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“Where there is love, there is life.”
I’m certainly not an expert at love, but neither am I a stranger. I have been in love a few times. It’s probably the single most amazing state of being there is, and what the rest of the universe would consider “legendary” about the human experience. I have been through many and varied relationships, practicing monogamy, polyamory, and situations in between. And I have felt–even in the midst of a powerful partnership–utterly alone.
Maintaining healthy relationships seems to be one of the more challenging aspects of 21st century life. The introduction of online dating has created more potential matches for us than were ever possible, but that system has destroyed the need to work through any arising conflict. If you don’t like the way someone’s feet smell or their choice of reading material, a new match is just a swipe away.
Whether this is a good or bad thing is irrelevant: it seems to be the new norm.
It’s important, particularly as our planet becomes more crowded, to be a loving person. Consider how you felt and the energy you must have exuded when you actually experienced feelings of hate. It was ugly, wasn’t it? Contrast that with the way you behaved to everyone and everything around you when you were particularly generous with your love.
What I realize as I get older is that everyone desperately craves love. Whether this is in the form of admiration, affection, or validation, people want to feel it. Love seems to be the zenith of our emotional capacity for pleasure, and it’s hard to get enough.
You and I both know the world needs more of it. And I’m a firm believer in being the change I want to see. Following are some ideas (in no particular order) that, when put into practice, are guaranteed to make you a better lover.
1. Tell someone that you love them.
It’s so easy, which is precisely why we take it for granted. This simple word has such a strong legacy in English. We abuse it like crazy, and it still has a tremendous impact when used well. Isn’t that amazing?
If you say these words with any kind of sincerity it is almost always arresting. And that you have the ability to change someone’s day for the better just by reminding them of what they probably know is a gift.
Think carefully about to whom you say this, because it is powerful. But if you feel it strongly, say “I love you,” and say it regularly.
2. Smile more often.
In big cities we get used to not-smiling at one another. There are just too many people, and we’ve got very important stuff to do. And then someone smiles at us and we’re struck dumb for a moment. Was that intimate, synchronized movement of facial muscles for me? Or worse: “Why was that person smiling at me?” We need to change this.
There’s quite a bit of research out there championing the universal effects of smiling, but don’t take their word for it. Smile at people you meet throughout the day and pay attention to how you’re received. You should get more information, better service, and exercise greater influence in your interactions.
3. Acknowledge a job well done.
I’ve never quite understood the notion of withholding praise. If you have ever had to teach anything to anyone, you know that positive affirmation is so important to a successful process. People like to feel as if they are making progress, and the easiest way to convey this is to verbally acknowledge that.
As a physique coach, I’ve found that grooving motor patterns is much faster with consistent feedback. By focusing on what is done well, your pupil is more inclined to make the necessary adjustments when they do err, instead of reacting with resistance.
In one of the iterations of bands I played in while living in Austin, we used to ask people from the audience to come on stage to jam with us. There was one enthusiastic young man that kept showing up. He was incredible, and we encouraged him start his own project. Aaron Behrens went on to form a very successful band called Ghostland Observatory.
When people are great, tell them.
4. Listen more.
We all feel pretty important and want to share the way we see the world or have experienced it. This is completely natural. However, you will notice things shift if you focus on listening instead of speaking for a while. Your opinion is important, and probably deserves to be heard, but stop talking for a minute and listen to everything around you.
Men specifically have a tendency to try to fix things any way that they can, as quickly as possible–often to the detriment of the situation at hand. Whatever your sex, if you spend more time telling than hearing, fix that disparity. Listening is a unique demonstration of love that wins you more friends, allows you to gain wisdom, and will help you to understand and practice tolerance.
5. Give more.
Come from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. Help people out. Share what has worked for you. Give advice when it is asked for. If you can spare some change, give it. When someone needs you to be there, go. Give. This will enhance your life in ways that you won’t immediately see.
Everyone should have access to ideas about how to be healthy, enhance their experience on Earth, and improve the world in simple ways. When you make the transition from a Taker to a Giver, you will impact the world in a bigger way. Give more of yourself and make the world a better place.
6. Make your relationship(s) memorable.
I met a beautiful girl when she and I were both years into our own respective relationships. We fell in love and fled to Costa Rica for 11 days of absolute bliss. It was something that had to happen, and I would do it the same way every time. However, when we came back, we had to face the enormously difficult task of saying goodbye to our significant others.
After that, we went all over the U.S. and the world, including Paris, Seoul, Buenos Aires, and more. We explored, worked, experimented, fought, celebrated, wept, feasted, battled illness, solved puzzles, and made art together. Without those things we would have parted ways very early on.
I think of relationships like fire: they burn so bright and hot at the beginning, but eventually cool and need to be tended more closely. Feed the fire.
Or at least stoke the flames.
7. Write one hand-written letter a month.
It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. You sit down, write the thoughts on paper that the 21st century urges you to type on your personal computing device, and then put your thoughts in the mail. It’s a fairly archaic and therefore dying form of communication, but it’s also awesome because of this.
I don’t get handwritten letters very often, but when I do, there is something magic going on. Plus, you get to write in cursive, which is just dope. Marshall McLuhan’s famous line, “The medium is the message,” is completely apt here. And in the 21st century, this medium is a message of love.
8. Get off the internet in public.
We live in an age of distractions. All of the technological conveniences are creating a race of people desperate to devour information. The sheer volume of data that is screaming to be consumed extends far beyond traditional media outlets into just about every moment of being online.
Ironically, the global connection taking place is directly leading to more self-isolating behavior than ever. This is interesting because we have no idea what the long-term implications of this will be.
I see a lot of couples out and about, and one or both of them are immersed in their phones. Make this your rule: when you are spending time with people, be with them. Put your device away. Stop trying to be right, or relevant, or whatever. It’s all a distraction, a way to keep you dissatisfied with who and where you are… It’s all a sale.
Be present. Be you.
And love more.
Excerpted and adapted from the book Useful Things
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