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leaders who make an impact on the world

A Rocky Relationship is Better Than No Relationship

Many times, I like to share stories to help give us context or visualize the topic we discuss. This comes from one of our themes that we need to extract lessons from the lives of other leaders.

However, one of our other themes is we need to extract lessons from our own lives. Today, I’d like to place a challenge before you which requires you to go into your past and revisit a story of conflict and pain. It might be uncomfortable…but that’s okay.

Here’s the challenge…

Reflect on a circumstance where you were upset and hurt in your past, but now you see how the situation was actually to your benefit and put you in better conditions. How can you apply the new perspective you learned from this circumstance to a current situation in your life?

Stop reading and take a few moments to connect back to a situation where you were upset and hurt. More than likely it involved some type of conflict in a relationship. Revisit this context before continuing to read…

Go back…to go forward

Today’s challenge comes from our fundamental of success of Having a Vision.

It’s pretty obvious Having a Vision is all about the future. But today’s challenge asks us to look into the past so we can have a better perspective of the future.

One of the areas where we can experience the most hurt and pain is in our relationship with others. I’m sure it wasn’t too hard for all of us to look into our past and find a situation where we were upset or hurt by something which someone did to us.

The real question is…how could a situation where we are in conflict with someone actually be to our benefit and put us in better conditions?

Go inside…to improve relationships on the outside

The answer lies in the fact real change occurs from the inside-out. However, it often takes adversity for us to look on the inside.

Have you ever had something bad happen to you and someone said, “Well, you’re going to need to do some soul searching.”

I’ve had someone say this to me before and maybe you have also. But why do we have to wait for something crushing to happen in order to look inside and search our soul?

This is why journaling can be one of the greatest techniques and habits we can employ. This is why we need to strive to get 1% better each day. This is what building our leadership skills so we can write our own story is all about.

It’s about looking inside ourselves.

It’s about working to become the best version of ourselves every day.

It’s about finding purpose for our lives…and giving away our gifts and abilities to the world through the relationships and connections we create.

So what are the better conditions which can result from rocky relationships we experience?

Focus on WHO

The first way we can benefit from rocky relationships is it can force us to look inside and focus on the WHO of our vision. In other words, WHO do we really want to become? What is the best possible version of ourselves? This is what we call the primary aspect of our vision.

But we often set goals for the future centered on the secondary aspects of our vision: WHAT we want to accomplish WHEN we want it to happen, and WHERE we want to be (whether it is a physical location or a social standing).

We don’t always react well when things don’t go according to our plans. A lot of times we give up when we don’t think there’s a chance.

Students who don’t think they have a chance of getting a certain grade often give up. Athletes who don’t think they have a chance of winning a game give up. And as teachers and coaches when we think we have kids who are too difficult to reach, we give up.

No matter the circumstances and whether or not we are going to achieve the goals of our secondary vision, we can ALWAYS learn more about ourselves and use the situation to become the person we truly want to be.

Rocky relationships can provide the opportunity we need to look inside ourselves and focus on the WHO of our vision.

See the World Differently

The second way we can benefit from rocky relationships is we can remember not everyone sees the world the same way we do.

One of the greatest lessons we can learn (which often comes by learning it the hard way) is we cannot change the way people think. When we approach communication in our relationships with the approach of trying to prove we are right, we rarely achieve our objective.

Instead, we can use the tool Steven Sample calls “seeing double.” Seeing double means we can remain secure in knowing the principles and values of our own integrity, while also putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understanding their unique perspective. This doesn’t mean we have to sympathize and agree with their perspective. But we can empathize and see where they are coming from and appreciate their perspective.

People want to be authentically seen and heard. And rocky relationships can provide us the opportunity to do this by seeing double.

Be Patient

The final way we can benefit from rocky relationships is by growing our patience to wait for the results we really want.

When we are talking about relationships with other people, especially young people, we often don’t see the results right away. As teachers and coaches, sometimes we have relationships with students or athletes which frustrate us. We know they are capable of so much more and we aren’t sure exactly how to get through to them.

Remember, we are often just planting seeds…and the harvest doesn’t come until much later on.

Flowers need rain. Rain creates mud. Beautiful flowers come out of muddy circumstances.

And sometimes the most wonderful connections of impact for us come out of the muddiest relationships.

We can use rocky relationships to plant seeds and be patient to see if something beautiful blossoms from those seeds.

We don’t need easy…

So how about you?

Can you reflect on a circumstance from your past that upset or hurt you, but now you realize it was to your benefit because it caused you to look inside yourself and focus on the WHO of your vision?

Can you use a rocky relationship to help you see the world differently by seeing double?

Can you have the patience to plant seeds in your relationships that may not bloom right away?

Are rocky relationships easy to deal with? Absolutely not! But it is possible to use them to create relationships of impact.

Bethany Hamilton, the champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, and whose story is featured in the movie Soul Surfer, said, “I don’t need easy. I just need possible.”

We shouldn’t give up on the WHO of our vision when it is not easy because it is always possible to become the best version of ourselves.

When we give away the best version of ourselves we use our leadership skills to grow stronger relationships with our students and athletes. And through those stronger relationships, we can increase our impact in our classrooms and locker rooms.

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Jon Barth

Jon Barth

Teacher - Coach - Mentor

I love to share stories, tools, and resources to help students become leaders who make a difference in the world by giving away their gifts and abilities.

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