We are at our best when we are in healthy relationship with one another. Practically speaking, our network of relationships impacts our lives in a myriad of ways: Finding the right doctor, getting that new job, landing a key referral, meeting a significant other – all of these are key factors to our life satisfaction and success.
The Value of Relational Capital
Relationships also affect our lives psychologically. According to the Association for Psychological Science, “people who spent a year making a renewed effort to help others, or spent more time with friends and family, were the only participants who measurably increased how they rated their own life satisfaction.”  Alternatively, social isolation leads to significant increases in anxiety, panic attacks, depression, paranoia, and loss of clear thinking. One recent study suggests that socially isolated people may even experience dangerous changes in brain chemistry.
An article published by the University of Utah further highlights some of the physical benefits of healthy relationships. These include living longer, having healthier immune systems, healing quicker, lower blood pressure, and better heart health. Scholars estimate that, regardless of your heart health, social isolation can increase risk of death anywhere from 50-90%.
No wonder that in only the second chapter of the Bible we see it recorded that God looks at His creation and declares, “it is not good for man to be alone”. While much of the Christian faith is focused on restoring relationship between God and mankind, a full understanding of redemption is impossible without embracing how much of scripture focuses on healthy relationships between humanity.
So if we are better off practically, psychologically, mentally, physically, and spiritually when we are in healthy relationships, why is building relational capital often a back-burner thought? And what can we do to grow this area of our life portfolio?
The Time is Now
The reasons we don’t prioritize relational capital are numerous, but one of the key reasons can be acceptance of one of the most dangerous lies around: “Tomorrow”. It is easy to assume that we have plenty of time to invest in relationships when all the other areas of life are in line and, as a result, delay putting in the needed relational time and effort today. However, we are not promised tomorrow and if we truly embrace the impact of relational capital today, then we should not delay giving time and effort to intentionally developing healthy relations.
Healthy relationships don’t just happen on their own, and while they require time, time alone is not enough. Healthy relationships have key characteristics. Psychology Today provides a list of characteristics present in good relationships including honesty, open communication, empathy, consistency, trust, accepting differences, and practicing healthy compromise. So how do you cultivate the relationships in your life?
Intentional Steps to TAKE:
- Identify Key Relationships: As with other forms of investment, a shotgun approach does not lead to the results. Starting with family, make a list of 5 – 10 relationships to give attention. Consider neighbors, co-workers, friends, business relationships, and other social circles.
- Be Consistent: Desired results in life require steady action and progress over time. It is how Rome was built and the Grand Canyon formed. However, with relationships, not only is consistency required for success but a lack of consistency is damaging. If the steps being taken are new, remember it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than to set expectations that cannot be maintained over time.
- Schedule Regular Time: Healthy relationships require time together, but life gets busy…and crazy…and time becomes an invaluable commodity for most of us. Prioritizing relationships is no different than prioritizing other items on our calendars – if it isn’t planned it likely won’t happen. I have weekly time scheduled with my wife, each of my boys, the young men I mentor, and two different groups of friends. In addition, I have calls scheduled with others important relationships every week on a rotating schedule.
- Schedule Special Events: Not all important relationships require special time together, but key relationships are greatly enhanced by such time. While a getaway or special event with family may seem obvious, shared outings with important others is a significant way to build relational capital. Dividing special times into weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually segments may help manage such a schedule. A weekly date night, monthly golf game, quarterly weekend away with friends, quarterly weekend with family, an annual ski trip with a group of guy friends, and annual family vacation are examples of what a special event calendar might look like.
- Random Acts: The random part is for the recipient, but the frequency of such things should be intentionally managed by the initiator. It can be as simple as writing a card of encouragement each day, sending a couple of social media messages a week, or making a call every day on the commute home.
At a time when our social interactions have all been limited by the COVID situation, the need to invest in relational capital is on many of our minds. Some of the suggestions here may need to be amended due to COVID protocols, but the effects of our relational capital, both good and bad, are too great to not give increased attention. COVID will likely pass, but there will be another situation at some point that will be better faced with a strong relational balance sheet. So be ready, and invest fully today.
Ready to dig deeper? Get started today, by better understanding your risk tolerance level and how that fits with the investments you currently hold.
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Josh Arrington is the Senior Business Development Manager of Archetype Wealth Partners. He is energized when helping high-capacity individuals discover their creative purpose and grow to their maximum impact in that calling. Archetype exists to help families thrive across generations.
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