Investing in friendship

How what seems like the least productive thing to do actually brings greatest returns

I would describe myself as kind of a work-a-holic. I work for myself and I’m a pretty hard task-master. I set high goals in my work life, and while I’m perfectly okay with things not panning out, I make sure I work as hard and effectively as I can to give each of my ideas the greatest chance of success.

Most of my day is spent industriously working through my to-do list. Granted, most of the things on my list are relating to projects that will have positive outcomes for community, but still… I notice that it’s an effort to squeeze in time to call a friend, or connect with people who I love. I’m well aware that my friends and family are actually the most important thing in my life, and yet I rarely make the decision to skip work in order to hang out with friends. That feeling of being unproductive is just too strong to ignore.

And then… a funny thing happened the other day that made me rethink my concept of productivity.

Friends of mine had gone away for about a week. During their time away, a mutual friend came to visit. She mentioned that she had just dropped in to our friends’ house. She had noticed the mail in the letter box and had taken it in for them. I replied that that was funny because I had also dropped in and noticed that their washing basket, which was outside had filled up with rain. So I tipped it out so that it wouldn’t be covered in algae when they got back. My husband then said that that was really funny because he had also dropped in and watered their vegetable garden.

None of us were asked to drop in and check on their house but all three of us had gone for some reason and contributed something towards making sure our friends were okay.

So why did we do that? And that was the light-bulb moment. These friends in question don’t focus their lives on achieving work-related outcomes. They work, of course. But their focus is very clear… enjoying life with friends and family. They contribute more to this community than most. They are active volunteers. They take part in community events and they are always ready to help friends in any way. We, as the friends, feel deeply valued, and in turn, value them enough to care for them even when they aren't there.

And this is what made me think about my to-do list. If I focused purely on the jobs I needed to do, every day, who would check in on my house when I go away? Who would be there to support me when I need it? Who would come and visit even though I haven’t asked?

Now I’m not saying we should all drop work and just hang out with friends, but this is a lovely reminder that it’s the support network of friends and family that is the most valuable asset we have.

As Psychologist Shirley Vandersteen writes: “Good friends are vitally important to your mental health and to the quality of your life. To live and to love are inseparable from each other. You must be willing to invest the necessary time and effort to develop, nourish, and maintain the bonds of a strong relationship.”

So… the take-home is that we can work all our lives to build up wealth and secure our future from a financial point of view, but it’s the quality of our connections that will ultimately provide us with the greatest sense of support and security.

So step away from the screen… and go meet a friend, knowing that you’re actually being more productive than ever!

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