Is 42, the age I turn today, and I am taking that milestone to share my wisdom from this journey so far. I’ve come to learn that I don’t have an answer for the Why of life, but I’m coming ever closer to the How to live it. Lately I’ve come to realize that saying four specific things has the power to change the nature of your closest relationships, and in that, the way you experience your life.
This word turns a demand into a request. It also validates our reliance on others and a need to be treated with respect. Saying, “Could you please do the dishes?” gives the person being asked a chance to do something for the asker, and respect for that person’s time and energy have been conveyed. It’s become a rote word, but upon reflection it conveys so much more.
This phrase is the simplest expression of gratitude. Used frequently, it rewards and uplifts not only the people being thanked, but those doing the thanking, who must acknowledge their own gratitude. Whether it is expressed for washing the dishes, listening to a rant, or accepting a gift, we create harmony in our relationships and ourselves in our gratitude.
This phrase isn’t uttered enough. Its power is in acknowledging our own imperfections as human beings and forgiving that imperfection in ourselves and others. It shouldn’t be saved for big things, but used instead to remind our loved ones and ourselves of our desire to do better. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. It was a bad day,” gives both parties a chance to move on — and when conveyed to a child, gives them the tools to understand and reciprocate.
This incomplete phrase captures the order from childhood to “say something nice.” It gives us the power to express passion, caring, and joy. To compliment, encourage, or uplift. It goes from the simple yet powerful, “I love you,” to the seemingly mundane, “I love brownies.” In telling others what we love, we remind ourselves how much there is to love.
The dynamics of my household, with four artistic personalities and two tween/teen girls, has been saved by the power of these words. Practically used, without any other agenda, they will change the way you interact with the ones closest to you. But as you dig deeper, you find that they reflect greater truths of relationships, humanity, and personal growth. Take it from someone who knows. Or at least, someone who has arrived at the answer to life, the universe and everything.1