Your ability to visualize and emotionally connect to your dreams is pivotal to your success in finding love. Honestly, your success in relationships, finding love, your career, and life at large all comes from the tenacity of your vision. Let’s say you have a goal of living a life filled with people you enjoy, feeling good enough about yourself, and surrounding yourself with people who love you —these are bold, audacious goals. These goals are bold and audacious because they will ask you to dive deep into yourself. Your dreams will challenge your assumptions and invite you to practice new ways of being in the world.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Tony Robbins
Alas, none of us know what the future will hold for us. When I was actively seeking a relationship and dating, there was a list of qualities on which I focused. My first task was to decide what love meant to me. The more I noodled around on this idea, the more clear my focus became. Over time, a shift occurred, from what I “wanted” in a relationship, to what I “needed” to have a healthy relationship. And, while this sounds like a little shift, in fact, it’s epic. As I developed a clear vision of the person I wanted to have a relationship with, my list evolved. To be fair, there were a few superficial things on my list like “tall, dark, and handsome.” Thankfully, as I clarified what “love” and “healthy relationship” meant to me, my list grew in depth. As I expanded my ideas about what mattered to me, I was able to hone in on what mattered most in a partner.
What I discovered along the way: I wanted someone emotionally strong enough to work through disagreements respectfully. I wanted someone who loved to laugh and looked at the world as a playground. I wanted someone who had integrity, was curious and was willing to explore ideas. More importantly, I was discovering I needed to be in a healthy relationship with myself and I wanted a partner who would support that goal. Learning to love myself, to see my value, and to honor my truth, were all part of my journey. By setting the idea “healthy relationship” as my goal, I was going to have to show up in new ways myself. With this realization, I was on my way. As I fleshed out my important values, I discovered, who I was looking for was transformed. Visualizing myself having respectful disagreements, or traveling, or laughing with this person, all played a part. Along the way I role played scenarios in my mind, visualizing how we might navigate life like respectful adults.
As I continued dating, my vision continued to clarify and evolve. Was my date disrespectful to the server at the restaurant, or kind and friendly? Did they honor their agreements, with others as well as with me? Could they laugh at themselves as often as they laughed at others? How often did they look for humor in their own difficult situations? When life contradicted their desires, did they take things personally, or take responsibility? Maybe most importantly, were they able to show empathy to another person’s perspective, when a disagreement showed up? As I dated, my focus sharpened. I was getting much quicker at picking out the red flags, and also noticing the shared values.
Situational values are those values that are most susceptible to change. They are the values you might have in your 20’s that change and adjust by the time you are in your 40’s. In my teens, I had values around cool clothes, fast cars, and cute boys. More than anything, I wanted to fit in and feel “ok.” Cool clothes, or a cute boy who liked me, all helped me feel less insecure. I am using the example of clothing labels, but it could be anything. Who hasn’t thought, “If I had an attractive partner, a nice car, or great clothes, I would feel more empowered?” Situational values often show up as things that people focus on having to feel better about themselves.
There is a caveat to this, some situational values might be “good-looking,” or “great sex.” It’s the danger of swiping left or right on Tinder. You are making your first choice about looks, and while you want to be attracted to your partner and great sex is, well, great. Both good looks and great sex are at risk of changing through time. Your Sex drive in your 20’s is different by the time your 50’s. To be sure it’s true, sex can get better over time, yet many people don’t have that experience. Bodies change through time, I guarantee it. And, alas, gravity happens to us all. No matter what I might do, I don’t look like I did when I was 20 or 30. There is no amount of plastic surgery or face cream that will stop you from aging. I wanted a partner who found me attractive, and vise versa, and also one who wasn’t more attached to looks than substance.
Making choices about long-term relationships based on situational and short-term values that change over time, creates problems. Most especially when we find ourselves 5-10 years down the road, not enjoying our relationship. Very few people can “pretend” to be who they are not, for a long time. Without working on themselves, people tend to be who they really are at the end of the day. And change doesn’t happen long term just because they are attracted to you.
