What We Consider “Work”
Over the holidays a friend and I discussed whether it should take “work” or “hard work” to create a great relationship. In the ensuing conversation, I discovered the implication that “work” referred to “working out” at the gym, which she did, but only because she knew she needed to. For her that was the real “work.” On the flip side of the conversation I realized that she loved her job which she was very, very good at. She didn’t see this as “work,” but as following her passion, even though it often involved long hours.
Working To Play
I have been mulling this over all week, and in a totally different context I came across Webster’s definition of a goal: “… an area or object toward which play is directed in order to score.” If I go back to the coaching analogy, coaching sports is about teaching athletes to play well in order to score, achieve victory, or stand on the podium. Players choose to play for a team so that as a coach, I can push them to excel. In practice we “work” hard in order to “play” better, but again the players choose to join a team, nobody forces them. Those of us who have played sports know how hard we can “work” in order to “play” better whether it is practicing golf, or training for a marathon.
Discipline Reaches Goals
Could the same hold true for creating a great relationship? What if we thought in terms of creating a great relationship as the object toward which play is directed in order to win the prize. There is a choice involved as in all sports, as well as discipline to practice the necessary skills. I, personally, believe you have to make a conscious choice about creating a great relationship and then disciplining yourself to stick with that choice which involves effort. But isn’t that what we do all the time? Whether it is remodeling the house, creating a garden, playing a sport, or raising our children. We make a choice about what we want to create and then follow through, often with some difficulty. Perhaps we made a New Year’s resolution this year – we made a choice and now we have to follow through. It seems to me that any great enterprise demands discipline and putting in effort, but isn’t it worth it?
So, does creating a great relationship require “hard work” or “hard play?” I prefer the latter. It shouldn’t feel like a grind, or toil, or drudgery, or labour, but it definitely requires a conscious decision followed by discipline to acquire the necessary skills. Think of any skill you have acquired, whether driving a car, riding a bike, or learning to speak another language. At the start it requires more conscious effort but over time the new behaviours become automatic. I believe the same is true in creating the relationship of your dreams. The four key skills we need to practice to keep the relationship safe are: communicating safely, asking for an appointment to discuss anything negative, removing all negativity from the relationship, and amplifying the positives. Will we do it perfectly? No. Remember Adler’s famous saying:
“Have the courage to be imperfect!”
Is it worth the effort? I truly believe it is. The bonus, of course, is that with practice, the new behaviours will become as automatic as the old, but the outcome will be pleasure instead of pain. And it just gets better and better!