Some Thoughts on Trust and Relationships (and when both go bad)

A photo from a trip I took to Patagonia. I love this quote. PS. You know you wanna Pinterest this…

I see a constant stream of Facebook status updates about people hating work and desperately craving the short vacation that the weekend brings. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trust and how it affects your personal and professional lives – two things that often beg escaping.

A few months ago, I decided to outsource some administrative tasks for my business – tasks that I’ve been doing for years. It was an enormous relief at first – the cost was low and the contractor was highly rated and highly recommended. But over the past few months, I’ve noticed a series of mistakes that have eroded my confidence in the quality of the work.

I realized today that I have a near-constant feeling of anxiety nagging at me. See, your brain is enormously active and attentive even when you’re on autopilot – despite the fact that I may be deeply engaged in another important activity, like the latest episode of Mad Men, my subconscious is vigilantly aware of the fact that I’ve entrusted an important task to an unqualified individual. 

Your mind will only file away a task when it is confident that the task will be completed both accurately and before the deadline. Anything that fails to meet this criteria constitutes an “open loop,” and these open loops are the cause of stress and anxiety.

When I was responsible for the administrative work, I was stressed because my brain knew that I was unlikely to complete the work on time – it knows this based on my historically lackluster track record for routine maintenance tasks. I’ve now traded that stress for a different sort and I’m no better off.

A romantic relationship is no different. Trust encompasses more than just physical faithfulness. Are they emotionally predictable (i.e. will they love you for something one day, and hate you for it the next)? Do they take interest in the things that are important to you? Will they support you when you need it? These are a few important questions to ask yourself.

You’re never going to feel comfortable if you don’t trust your partner, and this constant, lingering anxiety will hobble your progress in all aspects of your life. We need to feel safe and secure in order to be mentally and emotionally productive.

There are three litmus tests that I use to help me make decisions in difficult situations with employees and relationships:

  1. Do I miss them when they’re gone? If my employee or girlfriend is sick, on vacation, or otherwise absent, do I miss them? Do they make my work easier or my life richer? Or do I feel relieved when they’re gone, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders?
  2. Knowing everything that I know today, would I hire/date them again? If this person walked into my door today – now that I’m fully informed of their strengths, weaknesses, and quirks – would I do it all over again?
  3. If they unexpectedly had to leave, would I be relieved? Imagine that they had an incredible job opportunity across the country and announced that they were leaving. Setting aside the natural displeasure associated with being left, would I be relieved that they would be gone?

If you answer “no” to the first two or “yes” to the last, chances are that it’s time to end it. You may feel like you’re doing them a favor by saving them from the heartache of a firing/breakup, but the truth is that they probably aren’t happy, either – it’s extremely rare to have one side happy and the other dissatisfied. You’re robbing yourself and your counterpart of the opportunity to pursue a truly rewarding job or relationship.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the weekends – I love weekends as much as the next guy. But come Sunday night, we shouldn’t be dreading the coming dawn that brings the reality that accounts for 70%+ of your life. Build a rich life full of relationships – both professional and personal – based on trust, and you’ll transition smoothly from one side to the next without feeling trapped in a life from which you need to escape.

Oh, and you can help your Facebook friends love their workweek by sharing this post on Facebook.

Un abrazo fuerte,