The Most Important Piece of the Intentional Living Puzzle

October 31, 2016

The Most Important Piece of the Intentional Living Puzzle

I have written, edited and discarded this post at least a handful of times in the past two weeks. What started as my wonder of what the world would be like if we were all more honest with each other turned into countless conversations with friends on the topic. I quickly realized I was naive to think the questions I was asking were simple, because the answers were anything but. We would scratch the surface then go deep fast, and talk about things we might never have discussed if I hadn’t asked these not-so-simple questions. Then every time I tried to take what I had learned and write about the subject of honesty, I would get closer to what I believe is true – but I’m still not there yet. So, I’ll save that post for the day I feel more certainty in my words.

For now, I want to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for months, and have been actively trying to get better at: being more intentional in my relationships. I’ve shared a few thoughts on this before – namely, around the fact that I have learned how to let go of toxic relationships, or relationships that don’t serve either one of us anymore. I still stand by those decisions and believe it’s something we should all learn how to do. But if we only look at our relationships in terms of which ones we should let go of, that shines a negative light on it. The same sentiment could be attached to minimalism. If we only see it as a tool to help us get rid of things, it doesn’t mean much. The meaningful work is figuring out what you value and intentionally bringing more of that into your life.

Before I go any further with this thought, remember that the word “intentional” literally means “done on purpose”. In the past five years, I’ve made a lot of intentional decisions. I decided to become a conscious consumer and get rid of the things that didn’t add value to my life. I decided to start exercising, become a mindful eater and quit drinking. I decided to build up my freelance work and quit my day job. I decided to create/embrace my own definition of what it means to be a minimalist. And I decided to pay off my debt and learn how/why to save. If you look at the pieces of the puzzle that make up your life, I’ve intentionally taken control of five out of six. These were all deliberate choices I made for myself, over the years, and each one helped me take one step closer to living the life I want.

The Most Important Piece of the Intentional Living Puzzle

But as grateful as I am to be able to say I’m living the life I want now, there’s one thing I don’t like about the last sentence and all the changes I’ve made over the years: it’s all about me, myself and I. There’s nothing wrong with that, if I bring my best self into my relationships – but here’s where I’ll share one honest truth, which is that I haven’t always been good at that. Instead, I’ve been a bad listener; I’ve been unavailable; I’ve been a bad influence; and no one would proudly admit this, but I’ve also been selfish. Not all at once, and not even in recent years. In fact, I think most of these negative qualities vanished shortly after I stopped drinking. But still, I’m aware that I haven’t always brought my best self into relationships, and that’s something I’m slowly learning to change.

I’ve been thinking about this all year, but never more so than when I was on the road trip. It started when I began noticing all the unique ways my couple friends interacted. I loved watching the way Anthony and Amy worked together as a team, listening to the special language Clare and Drew had invented, witnessing the way Carrie and Ryan made decisions, and picking up on all the nicknames and other signs of affection passed between them. Aside from just romantic relationships, I also spent a lot of time with friends, and was even brought into circles of existing friendships. And within those, I found myself, again, watching the way people worked together, listening to their special language (filled with memories and inside jokes) and witnessing the way they made decisions.

Before I left, I could never have guessed that some of the best lessons I was going to learn on the road would be about relationships. Looking back, however, it makes sense. Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of steps to become a healthier version of myself. And I’ll never be done – there’s nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. There’s actually a great quote from one of Rob Bell’s books that says, “your relationships are only as healthy as the least healthy one of you”. (Let that sink in. Does it make you think about any of your relationships that are suffering?) But there’s only so much work you can do for yourself before it should naturally start to pour over into how you relate with others. I think I’ve slowly become a better friend and a better partner, over the past few years. But I want to be better.

The Difference Between Wanting to Be Better and Being Better

When I was on the road, I witnessed in my friends many things that I want to be better at in my relationships. Kayla makes me want to be more thoughtful. Carrie makes me want to be more open and honest. Clare makes me want to be more vulnerable. Drew makes me want to be more inviting. Nate makes me want to be more forgiving and generous. Jay makes me want to be more generous, loving and kind. And then there’s Garrett who, somehow after only knowing each other for a couple months, has quickly become one of my best friends – and he makes me want to be better at everything. Specifically, my interactions with Garrett make me look back at the ways I would’ve reacted to similar situations in the past and I don’t want to repeat those behaviours. I want to be better.

