“I’m sick of struggling. I’m sick of misery. I’m sick of myself and I’m sick of life!”
I leaned in and nodded because I knew there was more. After a moment of looking down silently at his hands that were clinch, he continued.
“I just want a good life. It seems to work for everyone else. Like my older brother. He and his wife act like they’re still in love. My wife and I are separated. He takes his family on great vacations. I live paycheck to paycheck and slide further down in the hole of debt. His business is going places. My side hustle is failing.”
His chin and lower lip were quivering as he looked up, and asked with almost a childlike begging: “Dr. Neecie, I’m too messed up, aren’t I?”
With a gentle smile, I responded softly: “You are not too messed up. Not at all!”
Then he asked the insightful question: “What am I missing that my brother and everyone else have?”
Although I could not speak to that directly, because I do not know his brother, I do know this:
There are distinguishing markers in those who have rich relationships, great influence and abundant finances.
When clients like this come to me, I know that at some point I need to help them recognize and develop these distinguishing markers in their lives. Developing them in your life could be transformational too!
What are they?
- Purpose & Intentionality
- Passion for Progress
- Strong Belief and Hope for Greater Things
Let’s walk through all five of them.
What is compassion? And how is it different from sympathy or empathy?
Sympathy is feeling for, empathy is feeling with, and compassion is feeling for, feeling with, and seeking to relieve any suffering in someone (something) experiencing the suffering and/or undesired feelings.
I often say sympathy sees, empathy sees and feels, compassion sees, feels, and rolls up its sleeves and takes action.
Recently, had this conversation with a man who had decided to divorce his wife. He saw (had sympathy for how it might affect his children). At a few moments, he was able to have empathy, and understand what they might feel when he delivered the news to them.
But when we were speaking about the timing to sit and speak with them, and he was struggling.
He knew that he had to deliver the news, and thought that “ripping the Band-Aid off” might be the best solution.
As we discussed various activities, holidays, and special events, he was blind to any negative impact his news might have on these things. At some point, he looked at me in pure innocence and said: “What am I missing here, Dr. Neecie?” I answered with one word: compassion.
When asked for explanation I said, “You are more interested in relieving yourself of this tough moment than you are in preventing unnecessary suffering for your wife and children.”
He asked if I was speaking about filing for divorce.
I responded, “Well that too. I’ve already explained there is nothing unsalvageable in this marriage if both of you were willing to work on it. You see that it’s hurting your wife, and you know it will hurt your kids, but you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves to make an effort to heal the relationship.”
As he looked down, I continued: “But at the moment I was speaking of not causing your kids to suffer through a holiday or miss out on special events when you have the power to do so with better planning.“
That’s what compassion is. The ability to see, feel, and roll up your sleeves, (even when it might be uncomfortable) to relieve suffering. Or prevent it.
He admitted, “So I guess I’m just selfish.”
I told him that indeed it looked a bit like selfishness, but the deeper issue was the lack of compassion. I told him that I would rather him focus on the bigger issue of compassion because regardless of what he decided (in regards to the divorce and speaking to his children), compassion is a distinguishing marker of those with rich relationships, great influence and abundant finances.
As he placed his head in his hand with his elbows on his knees, he spoke with regret and sadness: “I guess that’s why my business is struggling, my marriage is ending, and my finances have gone to hell.”
I told him I was sure there was more to it than that, but it was certainly something he might want to consider further. We could all increase the amount of compassion we have.
I recently had the joy of witnessing real compassion being demonstrated by a young man that I am sure will go far in life.
We are approaching the season of junior/senior proms. Here in Texas, they are very big deals.
I was speaking to this young man and asked him if some lucky girl was getting to go to the prom with him. With a priceless grin, he said, “Not exactly!“ As his face turned a bit red.
I could not resist asking about it. In a very humble and touching way, he said, “Well, one day, I heard one of the girls that I help coach in Special Olympics say that she wished she had a date to the prom. Another of the girls responded she wished the same thing.
The plan I had was to go with a few of my friends, and just enjoy the evening. But all of a sudden I had a new plan. After contacting their parents for approval, I decided to take all of the girls and guys on my Special Olympics team to the prom and make it a great night for them.“
That’s compassion. He saw, he felt, and he rolled up the sleeves to relieve their angst. True compassion.
What about you? How is your compassion?
When I share this, I am always asked by people who are weak in compassion how they can work on it.
I always encourage them to look around for people who are hurting, people who are in need, people who are suffering. And then at least one time weekly to step in and take action. Action to make things better for them.
Sometimes it’s just a hug that’s needed. Sometimes you could help someone lift a heavy piece of furniture. Sometimes you could make a donation.
There are millions of ways to meet needs and remedy pain and suffering.
Imagine how much richer our world would be if all of us made a concerted effort to show compassion at least one time weekly.
2. PURPOSE AND INTENTIONALITY
Those with rich relationships, great influence and abundant finances live from a place of purpose and intentionality.
