wholehearted living

Who Are Your 8? A Mental Image to Clarify Your Priorities

At 8 years old, my oldest son has lost all of his baby chub; he’s traded it in for visible ribs and lengthening arms and legs.

Recently, I sat in a camp chair facing the ocean, and he stepped in front of me to tell me something. I tugged at his ever-growing body, and he tucked himself happily into my lap. (This is not a regular occurrence anymore. #sob)

I wrapped my arms around his and savored the moment, rolling waves in front of me and my first baby on my lap.

A must-read mental image to help you clarify your priorities in life. Plus, 9 impactful but DOABLE ways to nurture the important relationships in your life! A Mental Image to Clarify Your Priorities

Who would you want around you in your last minutes of life?

Bob Goff, one of my favorite writers, talks about how at the end of our lives—the very last day—we can only have about eight people standing around our bedside. Give or take, he figures that’s about how many people could fit. 🙂

So who are your eight? The eight people you’d most want to be with you at the end.

Bob believes that our relationships are the biggest key to our happiness. (You know who agrees? Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and Zen priest Robert Waldinger, who gave this great TED talk.)

When I heard Bob frame it this way—when I pictured the handful of people standing at my bedside—I felt it in my gut, this sudden dose of motivation to re-prioritize the relationships in my life.

A must-read mental image to help you clarify your priorities in life. Plus, 9 impactful but *doable* ways to nurture your most important relationships—The Hard Part

So maybe the real question isn’t “Who are your eight?” but — “What are you doing to nurture those relationships now?”

As an introvert and a sensitive soul, I retreat into my own thoughts quite a lot, and I enjoy being alone. (Like I really do!) It takes continual effort for me to nurture my relationships, not just keep them alive.

Maybe there’s a difference between feeding my family dinner and feeding them parts of my heart.

So today, for my benefit as much as yours, I’ve put together a list of impactful but DOABLE ways you can nurture your most important relationships—your spouse, children, and close friends.

A must-read mental image to help you clarify your priorities in life. Plus, 9 impactful but DOABLE ways to nurture the important relationships in your life! As always, my lists aren’t checklists; they’re not designed to pile more to-do’s onto your already stacked list. They’re meant to be scanned for gems that stand out to you, ideas you can implement with high impact and low fuss. 🙂

9 Ways to Nurture Your Relationships


Try out some morning rituals. Five minutes to remind you of the most important relationship in your life.

Listen to an audio book together.

Go on walks. During the warm months, my husband and I walk outside our house in the evenings. We do laps around our development’s green space just like the couple 40 years our senior who lives a few doors down. 🙂


Make your driving chats and dinner conversations count. Share highs and lows from your day, share what you’re grateful for, share a story from your childhood, etc.

Schedule 15 minutes of one-on-one time after your child’s usual bedtime—monthly, on the date of his or her birth.

Snuggle up and watch photo slideshows or family video clips.

Related: 42 ways to make your children feel absolutely loved


Dish out the kind words. Take this challenge to bring more warmth into your relationships: add one compliment to each conversation.

Give small gifts. Even if gift giving isn’t your love language, there’s just something about receiving a “thinking of you” gift from a friend. It can be as small as a handful of tomatoes from your garden. One of the most meaningful gifts I ever received was a jar of foot cream from a long-distance friend. It was perfectly timed and helped pull me out of a low-point during a pregnancy. (Thanks, girl!)

Ask more questions.

“What so many don’t realize is that the secret to building relationships isn’t in the words you say, but in the questions you ask.” Justin Zoradi

I can’t think of many things that will bring you closer to someone than asking thoughtful questions. Check here for 16 questions to ask your friends.

Best wishes as you prioritize and nurture your relationships with the people who matter most! In the beautiful words of Walt Whitman:

“We were together. I forget the rest.”


  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    August 30, 2016 at 7:17 am

    My 8 would most definitely be members of my family. This is a great thought and way to look at the relationships in our lives. I really start to feel down if I don’t have time to connect with people (which being a SAHM, it’s hard sometimes!). I like the idea of going on walks in the evening with your spouse. I need Chad to do that with me!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      August 30, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Meee too. (YOU are one of my 8!) And yay for evening walks! Even if you don’t go far from the house, they’re so peaceful and therapeutic. A great, low-key time to decompress and reconnect!

  • Reply
    August 30, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    I love this thought and all of your ideas at the end. You are a beautiful writer and I so enjoy reading your thoughts!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      September 6, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Hi Mallory! I’m late replying, but I didn’t want to miss saying THANK YOU for your sweet comment! It made my day. Thanks for reading!!

  • Reply
    marilyn lemon
    September 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    I just don’t get this. Looks like I’m the odd one out here, again, but I’d kinda like to do this so very private and personal thing alone. Peace and quiet. It never struck me as a spectator sport. I understand that I’m not alone in this and that it seems that some people appear to wait until the crowd has left the room before taking their leave.
    Why would I want a crowd around? There are a couple of people that might be nice to see before I go, but even then I’d like to just slip out without fanfare. What’s with all the fuss?

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      September 12, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      In this case, I think Bob Goff (and by extension, myself) is using this metaphorically, not literally. 🙂 But I get going without the fanfare. 🙂 I like your spunk!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2016 at 8:03 am

    I read this a few days ago and keep thinking about it and mentioning it in conversations. A great question to help focus on our most important priorities – the people we love! Great post!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      September 15, 2016 at 10:23 am

      I’m a bit late saying so, but thank you, Audrey! I’m so glad you took something meaningful away from this post and have been spreading it around. It IS a great visual, isn’t it. Best!

  • Reply
    14 Beautiful Things You Can Learn from a Child - simple as that
    September 14, 2016 at 10:57 am

    […] 9. What matters more than family? […]

  • Reply
    October 3, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I loved this article! It has inspired me to head on over to my parents and watch some ball with my dad. Not because I like ball, but because I love him and that face-to-face time is so incredibly important.
    Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 3, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      What a touching comment, Robin! Thank YOU! I hope you don’t mind if I share it on my facebook page tomorrow. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 19, 2016 at 6:26 am

    This was an enlightening read for me. Thank you.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I came across those words at a good moment, exactly a feeling of beautiful synchronicity. We live with awareness, we cherish what truly matters, we are sometimes called dreamers or idealists as if it were a bad word! 🙂
    sending you blessings, thank you very much for your sharing!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I like this thought and it has me thinking. Relationships are so important. I love the quote about not the words you say but the questions you ask.

  • Leave a Reply