It’s really easy to “want” your way through life. You can want a more fulfilling job, want to feel healthier, want to have less debt, less stress, and so on. You could even want to be a better person in all your relationships, which is where I’m at now. But as the Minimalists says, “wanting to improve upon something is only putting on your shoes – at some point you must step out the door and walk toward the goal you’ve identified.” I have learned this while changing every other area of my life. I couldn’t have gotten out of debt or quit my job or taken control of my health if I hadn’t taken steps towards it. Because the difference between wanting something and being/doing/having that something is being more intentional every step of the way.

How to Be More Intentional in Your Relationships

So, how can you go from wanting to be a better person to actually being a better person? The same way you tackle any other goal: intentionally take steps toward making it happen. If you want to approach it from the minimalism/intentional living (gosh, I still think we need a new word to describe what it is we are doing here) definition I shared earlier, I would start by identifying what you value. For me, this exercise was fairly simple. All I had to do was think about some of the most meaningful interactions I had on my road trip to come up with the list of things I value about my friends and our relationships. Note that while many of these things could probably fit under the word “communication”, for me, communication is at the centre of everything and you can’t have a relationship without it.

What Do You Value in Your Relationships?

Side note: Once you know what you value in a relationship and spend time with more people who bring those values into your relationships, it then becomes increasingly more obvious what you don’t value and who brings negative feelings into your relationships – this is where you will learn to let go. Personally, I’ve mostly let go of relationships that felt one-sided. I’ve also distanced myself from friends who had negative outlooks, or who spent most of their time talking about themselves or other people. That’s not to say I’m never negative or never gossip – and I don’t write anyone off for doing this (we are all human). But I do believe you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and that’s not who I want to be, so I have slowly distanced myself from it.

Now, here’s where the intentionality comes in. It’s one thing to know what you want to improve about yourself. It’s another to know what you value in relationships. But if you don’t bring the two together, you won’t make or see any changes. And if you’re not intentional in your relationships, you can’t learn, share or grow in them – and you certainly won’t appreciate them.

One example I keep going back to is the difference between making friends when you’re a kid and making friends when you’re an adult. When you’re a kid, you have no choice but to be friends with the kids you go to school with or kids your parents introduce you to. As you get older, you may also be friends with the people you’re in closest proximity to (i.e. you work with). And when you’re limited in options and spend all of your time in these groups, it’s easy to absorb the mindsets – positive or negative – that exist in them. But at some point (especially when you work at home by yourself), you realize you have a choice. You get to choose who you want to have relationships with. And as my friend Kayla pointed out when we were brainstorming ideas for this post together:

So, after you’ve figured out what you value in relationships, choose your friends. Don’t line them up side-by-side, declutter and organize them into one of three friend type boxes. Just choose to be their friend. Every time you communicate, choose to be a friend to them – and be the best one you can be. Here are some of the ways I’m trying to be more intentional in my relationships:

