to live life, good luck. It’s a crapshoot out there.
But we do have other choices. How we choose to look after our bodies, minds, and hearts is totally within our control. How we prepare our state of being for daily life is within our control. And how we do that consistently, goes a long way to determining the types of relationships we have with others.
What are your values and are you consciously choosing to move toward them? If you have a value of kindness, how are you showing that in your life? If you have a value of being patient, how are you showing that in your life? If you have a value of clear communication, how are you showing that in your life? There are hundreds of values to choose from.
And by the way, even if you’ve never even thought about them, you’re probably either moving toward or away from them anyway. The key is doing it consciously and consistently until it becomes a habit.
So, can you really be happy if you don’t meditate? Of course, you can. But if happiness truly is an inside job, what inner work are you doing to ensure your happiness and build great relationships, both within yourself, then to infinity and beyond!
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