Who are the most significant people in your life? How do they view you? Do they rely on you? Draw strength from you? Are they fed from your nature or drained by it? This is, perhaps, life’s most critical question. If you can’t answer YES, where are you?

People can learn how to understand and express themselves so they can get inside the lives of the people they care about most. So go there! Belong. Add value. The life you want to have compels you to be genuine, uniquely yours, truly understanding of yourself and how/why you interact in your relationships. Your deepest desire is to be loved and loving it, making your contribution seamlessly, knowing how to do this in an everyday way.

Other-centeredness is much more than a do-good notion. It ensures our enriched survival. Take away our linkages to whom and what enfolds us and we suffer unbearable isolation, a life that lacks the capability to meet the challenges of a complex world. Family, friends, factories, fields and streams, coworkers and neighbors, strangers toward whom we’re moving, or will—this is the human inborn disposition: ties that bind. Too many fail to step up onto this building block and instead fall into a boiling stew-pot of self-reference. This oversight taints lives across the social fabric and threatens danger to the loner’s health—physically and emotionally.

What follows are thought-starters to ponder, questions to ask yourself, plus an excerpt of a poem I wrote you might want to reflect on for a bit. They are thought-starters to begin a journey to a more authentic you, a you who truly adds value to the lives of others. I invite you to commit one hour to this exercise. Maybe Sunday morning over coffee, Tuesday over lunch or with a glass of wine Friday evening. Don’t walk away.

Dedicate that hour to you and move into reflection mode. Grab a notepad and free your mind. Let images pop into your head. Dismiss no thoughts or ideas; even those that initially seem silly may lead to great insights. Go! Range far and wide. Learn lessons where you don’t expect to find them.

  • List the people in your life. Think about family, teachers, coaches and clergy—everyone who has influenced or supported you. Include relatives, bosses, colleagues, subordinates, customers and suppliers. Remember the old friend who’s slipped off your radar, the beloved aging neighbor.
  • Ask yourself: Do I bring them joy? How do I enrich the lives of others?
  • What am I here for?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Whom do I want to connect with? Who can I teach? Who can teach me?
  • Am I awake to people who touch me deeply. What is it about them that’s about me?
  • Valor and value come from the same root, val, meaning “worth.” Multiply your worth by showing valor in the little things.
  • Wait-staff in restaurants who lack peripheral vision fail. Same story with executives. Same story with parents.
  • Let’s say you grew up in the wrong part of town. Maybe you should go back for a visit. Maybe you could make the difference there for someone.
  • Together and separate is the paradox to live, learn, experiment with, and relish—the growth in the other means the growth in you.
  • Think of team in everything you do. Your individual effort is critical as ever, but merely your expression of the team apart.
  • Have you learned how to be a good team leader? Team member? These skills must be learned. This means getting trained and practice.
  • Encouragement does not mean mild, bland support but to help make courageous. This is one way we are our brother’s keeper. Step in.
  • Loving is the only way to find out what in life you’re being asked to do.
  • Modeling is showing how you do it well while keeping your mouth shut.
  • The notion of being held up—supported—grates on us somewhat because we don’t like to think of ourselves as being so dependent—weak, even. Don’t kid yourself; you have needs. Everybody does.
  • “If everyone would sweep in front of his own door, the whole world would be clean.” - Goethe

Destiny (excerpt)

The dark waters you entered
will part.
No powers of fear or treachery
will defeat you.
You came willingly,
conveyed into the swells
by summons of the divine source -
who spends all
your vitality.
You complied
without hesitation
because you know
you’re needed.

Reach out. Open up. Let in. This is the true nurturing of self. Set your notes aside and reflect next week upon what you’ve written. The insights you uncovered are powerful ideas that lead to new self-discovery and, if you follow them, meaningful change that will enrich not only your life, but the lives of everyone around you. It’s Christmas. Take some time. Be silent. Look around.