Where do you go from here?
This may be one of the timeliest questions at any point in time during our lives, but possibly even more now as we find ourselves in this “locked down Covid-19” situation. One of the most popular “memes” out there, as we are confined to our homes is “if you cannot go outside, go inside”. Go inside of yourself, explore what lies within, what is inside of you that you can get in touch with, explore, nurture, improve…. to understand yourself better.
Foto: Eir Bue
Beyond using this period to explore “the within” it may be a time to also plan for the future. What is it that you “want”, how do you want to spend your time, who do you want to be with, who to have around yourself? So many questions, and all this while the gurus are telling us to “stay in the moment”, to stay “mindful” and “in the present”. But how does one balance “staying in the present, yet preparing for the future?” While there may be no “one right” answer to that, but many advisors would start by telling you to ask yourself “what do you want?”
So, this weekend I started to think a bit about that: “What do I want?” I am at a “fork” in life again. I am soon 53 years old, I am divorced twice, a father of 2. I have been involved in raising 4 children, all grown up now. I have had financial, emotional and spiritual “ups and downs”. Big ones. I am healthy and resourceful (“knock, knock”), I am happy, but clearly missing something in my life, possibly many things – hell, what do I know? But most of all – a partner. I don’t like being single particularly much. I would like to be in a relationship. I would like to get back into a relationship. And now that I have time to think about it, and “going online” or “within” - I am constantly encouraged to “think about what I want”.
I dove into online research and I will share some of that with you here. I first went to the psychologist and online phenomenon Esther Perel, because she has come up in two different settings the last 6 months. One time with an Australian girl that mentioned that Esther was an emotional “mentor” and she wanted me to read Esther’s books. Maybe more on my Australian friend later. The other time I heard of Esther was in a recent professional conversation. The recommendation to Esther came from the team working with Erica Lust Productions. Yes, “Lust” as in the incredibly talented, feminist, erotic film director Erica Lust. Having already seen some of Esther’s “TED-talks” I ventured off to her own “YouTube” channel (highly recommended, see notes) to see some of her longer podcasts and interviews. At the end of one longer podcast, the host asked her “what is the best way to find what you want in a relationship?”.
Foto: Financial Times, Esther Perel
There is the question again, I thought: “What is that you want?” Whether it is in a relationship or “life in general” … let us try to figure out what it is we want, all of us. Esther’s answer was surprising and the key reason why I wrote this post. She said “the question is wrong. You should be asking yourself what is it that you can give?” Huh….!? Ah….brilliant! It is such a simple and beautiful twist: If you can figure out, and communicate what it is that you are willing to give….then your partner can have a fair chance of evaluating what he or she can expect.
If what you can “give” meets the expectations of your partner, or you can tell the same to your potential partner, and hopefully what you can give exceeds the expectations from that person, then you have a good starting point for a long term, successful relationship. It is not most important what you want, but rather what you can give.
And it is not as easy as that “if your partners expectations are met”, then he or she will be “satisfied”. No, the implication of figuring out yourself what is it that you can “give,” you also will find satisfaction and confidence in that you have “delivered your part into the relationship”.
Foto: Relationship, Wix Media
If you have “given” all that you can, and feel honest and good about that, then a successful relationship becomes a simpler equation. You will feel better because you will feel confident that you have done what you can. Confidence is a key cornerstone in a successful, long term relationship. If you can feel confident in yourself, and in what you offer and “give”, then there is a much higher probability that your partner will “be drawn” to you. This is because our partners are the most drawn to us when we are in “our elements”. Our partners want us the most when they observe us a little bit from a distance and “in the moment”. If we are confident and positive, the attraction is stronger. If we are “needy” and “complaining” that our “wants” have not been met, we are entirely unattractive.
I think there is a little bit of “dating and relationship” advice here, but also a little bit of “business advice”. I have been working with an investment of mine here in Barcelona for a while. I have the fortune of having a few companies that have established themselves in Spain. One of them has been in a long commercial relationship with one of the largest companies in Europe. One small company and one large company. The small company have tried everything it possibly could to “court” the large company. The focus has all the time been: “the customer is always right”. We want profit, and they want service, -our service. The relationship has been good, but a bit one sided. We could not make the large company “give us what we wanted”. They are too big, too slow, too good, too dominant. We don’t know. In February this year, there was a silent shift from the small company from “what do we want and what does our client want” to “what can we give”? We defined very clearly what we could “give” and “what we cannot give”. Subtly, there was a change in the narrative and negotiations with the “larger company”. They now only heard what we could give, nothing else. The message was consistent, and we made the larger company choose what it was that we could “give” while still making a profit. My read of the situation is that the balance in the “large-small company” dynamic has been restored and that the basis for a “longer term business relationship” is better than ever. So maybe relationship advice also is “business relationship” advise?
Foto: Spain, Wix
And yes, what you can “give” may change over time, from situation to situation, or as you develop and change as a person. Your resources, be it time, love, money, attention and affection are not constant. All your resources are scarce and can vary over time, -so what you can give will also never be a “constant”. To come in touch with yourself on “what you can give” from time to time is crucial. In the same way, if you are in a relationship, it is important to have that “audit” often, and at least every couple of years, because we all do change. Situations and circumstances change. We move through our life and careers; we gain, and we lose. Some people lose their job or a parent. Some people get a child or loose a sister. Our fortunes go up and down, in short, we and our circumstances do change, and so does your situation and your position to “give”. Change is everywhere. To take notice of what is it that you can “give” is incredibly important to both understand “who are you right now” and quite clearly may be best asked before you ask yourself “what do you want?” You need to be honest about what you can “give” for you and others to evaluate “if what you can give matches what they want, or vice versa.”
That is not too discredit what you “want” too fast, and certainly not entirely. It seemed to me that Esther put what we “want” away a little bit too fast in the interview that I saw. We need to explore that more later – but I loved that “a-ha” moment where Esther made me look at what can I give…..? So, join me in looking at what it is that I and you can give. If you want, you can join me on that journey. I will be honest with myself here. Then you can evaluate me and hopefully yourself. I will take a hard look.
Foto: Horizon, Wix