Much of Relational Thinking addresses government policy and organizational practice. But it is just as relevant to individual decision-making about increasing “relational capital.”
- A Gallup survey in 150 countries (2010-2012) measured reported happiness. The world average was 5.1 out of 10, with most variation between countries stemming from per capita GDP, healthy life expectancy, and four relational factors (social support, life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity).
- Only 17% of families had a parent working the “normal” nine-to-five week, according to a 2006 study by the National Centre for Social Research in the UK.
- Three quarters of 25-29-year-olds sleep with their phones, according to a poll conducted in 2012 by Time Magazine.
The challenge of chronomics
We often experience relational stress as time pressure. There just isn’t enough time to get everything done – bringing in an income, looking after children, keeping up with partner and friends. Important relationships can seem to pull us in opposite directions. So thinking relationally has a lot to do with the way we practice “chronomics” – the allocation of time to different priorities.
Connection and disconnection
Thanks to mobile technology, we’ve never been better connected, and connection over distance has brought many advantages in maintaining relationships. But we don’t have any more time than people did fifty years ago, and the more connections we have, the more diluted our attention becomes, and the less opportunity we have to build strong relationships with those who are most important to us.
The fixation on finance
Because Western culture focuses on finance as the bottom line, it’s easy to make everything subservient to the demands of the workplace. Money can be counted. We even measure relationships in money, in the sense that we ask how much our time is worth, and can develop the habit of seeing the effort to increase our wealth as a proxy for wellbeing and therefore as an overriding priority.
Lifestyle is often presented as a question of how you spend your money. From a relational standpoint, it’s about how you spend your time.
Determining your lifestyle comes down to making choices. On the surface these choices seem to involve things like fashion and consumer goods. In fact, though, the most important choices we make are those affecting touch, time, power, depth and purpose in our relationships. Every decision we make will have relational consequences. Big decisions about how many hours you commute and where you live will impact on home and family life. But so will smaller decisions. For example, does using a microwave stagger individual mealtimes, or create more leisure for eating and talking? In what ways do mobile phones help you maintain relationships, and in what ways do they interfere with important face-time?
Manage opportunity cost
A good place to start with relational lifestyle is doing a schedule diagnosis. Look back at the last few months. If you made a league table of your activities, which – apart from sleep – would occupy the first three places? Who are you talking to? Is it touch time, or are you doing most of it on social media? For any given activity, ask yourself “What is the relational opportunity cost of my time today?” In other words, what relational opportunities are you going to miss by doing something else?
Pay into a Relational Pension
The relationships that have most enduring significance to you and to those close to you are likely to lie outside the workplace. We all know about pension planning – but how many of us plan relational pensions, consciously investing in the key relationships with family and friends that will support us, and allow us to support others, once we’re finished with work?
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