Today’s topic is taken from something I learned from my friend James Altucher; he shared that every day he does some brain training. It is kind of like exercises because if you want a bigger muscle you go to the gym and lift weights. If you want to have better endurance, you go and work on your cardio, and if you want to improve something you go and work on it.
But most of us don’t take the time to work out our mental muscles as much as we do our physical and emotional muscles. This is inconsistent because if you want to get more steady and balanced emotionally you have to do stuff like meditation or other things that help you to learn how to regulate or release pent up emotions.
So one thing James recommends is that every day, pick a topic and write down 10 things about it, around it, within it or whatever you are curious about regarding that topic. Force your brain to dig deep and find ten things to write about.
So last night, my wife and I did ten love lessons that we have learned. We specifically focused on what we had learned. Yes, I have been married and will make five years in marriage in September.
In today’s lesson, I will share my 10 love lessons I have learned and hopefully, they will be useful to you. As I share these lessons, I would like you to share in the comments what your number one love lesson has been about love or relationships that you might think is useful for other people on this topic.
Lesson #1: In Relationships, You Really Want to Know and Deliver on Their Needs, Wants and Desires
There’s a difference between needs, wants, and desires. A need is something you can’t live without, such as oxygen. So what is the oxygen of your partner? What are the things they absolutely need from you, with you, around you so that they feel alive in your relationship? You need to know those needs and deliver on them.
As for wants, your partner can have a great relationship if they didn’t have them, but they still want them. These could be things that make them curious or excited, the things that make them feel alive. What are your partners’ wants and are you delivering on them?
Finally, desires. What are the little things that they don’t even know how to express in words, those little things they judge themselves on and even feel weird bringing them up to you? For example, they may have desired someone who would rub their feet as soon as they got home, but to them, they think it would be selfish to ask for such a treat when they get home tired. Or they desire someone that would cook them their favorite meal every day, or someone who would tell them they love them in a certain special way, or anything someone can desire. Do you know these desires and are you delivering on them? And, what are your own needs, wants and desires in a relationship?
Lesson #2: Go to the Relationship to Give Rather Than to Get/Take
Personally, one of my needs in a relationship is that the person I am with has to be all out to give because I have also trained myself to seek to give in a relationship. I wasn’t always like this, but I have trained myself to be that way. If I am with someone who just takes, then it would end up becoming a one-sided relationship. We need to be giving to each other constantly so that the relationship stays balanced. Other people regard honest communication, respect, acknowledgment and other things as needs in relationships.
I want someone to have fun with, I want someone to travel the world with, I want someone that we can go and volunteer with, and I want someone that loves to laugh. As for my desires, I share those with my wife; she knows!
Write down what you need, desire and want. Secondly, write down how what you need, desire and want can be given to you. For example, someone may write that they need love and their partner comes and pats them on the back saying that they have given them love. But the person complains saying, “That’s not love!” So, how do you want to receive your needs, wants and desires? Being clear on your “how” clears the air when you give in your way yet your partner doesn’t see things that way.
You truly want to connect with them so that when they receive what you are offering, they understand what it is that you are offering. Speak their language!
So, go into a relationship to give because if you go with the intention to get, you will drain whatever it is that they have to give (attention, love, respect, etc.) and when that happens, you will have to go somewhere else to find it! This is why people go to work, to kids, to other places to fill up; yet people who go into a relationship with the intention of giving, the only reason why you will get low is because you have stopped giving in that relationship. So, go to give instead of to take or get.
Lesson #3: Assist Them in Being Their Best Self
I have learned that in relationships you can either be at your best (slept, ate, worked out, feeling good, happy, fulfilled, and alive). Or, we could be our average self (maybe we are hungry, haven’t slept enough, a little frustrated or overwhelmed, etc.). We could also be our worst self (our sleep got screwed, we are exhausted, we haven’t eaten, we just got off a long flight and we are totally frustrated about something, etc.)
Now, I take it upon myself to be constantly helping my wife to elevate towards her best self. For example, I ask her, “What time should we head to bed tonight or what should we do to make sure that you are the happiest, healthiest or most fulfilled version of yourself?” I take it upon myself as my responsibility to help her to get there. Luckily, she also takes it as her responsibility to help me get there. So there’s a beautiful thing that we are both helping each other get to our best level.
