The Focus Course

On Relationships

The more time I spend thinking about the importance of relationships, the bigger the topic becomes. To make a massive understatement, relationships play a significant role in my life.

But when I reflect on the things that I hope to accomplish in my lifetime they all revolve around people.

The legacy that I hope to leave behind is tied to my wife, kids, family, friends, acquaintances, and community.

As I finish an extended period of time researching, writing, and reflecting on the topic of margin, I keep coming back to this quote.

Margin, however, knows how to nurture relationship. In fact, margin exists for relationships. — Dr. Richard Swenson, from Margin

Margin exists for relationships.

I keep turning this concept over in my brain.

While I am in absolute need of restoring margin in my life, it ultimately isn’t just about me, margin is about other people.

I’m not completely surprised by this, just caught a little off guard. I need emotional margin. I need physical margin. I need margin in my schedule. I need financial and mental margin. So that, I can more fully engage in and be present in the relationships in my life that matter most.

* * *

The other thing that continues to bounce around in my mind through all of this is how fundamentally social we are as human beings.

I was once again caught somewhat off guard recently reading Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism. Smack dab in the middle of the book is a short section about a neurological study that was done by The University of Washington. They were looking for common areas of the brain that were active spanning across different activities.

What they ended up finding was the areas of the brain that become active when we’re not doing anything. They termed this part of the brain the default network. i.e. The part of our brain the lights up when we’re not actively engaging a task or activity.

…once scientists knew what to look for, they discovered that the regions of the brain that defined the default network are “virtually identical” to the networks that light up during social cognition experiments. When given downtime, in other words, our brain defaults to thinking about our social life. — Cal Newport, from Digital Minimalism

As it turns out, the default network brain activity is all about understanding our social circle. We are social by default.

The introverts in the world may have a limited capacity for social interactions, but still at core, we are wired for social interaction.

* * *

In our instant messenger, screen addicted, anxious and stressed out age, we are in desperate need of margin. But could it be that the purpose of margin is to lead us back to caring for the thing that is ultimate in the first place? Relationships.

Doesn’t it make sense that in our over stimulated age we need to return to the ancient practice of relating to other people. We stare at screens, we scroll social feeds, we reply to emails and texts, but maybe we just need to look into another persons eyes and see compassion. To relate to anothers experience over coffee instead of leaving a comment.

I’m not quite sure where this journey of exploring the topic of relationships will lead. But I know that it is deeply connected to our vision and values as an individuals, and deeply connected to our fundamental needs as humans.

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