  1. Be present – I know, I know, you read this one everywhere… but I can’t publish this post without it. One of my biggest pet peeves is spending time with a friend and feeling like they care more about what’s happening on their phone than what could be happening if we were both being present in the moment. Yes, not looking at your phone can cause you to miss a few notifications or texts, and that’s not always ideal. But our in-person connections are limited as it is. Pay attention to what’s in front of you. You’ll both be grateful you did.
  2. Create space for them (and protect it) – This is probably the most important point on this list, and is one I could talk about for hours. Maybe I’ll write a full post about it one day, but for now just think about this. When you have a connection with someone, you create a space that exists nowhere else in the universe. It’s just you + them. Nobody else. You’re both responsible for what you bring into the space. The best thing you can do is protect the space by letting the other person be themselves and trusting they will do the same for you.
  3. Listen and ask questions – When you’re in the space with someone and they are opening up to you, your gut instinct might be to react to whatever they are saying. Try not to (unless you can tell that’s what they want). Instead, practice your listening skills. Don’t interrupt. Honour the fact that what they need is for you to hear what they have to say. And when they are ready for you to talk, start by asking thoughtful questions; help them open up more and get all the facts, before you react. The conversation will be more meaningful for both of you, when you do.
  4. Try to see things through their eyes – It’s easy to get stuck in your ways, or think your way is the right way to do everything. But the world opens up when you recognize that your friend or partners’ set of eyes can be your second set of eyes. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed in my conversations with Garrett, specifically, is that we can reach a lot of the same conclusions, but we often take totally different paths to get there. This is a gift because it gives me new ideas. Whenever possible, ask people to help you see things the way they see them.
  5. Trust them – If this one sounds scary, you’re not alone. Trust is a big and scary word, especially if you know what it feels like to have someone break it. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned this year is that you can’t assume everyone is going to treat you the same way someone else did in the past. When I feel scared or nervous about letting someone in, I remember: I wasn’t exactly perfect in my past either. But if I want people to trust me, I have to trust them. So, I’m open, honest and vulnerable. I let them in. They let me in. It works both ways.

If any parts of this post sounded like a love letter to my friends, I’m glad – because that’s exactly what it was. Simplifying my life has given me the time and space to figure out what I value most, and that’s people + travel. I can travel as much as my budget allows for, but my life would be empty without my family and friends. I’m still not always the person I want to be in our relationships. But I’m so moved by my friends seemingly natural abilities to be open, honest, vulnerable, generous, loving and kind – and the way it feels to be on the receiving end of that makes me want to do the same for them and others. It won’t happen overnight, but I have incredible people in my life who model these behaviours and let me practice it with them, so I’ll become that better person eventually.

Instead of asking how you are trying to be more intentional in your own relationships, I’d love to hear about someone in your life who makes you want to be better. What is it about them that you admire, or that makes you want to be a better person? Write a little love letter to them here. And if you feel comfortable, send it to them after. :)

Extra Reading

A Simple Year 2017 is open for early registration! Join Courtney Carver, Tammy Strobel, Brooke McAlary, Marc and Angel, Anthony Ongaro, Colin Wright, Jules Clancy, Erin Somerville and myself, as we guide you to make 2017 a thoughtful and simple year. Register by November 13th for $180 USD – that’s 25% off the regular price and only $15/month.

41 Comments

  • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor October 31, 2016 at 5:10 am

    Wow, Cait. Wonderful message, and one that is too rare. I agree that my best friend makes me want to be more easy going, another friend makes me want to be more compassion, and another inspires me to be more fun. And I could go on and on. I’ve had times where I beat myself up for not being all these things, but then I realized, we’re all gifted with different personalities and traits–some maybe we were born with, some we learned, some we became intentional about. So I learned to be grateful that we all have these unique gifts to offer one another, and that, though I may never be as fun, compassion, or easy to get along with as others, I can learn from them and grow in these traits, while offering my own set of strengths.

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Kalie – I hope it’s ok if I ask this, but what do you think some of your strengths are that you bring into relationships? I ask because I honestly don’t know if I could answer this for myself, except to repeat back some of what I’ve had friends tell me I do for them. So now I’m wondering (for myself too): do we know what we bring to the table? Can we answer that? How do we know (or why don’t we know)? The list of questions could go on and on… :)

      • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor October 31, 2016 at 6:34 pm

        Great questions. I’d say I’m thoughtful and good at drawing people out (you must be too, with all these questions!). And I’m a natural leader in some contexts. Really, these strengths could only have been discovered in relationships. Before I had close friends I thought of myself as “deep” and “driven” but these traits had no outlet to help others so they weren’t exactly a strength or weakness.