Lesson #4: Make Turning Their Dreams into Reality One of Your Top Goals Every Year
One of my top things every year is to take one thing from my wife’s bucket list, the things she has always dreamed of doing and make it one of my top goals so that throughout the year, I work to figure out how to make that dream literally become reality.
And what does this look in reality? Well, she loves animals, so we’ve flown all the way to Australia so she can hold and cuddle a Koala, we’ve also flown to the Bahamas so she can swim with the swimming pigs and this last year we went to Jungle Islands so she can hang out and feed the kangaroos there and the year before that we flew to Chengdu, China so she could snuggle a panda. I make it my personal goal to turn her dream into reality each year and that is one of my top 10 love lessons.
Lesson #5: Turn on the Praise and Appreciation Faucet
If there was a faucet of praise and appreciation, turn it on and break the handle so that you could never turn it off. What does that mean?
In most surveys done of bosses about what most employees want, the bosses always say employees want more pay and more vacation time. But when employees are asked what they want more of, they reply that they want more employee appreciation and the boss says, “But we already have that, we have all these trips and the money that employees can earn.” The employees get frustrated at this because they aren’t referring to prizes and incentives; they are talking about “please” and “thank you.”
The same thing applies in relationships. What we imagine they want is always those other things but in reality if you turn on the praise and appreciation faucet and literally break the handle and start saying “thank you” for every little thing they do, like my wife just made me a little wonderful lunch right here and I just walked over to her and said thank you for putting in the effort and time and all the love. And then I picked up the dishes and put them in the washer and she stopped me and said, “Thank you for the fact that you cleaned up the plates for us.” Then I walked in and heard her listening to a Performance Coach University caller she is grading for one of our students who is graduating and I said, “Hey, thank you for doing that. I really appreciate how you take care of our students like that so well.” That’s all it means, to turn on the praise and appreciation faucet, break the handle and never turn it off.
There is research that shows that in a business if the negative to positive ratio is even, the relationship is dead. If it is three positives for every one negative then you are stable and if it is six positives for every one negative then you are growing and getting closer to each other. So there’s science here, not just a feel-good thing if you turn the faucet on and break the handle, you are able to keep the positive to negative ratio in the right balance so that you are constantly growing and getting more deeply connected instead of falling apart.
Lesson #6: Every Piece of Communication is Either an Act of Love or a Call for Help
This is very important to us here because we have family, lots of friends, staff, we travel and there is a lot going on. You have to remind yourself that every single act of communication is either an act of love or a cry for help. Now that comes from a book called A Course in Miracles, this lesson is something that is so important in your relationship because so often, someone says something at the moment when they are their worst self (exhausted, tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc.) and you take it personally (“Oh, how could you say that?” “Why would you say that!”)
At such a moment, you have to pull back and ask yourself, was that an act of love or a cry for help? When you realize it was a cry for help, your question then becomes, “How can I help?” You then show the person some love so that they become a better version of themselves.
It is important to remember that every act of communication, including verbal and non-verbal communication (looks, attitudes, things they do or don’t do), is either an act of love or a cry for help. If it ain’t love, find ways to help.
Watch The Full Video Below!
Lesson #7: Master Turning Towards the Person (Instead of Away or Against Them)
This comes from Gottman University, they did 30-years of research on 3,000 couples and they figured out what made people masters of relationships or disasters in relationships. What they found out was that one thing the masters did was that they constantly turned toward each other.
What this means is that they put these couples in an apartment which they termed “the love lab” and they turned on video cameras so that the researchers could watch these couples interacting with each other. As they were doing this, they observed that for example if the husband was reading the paper and filling out the crossword puzzle during breakfast and the wife was by the window from where she calls out to him, “Wow, look at that!”
The husband, in this case, has one of three options; he can turn against her (“well, that is dumb!”). He can also turn away (“Just a minute honey, I’m almost done with this.”). Alternatively, the third choice is to turn towards her by setting down what he is doing, and then looking at what she is pointing out to him (Oh, check that out, that’s interesting!”).
Download your Away vs. Towards vs. Against worksheet below to practice this exercise.
The researchers found that the people who more often than not turned towards rather than away or against their partners became the masters of relationships and their relationships lasted. The couples were taken from all kinds of religions, racial backgrounds, nationalities and so many other variables.
