Last year I finished the first half-century of my time on earth, which is something that I am grateful for. Something else that I also appreciate, is the realisation that comes at this age where a lot of the “stuff” that was só important to me earlier in my life, no longer means anything… The need to drive a certain car or motorcycle, to worry too much about what other people think of me and be too concerned with my own life versus not caring enough for others – just to name a few. Upon reflection in this exciting phase of my life, I have to ask myself: “Am I making this world a better place and how would I know if I did?” The first answer that then jumps to mind is: “If I cherish relationships with everyone that crosses my path in life and if I have a positive influence on their lives, then I have to be making this world a better place…”

“It is in the courageous encounter with others that we discover our personal path and purpose in life… ” – Lovemore Mbigi

Am I my own best friend or my own worst enemy?

If we are religious, I believe the first and most important relationship that we should cherish is with God, our Creator. Thereafter, I do not doubt that the most important relationship that you need to cherish, is the one with yourself. In answering the above question, I trust and hope that you are your own best friend – in the way that you talk to yourself, build your self-esteem, develop yourself, care for your body and soul, back yourself in every situation and in the way that you are kind to yourself, especially in tough times like we are experiencing now.

Charity begins at home

Stephan Covey wrote that the most significant work we will ever do in our lives is done within the four walls of our home. I am of the firm opinion that one’s character is reflected in the way that you treat others, especially those who are close to you – your parents, your partner, your spouse, your brothers and sisters, your children and the rest of your inner circle. It is certainly not for this reason only, but the reality is that if we truly cherish the relationships with these people, we get so much more back in abundance. Also, when we need their support to achieve our personal goals. 

My 16-year-old son once asked me how long my PhD took me to complete… When I did the final calculation to provide him with an answer, I got to somewhere between 3000 and 4000 dedicated hours. The reality is that I would never have been able to complete this qualification if it was not for the support of my family and especially that of my wife, who gave me nothing but incredible, unselfish love because she knew and respected how serious I was about achieving this personal goal. The thing is, we need each other to succeed, achieve, survive and thrive.   

Those who you don’t know

You might ask me why it is important to cherish relationships with those who we don’t even know. Well, my simple answer would be that they might be the people that need you most because they might not have anyone else. They include vulnerable people… You might not be able to give of your money, especially after COVID hit most of us hard from a financial point of view. However, I need to ask you: “Can you give some of your time to make a difference in their lives, or a small portion of your blood every 56 days, or even a simple smile and a hand that waves at someone who is asking for money at the traffic light to at least acknowledge that person in this world?” “Live and let live” is something that my dad taught me, which I think is such an important philosophy to live by as part of being successful at leading ourselves.   

“We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” – Douglas A. Lawson

Respect is the root of all good relationships

Mahatma Gandhi said that the first principle on which any relationship ought to be based is respect. We might not necessarily agree with someone or with their viewpoints, but if we respect them and their views, then at least we are opening our minds to different, exciting possibilities. We are then also able to engage in interesting and constructive conversations without denying ourselves the opportunity to explore further. Life would have been very boring and stale if we all held the same viewpoint and had the same skin colour, complexion, culture and interests. These differences spice up our lives and make them interesting – as long as we can respect each other.

Complimenting the chef

Leo Buscaglia tells the story of how he once complimented a big, burly chef, and how the seemingly rude man then morphed into the most pleasant person within a couple of seconds. From his story, I have learned to compliment the chef whenever I have an exceptional meal. I have done this in different parts of the world, and guess what? I always get the same pleasant response in the form of a big smile. Why? Because 99% of the time, the chef only receives moans or complaints from grumpy customers. To get a compliment, even once in a blue moon, makes a massive difference in their lives. If someone deserves a compliment, then give it to them. It does wonders to them and you. Complimenting the chef is an example of how small things in relationships can make meaningful differences.  

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain

We are in this together

In Hunter Killer, Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) tries to convince the Russian Captain Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist) to assist him and his crew on the USS Arkansas submarine to navigate through dangerous Russian waters to rescue the Russian president. He says: “It’s not about your side or my side… This is about our future.” These are insightful words, and if we can successfully adopt this approach in our families, careers, friendships and communities, it will go a long way to making a positive impact and this world a better place.

In Gladiator, Maximus (Russell Crowe) tells his men before battle: “What we do in life echoes in eternity… ” The question that you and I need to ask ourselves, is: “What is the legacy that we want to leave behind and will it echo in eternity?” I would submit that if we cherish relationships and actively focus on building relationships with those around us, then in all probability the answer would be a resounding YES… 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Written by:

Hekkie van der Westhuizen, PhD

“If you are interested in the topic of Self-Leadership, please buy my exciting new Self-Leadership book, which launched on 13 October 2021”

Author Dr. Hekkie van der Westhuizen shares practical self-leadership tips, tools and interventions in the form of stepping stones that will assist you along the journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself.


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