What does that mean? It means they know why they are here on this earth. And they live from a place of an intentionality so that they fulfill that purpose.
I remember when I was first presented the concept of purpose or a cause. I was just returning to college after a season of traveling, singing and performing all across the United States.
There I sat, doing statistics homework, when one of my classmates came over asked me: “Why are you here?”
I responded: “Because it’s much quieter here in the back of the cafeteria to study.” (Hardly anyone ate in the cafeteria because no one was up for the chicken fried bologna, barbecue tuna fish, or other delicacies that we were served there).
He rolled his eyes and said, “No! I mean why are you here pointing to the ground?”
I said, “Because I knew that this was a good Christian environment to attend college.”
Once again, with another eye roll, he said with more intensity … “No! Why are you here on this earth? What are you supposed to do with your life to leave this world a better place?”
All of a sudden, my statistics homework made more sense to me than this outlandish question.
I began to read about purpose. The definition that struck me at the time was:
An abiding intention to achieve a long-term goal that is both personally meaningful and makes a positive mark on the world. Living for goals that foster a sense of purpose that can potentially change the lives of other people, like launching an organization, researching a disease, or teaching kids to read.
What is intentionality?
Intentionality is the ability to think, feel and act in a deliberate way towards a purpose.
After that encounter, I found my purpose. I believed my purpose was to prepare myself to make an impact on the world of depression, addiction and relationship struggles. But I knew at that time my purpose was to prepare myself with the correct education (and letters behind my name).
I began to live that purpose, and although I did not know the word “intentionality” at that time…
It was the intentionality that helped me complete nine years of education in just over 5 1/2 years.
It was intentionality that helped me build a practice, even though I was told that no one could make it in private practice.
It was intentionality that helped me open treatment centers.
It was intentionality that helped me work and study with masters to understand extraordinary living, values that drive me to goodness and goodwill, and fuel the determination to make a difference.
There’s much written about finding one’s purpose now. Years ago, I put together a workshop called “The Power of Purpose“ to help people find and/or refine their purpose.
If you don’t know your purpose, consider my workshop, read the many wonderful books out there on it, or find a coach or mentor.
We all have a purpose. Your purpose at this stage in your life may be:
- Raising your children to become awesome adults.
- Encouraging people in your neighborhood.
- Inventing something that would change the world.
You have a purpose. Follow it with intentionality.
I love all the research about how couples with rich relationships practice intentionality. Great conversation, healing moments and growth does not just happen. We must seek it, encourage it, and live it. That’s what makes relationships rich!
I understood early in my career how and why living with purpose and intentionality was a distinguishing marker of people with rich relationships, great influence and abundant finances.
Live purposefully with intentionality and your life too will be rich!
I know, I know… We all expect a Bible lesson when we hear the word grace. And certainly God’s Grace is a wonder.
However, I love this definition of grace in human interactions:
“Gifting something favorable or beneficial to someone that they do not have to earn and perhaps do not deserve.”
With the hundreds of couples that I have the privilege of seeing, Grace is a key component of those with rich relationships.
I opened this blog with the story about a man separated from his wife.
I asked him what difference he thought it might make if he chose to give her grace when she “got on his nerves.” He looked at me like he had never in his life considered such a thing.
I assured him: “You are not the first to have that reaction.”
I allowed it to soak in for a moment before I continued.
“Can you give me an example of something she does that gets on your nerves?” He asked me where he should start on his list.
As I laughed, I said, “Anywhere would be just fine with me!”
“The sigh I get when I ask her to do something for me.”
I told him that I knew that although all of us humans have failed Mind Reading 101, what he thought the sigh might mean if he could just step in to her shoes.
After a thoughtful moment, he said, “I imagine it means she already has so much to do, and I am adding to her list.”
I continued by asking him what grace might look like if he were to decide to give it to her in moments like those.
Once again, he looked as if this was something he had never once considered in his life.
With a little bit of trepidation that I might think it was actually a good way to issue grace, he suggested: “Maybe it would be showing her grace if I said to her, ‘I know you already have a lot of things to do, and I really could do that myself.’”
I could see he did not appreciate my response which was to give him a huge thumbs up and proclaim: “BINGO!”
I asked him what difference he thought it might make if he began to respond to her sighs in that manner?
“She would probably stop sighing, and I would probably start doing more things that I could do myself.”
I nodded. “And is it possible that doing so would make an impact on some of the reasons that you are separated?”
Although he was reluctant at first, he said, “It probably would … ok, yes it would!”
What difference would practicing grace make in your relationships? I can assure you this:
- If your relationship is struggling, it could save it
- If your relationship is OK, it could make it great
- if you have a really good relationship, it could make it extraordinary.
I want to challenge you this week, across your entire life (relationships, at work, with your kids, in every single area of your life) … Practice grace!
4. PASSION FOR PROGRESS
All people with rich relationships, great influence and abundance of finances have a real passion for progress.
Better said, as my dear friend Michael Gorton says, “Never rest on your laurels.”
What does that mean? It means that they love accomplishments, they love successes, they love wins.
But they don’t quit just because there has been a win.
Yes, they stop and celebrate, but they know there’s more.
They are always reaching upward and forward.
Not because they believe they’re not good enough.
Not because they think they haven’t done enough.
Not because they feel external pressure or internal pressure to do so.
Simply because they understand what Tony Robbins often says about progress:
“I always tell people if you want to know the secret to happiness, I can give it to you in one word: progress. Progress equals happiness.
That’s because reaching a goal is satisfying, but only temporarily.
There are levels of making it in life and whatever you think ‘making it’ is, when you get there, you’ll see there’s another level. That never ends, because if you stop growing, you’re going to be unhappy.”
Innately, we all have the desire to move forward.
Many people think retirement is about sitting on the front porch and rocking.
Now I’m all for sitting on the front porch and rocking and having rich conversation… But there’s a reason why many people die soon after retirement.
Many studies through the years have shown that retirement and declining health go hand-in-hand. One study conducted by Harvard indicates that those retired are 40% more likely to have a cardiac event or a stroke.
Currently there are studies being conducted that are likely to link passion for progress to be the key reason for the declining health of those retired, particularly those who do not continue their passion for progress.
We can continue our passion for progress in many ways, even after retirement:
- Learning a new skill, like playing the guitar
- Studying world history
- Taking a dance class
- Working on enriching our relationships
- Becoming more present
Passion for progress keeps us alive, well, happy and fulfilled.
Through my practice, my experience in owning inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, I have found the most miserable people to be those who have no passion for progress.
Don’t let one more day pass without finding a way to grow and make progress. Get passionate about it!
It will enrich your relationships, increase your influence, and have a positive impact on your finances.
5. STRONG BELIEF AND HOPE FOR GREATER THINGS
Over the past few years, it has become more evident than ever who those are that have hope and belief for more and greater things.
We are recovering from a pandemic.
There has been social and racial unrest.
Interest rates are rising quickly.
There is a horrible situation in the Ukraine.
The list goes on.
Despite those things, one distinguishing marker in the lives of the people who have rich relationships, great influence and abundant finances, still believe greater things and better days are ahead!
It’s not that people with this great hope for more and belief for greater things have their head in the sand.
They acknowledge what is going on in the world and have compassion.
However, their hope for more and their belief in greater things keeps them from being sucked down the dark hole of media, dismal news and distress.
Is it difficult? Of course it is.
But people have who have the ingrained sense that there are greater things ahead, who hope for more, and believe for the best do not allow themselves to be detained or held back or down by events.
How do they do that?
- With gratitude. As bad news emerges, they take time to be grateful for what they do have, for what they do get to enjoy, for the opportunity to grow and help in any way possible.
- With compassion. They roll up their sleeves instead of just seeing and feeling for. Whether it’s to say a prayer, send a care package, or raise funds… They find a way to reach out and do their best to affect change in suffering.
- With a strong sense of belief.
We all have an Owner’s Manual that was installed in us by the time we were about age 7. The entries (beliefs, how we think, how we act, etc) were created by parents, extended family, and other significant people in our lives as children.
People with rich relationships, great influence and abundant finances have accessed and made changes in that manual to help them hold onto faith. Belief for greater things.
I remember when I began working on my Owner’s Manual. I contemplated an entry that said we all should watch the 6 o’clock news so we are aware of what’s going on in the world.
I reconsidered as I read research that indicated the news:
- Was not necessarily an authority on things
- Their goal is to shock, frighten, and capture my attention
I ripped that page out of my Owner’s Manual that said we need to watch the 6 o’clock news.
Yes, I keep myself informed on current events. But not with media that uses shock value, clanging noises, flashing lights, and arguing to tell me what to think and feel.
I can access facts, feel for, and practice compassion without watching the 6 PM news that is programming me with their tactics.
Whatever is in our Owner’s Manual to help us believe for the best, we should all leave intact. The rest should be questioned. (To read more about your Owner’s Manual you can click here).
As I began to study and learn these distinguishing markers, my life began to change dramatically.
I was able to share these with the client I opened with this week. He had come and asked what he was missing, why his life was not like he wanted, particularly like his older brother’s.
We began working on all five of these things, helping him install all five points I’ve shared this week into his life.
Along with some other growth work, his marriage is now back together (and is becoming rich), he has found a way to influence young boys by coaching soccer teams, and his side hustle is now his main hustle and by the end of 2022, they will be debt-free.
As I said he did some additional growth work, and we worked on his marriage. But I would say the greatest contributors to his turnaround of life has been in developing these five distinguishing markers.
They will work for you as well. Study all five. Get intentional about installing them into your life.
My hope and prayer for you: