My one word for 2016 is Nurture, as in relationships. For 2016 my goal is to reflect more on and devote greater energy to the relationships I have with everyone in my life…
One of the most powerful mentors in my life, my friend and former principal (now retired), Bob Kaufold, frequently reminded me, “Don, always stay in touch with people.” And Bob consciously followed his own advice. He was always meeting somebody for lunch, exchanging letters with friends, getting together for dinner with branches of his family. Every year he reaches out to me on my birthday to wish me well and several times a year he reminds me we need to get together for lunch. And at least once a year, we do. He is fantastic at cultivating relationships. I suppose I always thought this was for the good of the other persons, for the health of those relationships, but I’ve come to see how valuable this practice is for your own wellness as well. Thanks Bob!
This is a plant of unknown variety that my daughter and I grew from seeds a few months ago. She was excited to go to the nursery and pick out the seeds and the little pot. We grew two plants, the other one died. But this one persists, despite our neglect. I’d nearly forgotten about it until we put away our Christmas decorations. It’s hanging in there but it’ll perish if we continue to disregard it, if we do not nurture it.
It’s not that we’re abusing this plant. You can also do THAT to a relationship of course. When I was in high school biology we learned about the scientific method by growing two lima bean plants in paper cups. One was the control, the other was the variable. The control was to receive water and sunlight, the other one – -we were directed to experiment on. Some of my classmates kept their plants in closets, others watered theirs with apple juice or put them in the refrigerator. Ultimately, most of our experiments died a quick death or, at the very least, failed to keep pace with the plant that had been given sunlight and water regularly. Simply put, like a plant, a relationship will wither and die if not given attention. It doesn’t take much for a plant to thrive, it just takes a little bit of care. To use a most hackneyed metaphor, like a garden, we need to nurture relationships or they will not grow, given time, they’ll expire. Even though Juliet and I haven’t abused our plant, it’ll die soon if we don’t stop neglecting it.
Similarly, I don’t abuse relationships, in fact I love them. Ask anybody who’s ever sat in a meeting with me, I prefer the energy of the conversations to actually accomplishing anything — every time — and it shows! Nevertheless, relationships can be a challenge for me because I’m not wired to pay attention. When people talk about attentional issues they tend to focus on forgetting to do important things or remembering where they left things. But difficulty paying attention tends to affect relationships also. At work I get distracted by the engagement of constant interruptions that are the sine qua non of the principal’s existence. At home the constant pull of household chores (whether or not I actually do these chores) and the interminable needs of children drown out the deeper presence of relationships. In short busyness is the enemy of relationships for people who do not pay attention. And boy am I BUSY… all the time! These conditions have always posed problems for me but through the use of checklists and other accommodations I have reduced the number of occasions when I leave the house without my wallet or leave my phone in a restaurant to a few times per year. So I’m optimistic that with the focus of my ONE WORD for 2016 I can get better.
We can talk about initiatives and plans to achieve things… but at the end of the day, everything comes back to relationships. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So I’m looking forward to the year 2016 with my one word of focus on nurturing relationships.