Enduring values are those values that are less susceptible to change. They are the values you might have in your 20’s that deepen or slightly adjust through time. And while they might not be exactly the same over decades, they are fairly stable. If your value of honesty is abc, in 20 years it might expand to abcde. It’s highly unlikely that it will change to xyz.
When considering enduring values, a person’s moral or ethical code might come to mind. Values like honesty, or respect, work ethic, or spiritual belief system are some areas that might change some, but typically not in a radical way. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and the ability to feel empathy for others is another indicator that tends to be stable. Many people can develop EQ. Yet, if it’s not present in the who of a person, or they don’t care about it, it won’t magically form from the ether. There is a caveat to enduring values. Let’s say someone has a life-altering experience, a stroke, a traumatic brain injury, a near death experience, etc. In those cases, someone who didn’t believe in God might instantly find a new spiritual pathway.
Remember the movie, Regarding Henry? Harrison Ford’s character went from being a callous Jerk and through the movies transforms into a lovely human being. Not the sort of thing you want to place your hopes on. Because for many the transformation can go the other way, from a lovely human being to becoming a callous jerk. Still, these radical shifts are less likely to spontaneously happen with enduring values. Making choices about long-term relationships based on values that are stable through time, gives you a better chance at A) trusting you know whom someone is, and B) long-term happiness.
When I met Michael, I didn’t instantly know he was “the one.” Though secretly I had that idea in the back of my mind on every first date. “Are you the one?” it was an exhausting idea each time my date didn’t meet my hope. What I did know instantly was I liked who Michael was as a person. On our 5-hour first date, we drank coffee and talked, then walked through the bookstore discussing books and ideas; then moved onto coffee and dessert, discussing dreams and directions; I discovered that I really, truly, liked him as a human being. So much so, that on my way home I called him. I said, “I know I said I wasn’t looking for more friends, and I don’t know where all this might lead, but I like you and I can totally see us being good friends.” Thankfully, he got my meaning and shared that he was feeling the same.
One of the best parts of my 20+ year marriage is that all these years later we are still best friends. In hindsight, it occurs to me, that I owe the success of finding love to a clear vision of what I wanted in a healthy loving relationship. By switching from situational values to enduring values, I could pick a person who I might be able to navigate life with. Additionally, holding myself accountable to be the kind of person I said I wanted to be in a relationship with—honest, respectful, and curious. Not taking differences personally, but rather as conversational doorways into deeper knowing. And, finally, accepting that neither one of us had to be perfect, and no one needed saving, we just had to be willing to show up with integrity. I was looking for a partner, an equal, and I found a kindred spirit in Michael. Without the vision or goal, if I had still found Michael and we’d crafted the relationship that we have, it would have been like winning the lottery—a 1 in 718,000,000,000,000,000 chance—or simply put, highly unlikely.
Questions to Support on Your Quest for Love
- Write out how do you want your life to be in one-year when you have a healthy relationship? (Write in the present tense as if you are living this life.)
- Expand as fully as possible: What will be different when you achieve your goal?
- Work through the dialogue of disagreements, how will you speak to each other?
- Define what love means to you?
- When you consider a healthy relationship, what do you think your tomorrow self will want?
- Of enduring values, which are most important to you?
- How do you recognize those values in action?
- At this moment, what is between you and achieving this goal?
- If you are ready to start, what are one or two first steps toward your goal?
Goals for Love
Goals are the markers that we use to navigate the course. They give us waypoints in life. I graduated from school here, I fell in love here, I got my favorite job then, and I got a promotion there. Each of these waypoints, if we are going to use more than an accident and a chance as our compass, require attunement to the goal. When you set your clear intention, it gives you a direction to work towards. For me, that was towards my best friend. Truly, it’s only through the equation of Intention + Attention, that you finally Manifest your dreams. Finally, you will need the same sort of tenacity that you give other important elements of your life, to manifest lasting love. Remember, it’s a prize worth working towards.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What do you consider the most important enduring value?
- Share a piece of wisdom, what is one important insight you have learned about relationships?
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