Intimate relationships are one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – sources of joy in life.
But creating and maintaining a successful relationship takes time and energy – and growing it to the point of true intimacy takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable.
With so many different things competing for our attention these days, it’s all too easy to find excuses not to put in the effort needed to grow and maintain the relationships we need to thrive.
And so we find ourselves in a world where too many relationships fall apart before they’ve reached their true potential.
Lovers drift apart because they’ve never developed the deep sense of connection required to overcome the stumbling blocks that occur in every relationship. Partners share a bed but not a life. Spouses sit side by side on the sofa but never share their deepest thoughts and feelings with each other – then wake up one day to discover that the person sleeping beside them is a stranger.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can easily grow and maintain healthy intimate relationships using one of my simplest yet most effective Success Principles: goal-setting.
Planning and foresight are sexy
Goal-setting is one of the most powerful Success Principles – yet I see few people using it within the context of creating healthy intimate relationships. Which is crazy, because if you set a concrete, achievable goal for yourself, you are far more likely to achieve it – no matter what that goal happens to be.
A study conducted by David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, showed that Americans who write down their goals and reviewed them regularly earned nine times more over the course of their lifetimes than those who didn’t set goals.
This particular study focused on financial achievement, but the power of goal setting can be applied in every area of your life, including your intimate relationships.
Here are my top five tips on how to use the power of goal-setting to enjoy deeper, more authentic relationships with your loved ones:
1. Get specific about what you want
Vague goals produce vague results. It’s not enough to say that you want to “spend more quality time together.”
To achieve real results, you want to be specific and state your goal in a way that you and anybody else could measure it. Get clear on what you’re going to do – how much or many actions – and by when.
“I will take my spouse out for dinner once a month and schedule one evening a week to hang out together without any TV or screens, so we can spend more time talking and enjoying each other’s company.”
“We will set aside two hours for a heart talk next Saturday so we can discuss the things that have been bothering us and gain a deeper, more sympathetic understanding of how the other person feels. At the end of the talk we will each commit to taking 3 actions to make our life together more enjoyable for both of us.”
By saying what you’re going to do – and when you’re going to do it by – you make it possible to determine how well you’ve managed to reach your goal.
2. Write it down in detail
Once you’ve gotten clear on what actions you’d like to take to improve your intimate relationship, write them down in detail. Be sure to include the outcome you hope to achieve through your actions, so you can visualize what your life will be like once you accomplish your goal.
“I will take my spouse out for dinner once a month and schedule one evening a week to hang out together without any TV or screens, so we can spend more time talking and enjoying each other’s company. We will share deep, soul-baring conversations that help us create a united vision of what our dream future will look like – and our increased intimacy and sense of partnership will greatly enrich all areas of our life together.”
The better able you’re able to identify what you truly want, the easier it will be for you to work toward it – and achieve it. The universe will conspire to help you!
3. Set goals that make you uncomfortable
It’s good to have a goal that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Why? Because your ultimate goal (beyond your relationship goals) should be to grow as a person and become a master at life. To do this, you need to stretch your horizons – and learn new skills, expand your vision of what’s possible, and overcome whatever fears and roadblocks are standing in your way.
In the process, you’ll build the confidence, wisdom, and self-esteem you need to open yourself more fully to your significant other and achieve a deeper level of intimacy that will enrich your life.
4. Reread your goals two-three times a day
Once you’ve written down your relationship goals, review your list two or three times every day.
Take the time to really focus on each goal. Read the list (out loud with passion and enthusiasm if you are in an appropriate place) one goal at a time. Close your eyes and picture each goal as if it were already accomplished – then take a few more seconds to feel what you would feel if you had already accomplished each goal.
By following this daily discipline of success, you’ll activate the creative power of your subconscious mind. Your brain will want to close the gap between your current reality and the vision of your goal – and that will increase your motivation, stimulate your creativity, and heighten your awareness of opportunities that will help you achieve your goal.
5. Get ready to confront some fears and roadblocks
When you set your relationship goals, you’ll probably find yourself confronting some long-standing fears and roadblocks.
For example, maybe you set the goal of spending more quality time with your spouse. Then you realize that means saying “no” to your boss when he asks you to work overtime on the evenings and weekends – and you worry about the impact this will have on your career.
Maybe you worry that opening yourself up to your spouse or partner will leave you vulnerable to rejection – or that if you ask for the truth, you’re not going to like what you get.
It’s important to remember that there is always a solution to any obstacle – you just have to look for it. @JackCanfield (Click to Tweet!)
If you want to spend more time with your family but still need to put in a certain amount of hours at the office, ask your boss if you can come in a couple of hours early on weekdays so you can make sure to get your evenings and weekends off.
If your attempts to connect at a deeper level are met with initial rejection, be patient – your spouse or partner may need time to face their own fears or roadblocks before being able to meet you halfway. Even if you discover that all your worst fears about the relationship are real, at least now you have the opportunity to move forward in truth and integrity to solve the problem together or let each other go – and open yourself to the opportunity of entering into relationship with someone else who better meets your needs.
And don’t forget, all these potential setbacks are part of the goal-setting process – both in your relationships and in all other areas of your life. If these challenges don’t appear, it means you haven’t set a goal that’s big enough to stretch you and grow you – and there’s no real potential for self-development.
The effort and risk are more than worth it
Cultivating an authentic intimate connection with another person is one of the most profoundly enriching experiences life has to offer. But you can’t expect such relationships to just fall into your lap. You have to take action and make them happen.
Goal-setting is one of the best possible ways to do that. With just a bit of planning and foresight, you can enjoy deeper, more fulfilling intimate relationships that will make all areas of your life so much sweeter.
Have you ever used goal-setting as a relationship tool? Or is there another Success Principle you’ve used to improve your intimate relationships? Tell us about it in the comments!
As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and speaks around the world on this subject. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!
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Image courtesy of Daria Nepriakhina.