One handwritten note on a scrappy piece of paper hung above my desk throughout my university years.
It held just one sentence…
Remember when seeing your friends all the time was easy?
You didn’t think about ‘being intentional about friendships’ or ‘managing personal relationships’. You just hung out. None of you were being particularly deliberate about anything.
But then, of course… life. Careers. Parenthood. Post-grad studies. Business trips.
At some point, you realise you’re just not seeing your friends that often anymore, and you might be going weeks – maybe even months – at a time without anyone outside of your house knowing what’s really going on in your life. Maybe a casual movie or dinner out every couple of months, but really… somewhere along the line in life, friendship stops just happening, and becomes something we have to decide to prioritise.
So how can we do this?
Friends had been telling me how great it was for years. They would choose one word at the beginning of each year, which would serve as a kind of guide and focus for their efforts and journey throughout that coming year. It would remind them where they wanted to focus their energies when the rumble and fog of life made it easy to forget. I thought it was a good idea, but I hadn’t quite made it to the point of sitting down and going through the process of discerning a word I would truly take seriously for myself.
Until this year, that is.
Though I was slow to the ‘one word for the year’ concept, having now decided to implement it, I can see why it is so powerful.
A study done in America asked people how many confidants – how many really close friends – they have in their life. 30 years ago researchers asked the same question, and the average answer was three. The next time they asked, it had dropped to zero.
Zero confidants, was people’s most common response.
Modern life steers us towards isolation. We are just so busy juggling all the responsibilities of our lives, that we don’t automatically carve out the margin to nurture meaningful community.
Though we hold in our hand devices that connect us to almost everyone we’ve ever met, there are less and less people with whom we feel truly, intimately known.
There is one advantage that is available to anyone, requires no investment of time or money, and can radically improve your quality of life.
This is not to say that cultivating a posture of gratitude is easy. It’s not. It’s difficult. It requires discipline in our thoughts and our emotions.
And yet gratitude that is anchored in healthy and secure identity is, in my experience, all up-side. I have never in my life thought to myself, ‘You know, I think I really just should have approached that situation with a little less gratitude. I think I would have been a lot happier.”
This is a lesson of which I still have to continually remind myself. When I do, these are some of the things I tell myself: