Sometime last year a comment was left after a post that caught my eye. Jason talked about the need for the three "P" words in life. As far as I am concerned, the first "P" he identified is crucial to a satisfying retirement and a happy life, regardless of your age or employment status. I liked his idea enough to make it the focus of this article.
Do you see people as basically a means to an end for you? You really don't have time, or even the inclination, to develop real friendships. Business relationships are all you need. The hard work of cultivating friendships is something you are just not good at, so why bother.
Or, do you view others as something to be enjoyed and cultivated? Do you view your place in life as someone who is here to help others, even if there is some harm to you. Do you believe that self-sacrifice is a good thing to pursue? Do you believe in the greater good as it relates to people? Do you work to make friendships and strengthen those bonds?
Being quite honest, for a good portion of my life I was like the first description. I was so focused on growing my consulting business that I was a "people user." A client was just a means to an end. He or she made my lifestyle possible. Except for a select few, his personal problems and needs were the farthest thing from my mind. I had virtually no friends during my "civilian" life either. I was acquainted with lots of people, but there wasn't a single one I would have trusted with a dark secret or to help me work through a problem (not counting my wife).
About six years that changed. My wife and I decided to turn our approach around. We had recently changed churches. That gave us the perfect fresh start we needed. We decided we would meet at least one new couple every week after the church service. We would learn their names, drop them an e-mail to say how much we enjoyed meeting them, and then search them out the next Sunday. This continued for 6 months. At the end of that half year, we had developed deep friendships with several couples, and meaningful relationships with dozens of others, both couples and single folks.
Does it take being retired to accept this view of people? Of course not. I was self-centered and fearful of rejection. It had nothing to do with whether I got a paycheck. But, what I have learned is almost everyone has that same fears. Most of us want a deeper connection and more meaningful relationships. But many of us are too worried about exposing vulnerabilities.
Can I ask you to try something? Promise yourself that between now and the end of the year, you will take these next five months to try my experiment. You will deliberately and consciously seek out new people. You will be the first to introduce yourself in a social setting. You will give every person you meet the benefit of the doubt: that they are worthy of your time and concern until proven otherwise.
If you seriously commit to trying this, I will promise you that your life will not be the same. You will gain self-confidence and energy. You will have added dozens, if not hundreds of people to your "I know him/her" roster. And, if you are really lucky, you will have found a few people who enrich your days and fill your life with joy.
Oh, the two other "P" words? Passion and Purpose. Both are important but can't come before People.