The people who stop what they are doing and turn towards their partner when a bid for attention is made are verbally and non-verbally telling their partners that nothing else is more important than what they have to say. In contrast, those who turn away are telling their partners that there is something more important than the partners.
You therefore want to practice turning towards your partner. It sounds easy, but it is harder than it sounds. Do the work and become a master of turning towards the person you are in a relationship with.
Lesson #8: Understand Where They Are, What Stage of Life They Are In and Where They Are Going
It is very important for you to understand what stage your partner is in and what phase or stage is coming next. Two books, The Amazing Development of Men (talks about the natural stages that men go through in their evolution) and the second book is The Queen’s Code; Understanding Women, Unlock the Mystery (this book explores the natural stages that women go through) explain this clearly. We also do a whole piece on this in our Performance Coach University program to teach our coaches how to identify the stage of life their client is currently in, what responsibilities they are ready for and what responsibilities they are going to be ready for in future in their next stage, and how to prepare them for it mentally, emotionally and physically.
Same thing applies in your relationship. The ability to understand the stage your partner is in and what they are ready to take responsibility for in that stage and what’s next is important for you.
Lesson #9: Mastering Positive Meanings Together
This is so important! What does this mean? When something happens, you have the power to apply a meaning to it. For example, my mum literally passed away in my arms this past Thursday evening at her home in Asheville, Northern Carolina. Now, my family has reacted in all sorts of ways. Some people are devastated because it means she is gone forever, and that is a totally normal reaction.
Personally, I have so much peace in my heart because the meaning for me is, she is out of pain. She was in so much pain those last few days and so it is beautiful to know that she is out of that pain. Truly, it gets so warm in my heart knowing that she gets to get out of that pain and gain some freedom back in her spirit and be abundantly free to move and not be stuck in that body with so much pain anymore.
And so mastering the meaning changes those moments dramatically because does it mean it is the beginning of something beautiful for her, or does it mean the end of something that no longer exists? The ability to adjust the meaning in your mind changes everything (how you feel, what you do, what you think about, etc.)
In your relationship, you are all going to hit hard times. It isn’t a matter of whether it is going to happen, it is surely going to happen. Everyone goes through tough times in their life. Mastering the meaning together will absolutely transform how you go about that journey together because if every time something happens you create a horrific meaning, I guarantee you that you are going to struggle as a couple.
However, if every time you go through the hardest times together you create a meaning that empowers you both, you will be strengthened and you will make it through the toughest times. Master meanings and squash little monsters that creep into your mind from time to time. This means killing the meaning that creeps into your mind and yet that meaning isn’t empowering, that limits you, that breaks you down or hurts you, squash those using these three steps they use in therapy;
- Acknowledge the thought (I see you!)
- Appreciate it (Thanks for coming by)
- Adjust it (You’re not needed, so I switch to another thought)
Lesson #10: Get Your Personal PhD on Relationships
If you are going to have a great relationship, make it your personal goal to put together your PhD on relationships. What does this mean? If you were intent on becoming a doctor, a PhD, you would go to school, and the school would have a curriculum aimed at preparing you to become a doctor. You’d have certain classes to take, certain programs to go through, educational qualifications or requirements to achieve or exams to take, etc. Do the same thing for yourself and your relationship.
Create your own program (I think Berkley does this) by writing down the books you are going to read, the courses you are going to take, the programs you are going to learn from, the teachers you are going to connect with. Write out a 7-year outline of everything you are going to practice, prepare and master so that seven years from now you will really master this topic. And once you have become a PhD on the topic of relationships (I spent five years studying this before I met my wife and now coming this September, we shall be five years into marriage and that will be my 11th year of studying, practicing and teaching on relationships, and it is useful and also working).
This concept of getting your personal PhD and once you get it, the next pieces will be “yearly continuing education units.” This means that every year, you find a way to reinvest in getting a little more education to add to your toolbox.
Let me give you an example. I completed the Level 1 Couples Therapy Course at the Gottman University this year as my additional or continuing education on the topic of relationships. I got three days’ worth of content on tools, strategies and things I can apply in my relationship so that my relationship gets better. And so every year, I go for one program like that to learn. Mine is learn it, apply it in my own life and pay it forward by helping other people acquire the same skills.
Hopefully, this is helpful, useful and applicable in your life. Download Your Away vs. Towards vs. Against worksheet below and have a great time implementing these lessons!
To Your Success,