Past performance does not guarantee future results. This phrase is used in the investment world as a caution that simply because a stock doubled in price last year does not mean it will continue to double indefinitely or even keep going in a positive direction. As investors, we don’t have an impact on whether a company is going to do well and give us a return on our investment. We rely on others to do the research and let us know if by taking some risk, we are likely to make some money.
There are other investments, however, where we have a strong impact on the results. It is a field where we are experts by default – and it is another place where future results are not guaranteed by past performance. These are the investments we have in our relationships.
Life is fluid. So are relationships. We invest time and energy into relationships to make them valuable and enjoyable. When things are going well, however, there can be a tendency to get distracted by other life events or we may get comfortable with the way things are and start thinking we do not need to do anything special to keep it going.
Any investment broker will tell you that getting distracted, going on autopilot, or becoming too comfortable and holding on to the past is a risk you do not want to take. If we go too long without tending to and nurturing the investments (our relationships), they will drift and we no longer reap the benefits we received in the past.
We like to hold on to and romanticize the good things that happen in our lives. This is normal and a good thing to do unless we get stuck in this romanticism and end up paying less attention to today. When this happens, what was true in the past becomes a fantasy – and no longer valid for today.
Sometimes it is easier to live in this fantasy than to decide to take new risks and expend the energy needed to reinvigorate our investments. Yet, getting stuck leads to holding on to a hollow romanticism – and we either end up staying in something that is no longer valuable or looking for ways to cut our losses.
Long-term investors who are able to have an impact on their investments, however, stick around to see if they can make corrections. When the thought “we grew apart” crosses our minds – a hard (unromantic) look to the past is worthwhile. Why and how were we able to sustain some interest in this person’s interests in the past? How are we able to grab back on to discussing difficult topics and still like each other afterwards? These are a couple starter questions to work on re-enhancing our investments.
Regaining value in relationships is possible – though they will look different from the idealized versions we may have created. Taking some risks, as we did when relationships were new, not just holding on to what we had, gives them potential for growth once again.
P.S. – While writing this, the thought came to me of charting a relationship similar to charting a stock’s ups and downs. What would our relationship chart look like? Looking at the variety of relationships we have (family, friends, significant other), we could create a relationship average – a Dow Jones Average for our relationships. Perhaps a little silly. Perhaps not.
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields, including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.