        Though we don’t want to define ourselves only by what others say about us, I think the feedback we get in relationships can be a valid way of learning about our strengths. After all, many of the qualities we’ve discussed here have to do with relating. “No man is an island,” so it’s hard to understand ourselves in a vacuum. I hope you can own the good traits people have described about you, even if they are only part of the picture :)

  • Reply Rob October 31, 2016 at 5:42 am

    “someone in your life who makes you want to be better”

    That would be my wife, Cait. We’ve known each other for almost 50 years so our relationship has been a long one. Over the years, we’ve seen many good days and some bad ones. Had some big arguments and great make-up sessions. Accepted each others faults and virtues. Patience, understanding, loyalty, friendship and unconditional love all played a part. We never tried to change each other’s unique personality, and try to to make it more like our own. That never works. We just complimented each other, warts and all. And yes, trust too played a major part. When we got married and first went on a marriage preparation course, the big take away from it was this: never go to bed angry with each other. Talk things out and settle it. Marriage to us is not a 50-50 deal but rather 150-150. Give in to the other person sometimes, even when they are the one who is wrong. Communication above all else is the key.

    So once again a great post, my friend. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights with us and here’s hoping that all your relationships are good ones, with some really special in your life.

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 10:55 am

      I really love this part of what you shared, Rob: “We never tried to change each other’s unique personality, and try to to make it more like our own. That never works. We just complimented each other, warts and all.” And the 150-150. Wow. That is powerful stuff. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Rachel @ The Latte Budget October 31, 2016 at 6:35 am

    I love this whole post, but what really stuck out to me was the quote “your relationships are only as healthy as the least healthy one of you.”

    Moving to a new city, I found myself desperate to form any relationship in a town where I knew no one. Many of these “friends” are people I don’t really admire and I sometimes feel like it is a chore to hang out with them. It has been a little sad, but I recently decided I need to quit trying to devote so much time and effort to get to know people who didn’t really want to get to know me and who weren’t the most positive people to be around.

    Since doing that, I’ve spent more time on things that make me actually happy and healthy. And I’ve been able to form new relationships with people I enjoy being around and can be intentional with. Hard lesson to learn, but it is okay to be selfish to become your best self!

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Isn’t that quote incredible!? It was like a punch to the gut, the first time I heard it – because it made me think about so many of the relationships I’ve struggled with (both in my being the one who wasn’t bringing my best self and them for the many reasons why they probably couldn’t bring their best self into it). I can’t imagine it was easy to take that step back from those friendships, but how incredible has it been to see how much lighter, happier and healthier things can be when you do? Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

  • Reply Mrs. Picky Pincher October 31, 2016 at 6:43 am

    This is beautiful. In such a fast-paced, tech-loving world, it’s really easy to lose sight of intentional relationships and the ability to foster healthy connections.

    As an added bonus, if you’re surrounded by a positive network, you’re more likely to make positive choices–and that includes prudent financial decisions. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Yes yes yes! Ain’t that the truth. :)

  • Reply sara (kanpai) October 31, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Oh so much wisdom in your words. I have myself been thinking on my relationships and how to improve them. Specially long distance and new relationships. I am a big fan of in-person connection and my life choices has impacted on that. I travelled extensively and after 5 years living abroad I miss so much the easiness of meeting my oldest friend when we were in the same city. In this new place I have made new friends, but the relationships seem weaker and it do require time and investment to keep them. With full-time work, a partner, young son and my own creative pursuits I always feel I don’t have time for friends. I make sure I make time for them as I need friends to feel happy but months go between seeing them. You have obviously hit a soft spot as I’m rambling here…
    One topic that I would love you could expand on: some of your friends are abroad and makes it harder for the occasional coffee, how to you invest on those friendships?

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:06 am

      You can ramble anytime, Sara! And good question. I would say the majority of my friends live in other cities and countries. There are two things I do. First, I have a few friends who I setup regular Skype dates with – we usually talk every 2-3 weeks for an hour or so. You don’t have to do it that often. I also have some friends who I only Skype with once every few months. The people I talk to more frequently are often other writers or people who work online, so we talk about both life + work, which is extra helpful when you don’t have co-workers! And second, I reach out to my friends whenever I think about them. If a random thought pops into my head, I’ll just send a text or audio message (I’m now obsessed with audio messages because it’s so nice to hear someone’s voice) and say hi, thought of you, miss you, etc. Just a little something to keep the connection going and let them know they are loved/missed. :)

  • Reply Emily K October 31, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Loved this post! Just the other day I was telling my husband how a friend of ours is one of the most thoughtful people I know, only to realize that my husband, as well, is one of the most thoughtful people I know! It’s fulfilling to think how my relationships with friends have changed as I’ve progressed through my 20s, and a lot of that change has occurred from maturing (thank goodness!) and surrounding myself with people who more closely reflect my values.

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Aww, I love that! And did you tell your husband he is one of the most thoughtful people you know? :)

  • Reply The Green Swan October 31, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Great post Cait! I know I have room for improvement in creating and maintaining my relationships. Thanks for the motivational post!

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:08 am

      And thank you for reading and saying hi! :)

  • Reply Gwen @ Fiery Millennials October 31, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Powerful. Excellent post. I met a guy who was in town on a business trip this spring. We quickly became very close despite the fact he lives on another continent and have since stayed in touch. He makes me want to be a better person.

    I’m the type of person who makes friends very easily. However, I seem to be unable to keep people around or form any kind of in-depth relationships. I find myself forming a new friend group about once every 18 months or so. It’s nice to meet so many new people and learn about their lives, but I also like to have that shared history to fall back on. This year I said farewell to my (former) best friend of 7 years. She became a completely different person with values I didn’t share. I miss her and who she was every day, but I know I’ll be better off in the future without her in my life :(

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:19 am

      That’s so cool, Gwen! And that’s exactly what happened with Garrett. We met on our road trips and it was like “ok, we definitely need to be in each other’s lives!” haha – but he lives really far away too.
      I’m curious to hear more about how you form new friend groups every 18 months. Are these a whole new set of people? If so, where do you meet them? And do you ever wonder why you might have a hard time establishing one close connection? I don’t have answers for any of those things, am just curious what you think and if you’d want to share some more thoughts on that (even if not here, via email). I can certainly appreciate missing a close friend who you no longer share the same values with. It’s not easy to let those ones go. I try to send them good vibes and hope they are well. But it doesn’t make it easy day-to-day. Thanks for being vulnerable here. <3

  • Reply TJ October 31, 2016 at 9:43 am

    This is sort of a bittersweet post for me to read. It’s certainly inspiring, and I’m a huge fan of the path that you’ve put yourself on, but if I’m honest, I’m mostly just jealous and resentful that I’ve never had the sort of relationship that you clearly have an abundance of in your life…..the fact that 75% of your road trip was spent in people’s houses is pretty clear evidence that backs that up. I feel like I’d be blessed if I managed to have 10% of my upcoming road trip lodging covered by the generosity of friends.

    People will nonchalantly tell you to find new friends if you’re unsatisfied…but that’s so much easier said than done, right?

    I feel like when I was younger I gave everything but never received a whole lot back in return, and it made me super cynical about my peers in general and I eventually closed myself off and got lonely and probably also more selfish. I never particularly enjoyed small talk, but that is all of what most people were offering at the time. Hopefully my thirties will prove different than my late teens and twenties were.

    But what if I was the toxic friend? What is I still am? It’s pretty easy to look in the mirror when you feel alone. Some scary thoughts.

    Yesterday someone told me: “Don’t worry about a thing, because you are already everything you’ve ever wanted to be – and so many people see you so already. We’re all just waiting for you to see it too.”

    It was a weird message to receive. It’s obviously not at all how I believe others perceive me. But maybe it is true.

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:37 am

      Thank you so much for being honest, TJ. I am so grateful that even in this little window on the internet we are able to open up and share our thoughts with each other. I can relate to your experience with giving a lot, when you were younger, and not feeling like you got much in return. I felt that in relationships more than friendships, but it certainly affected me from the ages of 24-31 (where I’ve mostly stayed single, other than a few short relationships). In saying that out loud, I actually wonder if I’ve been able to build friendships *because* I purposely stayed single for so long? Like maybe it’s easier for me to work on friendships, for some reason? I don’t know the answer to that, just a random thought that popped into my head. Anyway, yes, the advice about “going out and just making new friends” is so much easier said than done. The only thing I would say is that when I look at my list of close friends, I would guess 80% of them started online through this blog, social media, etc. I’m not very good at going OUT and meeting new people. It almost always starts online. But then I think your road trip has the potential to be life-changing for you, especially in this area. If you want to talk more about this, let me know. Going to email you now :)

      • Reply AB October 31, 2016 at 4:31 pm

        Oooh, I can relate and I think you’re on to something. I’ve been single for a year and a bit after being a serial monogamist for over a decade. My friendships, especially my friendships with women, are SO much stronger now. I have more time and energy to put toward these relationships. I have a deeper need for them, and more motivation to tend to them. It’s been awesome – such a nice outcome following a really difficult period.

      • Reply isabelle November 1, 2016 at 11:46 am

        TJ, I so relate to you!
        Cait, you just seem to have such a way with people, and a ton of friends… yes, I’m envious.
        I am not good at making friends I guess. I am not good with small talk and I get really nervous if I have to talk (like “let’s go for a coffee”… hmm… nope!). I am an introvert.
        I was not brought up in a environment where I learned how to foster friendships (my mom has no friends and dad was not around), so I guess I just never learned (is it a skill? A learned skill?? Sometimes I think so)
        Then I got friends in high school but I screwd it up.
        So now I’m 35, one “good” friend 5 hours away and 2 casual “friends” I see sometimes but it’s never a deep connection.
        I had made a really good friend 3 years ago, shared very personal things with her, but she played me so I lost all trust in “friends” and I feel burned, not wanting to engage anymore with other woman more than on a superficial level. It broke something in me.
        Also I’m married, 2 young kids, work, I just don’t feel like I have the time – or interest, really – to forge new friendships, so…… yeah.
        I am 100% certain that it’s much easier to find and keep friend when you are single/no kids because you actually have time to invest in those relations.

        My husband and kids make me want to be the best person that I can be. Because, honestly, even if I don’t consider myself good at being or having friends, I consider myself and excellent mother and good wife. Those people are my life!

        • Reply TJ November 2, 2016 at 6:29 am

          Speaking from experience as a perpetual childless single person, it is NOT easier when you’re single and have no kids. If anything, it’s harder because you get so absorbed in your own bullshit. You have the built-in connections of your spouse and children and to maintain those healthy relationships, it pretty requires you to be a less selfish person than someone who only has to worry about himself/herself.

          I feel like couples have the advantage over singles. I know so many couples where two girls met at each other at the gym or whatever, and BOOM – now the couple has a new couple friend and the two dudes who would have never otherwise met have a new buddy too.

          It’s probably that whole “The Grass Is Always Greener” mentality. We all think the people in other circumstances have it easier than we do.

          The reality is that life is probably just harder than we’d prefer, no matter what foxhole you’re viewing from.

  • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life October 31, 2016 at 9:45 am

    I also love Clare! I haven’t met Drew but I assume he’s pretty great if he and Clare are a good fit.

    I wrote my ode to friendship not that long ago and reflected on how their kaleidoscopically different personalities and life experiences all serve to make them such interesting and lovable people, and I’m so grateful to be a small part of their lives.

    On the flip side of that coin, I’ve come to recognize that sentimentality alone isn’t the best reason to keep someone in your life if they’re also not bringing some kind of positive balance overall. It’s tempting, sorely tempting, to try to repair friendships for the sake of memories when the person has changed too much to be an organic part of your life. But it’s a healthier decision to let it go and move on.

    I’m definitely imperfect but I try to be the best friend that I’m able to be, and I try to be a better person each passing day by learning from the people I keep company with.

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:44 am

      Oh, Clare and Drew are certainly a match. I love being in their presence. And thank you for adding more thoughts on why we sometimes want to hold onto existing friendships, and how tough it can be to let them go, but why it’s important to do so. Going to read your post now. And I just want to add that you were a LIGHT for me at FinCon, friend. I’m grateful we finally met and got to spend a few minutes together :)

      • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life October 31, 2016 at 8:52 pm

        And likewise, you for me. I’m so glad we found each other even if it was just for a brief intense visit <3

  • Reply Kiwijo October 31, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Absolutley fabulous post. Has really made me think its time to take stock of who is in my life because I want them to be and who is there out of habit. Thank You for these insights Cait. You are an inspiration.

    • Reply Cait Flanders October 31, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Out of habit… wow, now you’re giving me something to think more about, Kiwijo!

  • Reply Amanda S. October 31, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    My husband is someone who rarely ever says anything negative about someone or relays a negative story. If he tells me something someone did or said it has to be major and hurtful – or have a happy or funny outcome. I find sometimes I get in bad moods and will want to rant about someone who pissed me off and he doesn’t engage fully unless he KNOWS I am actually hurt or really genuinely upset. It keeps me in check. I can hardly think of a conversation where he talks about what someone else did or said. He talks more about his interests, asks about mine ,etc.

  • Reply Taylor October 31, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I love this post because it really is something that doesn’t get talked about that much. My relationships (with my family, friends and Alex) are 100% the most important to me but sometimes i feel like I don’t have enough “forever people” in my life. I’m SUPER selective about who my best friends are, which can be a blessing and a curse, but it definitely means that I am surrounded by quality people I adore. When it comes to my friends and people I love, I TRY to be as generous and thoughtful and giving as possible. I think “try” is the key word because of course we’re never perfect but I do feel confident that everyone I love knows how much I love them :) (even if I do behave poorly on occasion) So at the end of the day, that’s more than enough for me. I recently realized that I don’t have many local friends though and that’s been interesting to realize. I moved back to San Diego after college (so about 1.5 years ago) but was doing long distance with Alex between LA and SD and my sister lives in San Diego so I hang out with her almost everyday too :) Between the two of them and my other best friends who live in LA and Orange County, I’ve stayed busy, but I realized that I’m missing the local connection of a great group of friends like I had in college when I was in LA. So we’ve been making an effort to meet new people and make new connections and we had our first double date last week and it was SO MUCH FUN. When I meet someone that I really like, I’m like “you are my friend; you have no choice” hahaha. So it was nice to feel that kind of connection with new friends, especially couple friends, because they are SO MUCH fun to hang out with with Alex :) Something else that’s interesting to think about though is that deep relationships take a lot of work. Not bad work or work that I begrudge. It’s work that I love, but they definitely require a lot of attention, effort and care. And I think that, at least for me, there will always be some sort of limit to how many people I can show that kind of affection. BUT I’m trying to embrace new types of friendships too—friends that you go out to bars with or hike with, etc. but that aren’t DEEP connections.

    hahah, man. Longest rant/comment EVER. But thank you for making me think <3

  • Reply Tyson Popplestone November 1, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Hi Cait,

    I would have to agree with Rob ^ and give a shout out to my wife. Though I haven’t known her for 50 years yet (I’m only 29..lol).

    There’s a lot of reasons I admire the way she lives, but here are a few of my favourites:

    – She’s SUPER passionate about the work she does (History Teacher)
    – She’s very content with simple pleasure (coffee dates, walks, blue skies and sunshine).
    – Not obsessed with earning more, but using what she earns wisely.
    – Status or recognition don’t interest her – she just wants to do what she loves and help people in the process.
    – Super encouraging – one of those people who offers honest feedback and encouragement to those around her.

    I need to show her this comment – so many brownie points!

    Great article Cait.

    Big Love

    Tys

  • Reply Pamela November 1, 2016 at 10:22 am

    My husband makes me want to be a better listener. My coworker makes me want to be a better speaker and my mother makes me want to be a more forgiving and kinder person.
    You explained the communication concept so well. You are absolutely right, all functional and flourishing relationships start with good communication.
    I am currently struggling with whether or not I should keep a certain friend in my life right now. He has below average communication skills in terms of being present, intentional and all the other qualities you spoke about. Since I met this person as an adult, there is no childhood bond that holds us. You are absolutely right, as adults we have to be intentional to keep lasting meaningful relationships. As kids we don’t.
    The findings from your trip has brought a treasure of insight to all of us. Thanks Cait for sharing.

  • Reply Finance Solver November 1, 2016 at 10:38 am

    This is a beautiful post, Cait. I think the biggest priority in life (besides family) is keeping and building relationships. It sure isn’t easy and I’ve found that relationships are very fragile to keep. One wrong thing and the entire relationship can go south. It’s certainly hard to keep those relationships going but it’s the best choice we can make for ourselves!

    I have a huge problem with the trust part. I’m generally closed off with anything personal about myself unless I trust the other person. It’s a really big part of my life, trust, and I don’t know if that means I have trust issues but I just don’t know what the “Right” answer is in approaching this situation. Your perspective opened up my perspective, however!

  • Reply Clare November 1, 2016 at 11:28 am

    This post touched my heart. Thank you.

  • Reply Shelly Seward November 1, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Wow Cait! Just when I think I have read all there is to know about you; you show us more layers. I just may have to read this post a couple more times to take everything in.
    My husband and my kids make me want to be a better person. And also my small circle of close friends. I have been told I am a good listener. That’s part of being an introvert I guess. But, I am guilty of being quick to judge people. Something I would like to work on. Nobody is perfect and I am sure we all have room for improvement. We are continually evolving…

  • Reply Ms. Montana November 1, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Being married with 5 little kids, at home, is an interesting season in life. My friends are either in the same situation or are rocking their professional lives. So I have to treat my time a bit like my money and create margin for growth and generosity. I have to budget time for outside relationships, or there won’t be any left. I don’t know why it’s easier to give 10% of my money, but so hard to carve out 2-3 hours a week to invest in relationships. I have a giving fund for acts of generosity, which I auto deposit money in. In time or money, I can’t be everything to everyone or fix every problem. But I can do something. It’s a balance between knowing my limits and creating space.

  • Reply ChooseBetterLife November 1, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    My husband is more amazing than I ever hoped or dreamed he could be, and I tell him so all the time.

    But my friend Pat has been with me even longer, and I need to tell her how much I appreciate her more often. She’s taught me patience, acceptance, open-mindedness, unfailing honesty and integrity, and trust. She’s taught me forgiveness and that we don’t have to hide our flaws, just apologize when we’ve screwed up.
    She’s shown me that we can completely agree or disagree on anything and still be friends. She’s taught me to reach for the stars, and even if you fall, you’ve still had the experience and won’t regret it.
    In my family, it wasn’t okay to fail. It wasn’t even okay to make a typo. It was a pressure cooker of stress and feeling like I’d lose their love if I weren’t perfect. I tried soooo hard. But Pat taught me that no one’s perfect and everyone deserves love.

  • Reply Tash November 2, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Hi Cait! I’m a long time reader but this is my first time commenting. I find reading your blog incredibly rewarding and am very grateful for your thoughtfulness and sensitive way you handle such a broad variety of topics. Today, your post has resonated so strongly with me and it has given me a message that I so desperately needed to hear. A big thank you for this and all your other words :)

  • Reply Dee November 5, 2016 at 8:11 am

    “I’ve also distanced myself from friends who had negative outlooks, or who spent most of their time talking about themselves or other people.”

    Hi Cait: This line from your post really struck me, especially the part about people who spend a lot of time talking about other people. I’m am slowly evaluating what I value in relationships and I long for connection around ideas and passions versus connecting around gossip/complaining. Thanks for writing/sharing this as it gives me more to chew on as I continue to think about this in my own life. :)

  • Reply Restful November 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    All your posts are always insightful and reflective. Because of your shopping ban, road trips, leap from full time employment into self employed, they have all inspired me to live more intentionally in a simplistic style. Nowadays, I hardly buy anything except groceries, which I try to buy only produce, bulk, or foods with minimal packaging. My fridge and cabinets are pretty empty as I always make a point to finish all my groceries – first in first out. I still treat myself out to nice meals out though just because the city offers way too many new choices all the time.

    My question to you though is when you first started freelancing or going into self employment have you ever utilized elance/upwork for freelance writing jobs or have they exclusively come from your previous employer on contract basis or writing for ratehub?

  • Reply Katie November 11, 2016 at 2:08 am

    Thanks for this really important and helpful advice. Reading this has been a great start to my morning. Could the new word for “minimalism/intentional living” be mindful living? XXX

  • Reply Amy@MoreTimeThanMoney November 11, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    My son really inspires me to live better. He’s four and what I so admire is his presence in the moment, his curiosity and his sense of fun. For those of us with little kids, I think they can be great role models for many aspects of living a mindful life (as well the occasional demonstration of how to be a right pain in the a***e).

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