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Why a Good Life Moves at the Speed of Affection

Why a Good Life Moves at the Speed of Affection

If you want to know what someone is really proud of, just listen to the way they introduce themselves.

The most profound question we ask one another–and we ask it all the time–is “who are you?

Now that question feels a bit too intense for some people, so we’ve augmented it. We now say, “what do you do for a living?” But the answer is really the same. What do you draw your life from? What have you accomplished?

How do you define yourself?

The answer to this question reveals a lot more than you think.

Most people measure their lives in terms of their accomplishments. They look over the course of their history and mention the notable events others might validate. Of course, this is true for doctors and lawyers and anyone else whose degree alters the letters before their name. But it’s also true for tradesmen and stay-at-home moms, too.

We define our lives by our successes.

We believe we are the sum of what we’ve done–we derive fulfilment from our accomplishments.

But life doesn’t move at the speed of accomplishment, no matter how quickly we throw ourselves into the next thing. Life becomes richer through relationship. And relationships move forward at the speed of affection.

It’s very Hallmark of me to talk about the importance of relationships. But good relationships are something everyone wants, and few people do well. The reason why we default to defining ourselves by our accomplishments is because our accomplishments are so measurable. The purpose of those events are baked right into their memory. You worked so hard to get that degree. You wanted to start a business so badly!

There is nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments. But far too many people have become addicted to their own definition of success–and it’s causing their relationships to suffer.

We have an agenda for people. We either want to help them (and in doing so, make ourselves feel better) or we want them to help us (and in turn, move closer to our next accomplishments).

What if life is more of a gift than that?

What if their life is more of a gift than that?

What if your highest purpose is simply to behold the beauty and the wonder of other people? To give them your affection–in the middle of your mutual mess–and to receive affection graciously in return?

You can’t force intimacy. You can’t make someone like you quickly without being manipulative.

The people you are invited to love are going to take time.

Not time to fix them.

Time to enjoy them.

When was the last time you were thankful just for the privilege of knowing who you do?

What if we rewired our ambitions, so that instead of pursuing our next success, we decided to uncover a new depth and dimension of wonder in the ones we’ve been taking for granted?

I’ll never forget the first time I saw my wife and son having a moment together. They were looking at each other and giggling, and they didn’t notice me watching. It was then that I realized: life gives me the gift of beholding others–and that’s about it. My affection, and my significance, follows the ones I love. My meaning and purpose are inexorably tied to the people I care for.

Now, when I introduce myself, I start with my proudest relationships. I’m the father of Avai, and the husband to Leisha. And I couldn’t be prouder.

My life’s goal is to always find a better, more powerful way to show them my affection. To discover the remarkable way they’ve been created, and the joy I find in being the only person who gets to witness them the way I do.

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