In dealing with relationship issues — whether with a family member, friend, co-worker or a significant other — it can be easy to only focus on what the other person is doing and how it impacts you.

But I have found that the quickest path to improving a relationship starts with looking at yourself. This is not to suggest that the other person may not be wrong, selfish or insensitive, but the fact is that you cannot change the other person. You can, however, examine your own emotions, weaknesses and motives. You can make changes in your attitude and actions that can transform your interactions with the people in your life.

When you focus on connecting with yourself, you discover opportunities to become a better you. Rather than hiding from those opportunities, seek them. Notice your fears, frustrations and desires. Acknowledge them. Then become curious about them. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Why do I act this way?” “Why does it bother me when someone says that?” “What am I afraid of?” Asking yourself questions is one of the best ways to connect with yourself. As you connect with yourself, you build a stronger foundation on which to connect with others. Answer these five key questions to better connect with yourself, and you’ll find yourself on the path to revolutionizing your relationships with others:

Why am I here?
Discovering your life’s purpose establishes the answer to the all-important question in your life — why are you here? When you understand how your life is meant to impact others, all aspects of life become clearer. Decisions, including relationship decisions, become easier to make. Knowing your purpose is a key to knowing yourself. And knowing yourself is a key to connecting positively with others.

What have I failed to accept about myself? When you fail to accept yourself as you are, you invite relationship problems. Often people hide who they are from the world because they have not accepted themselves — flaws, mistakes, failures and all. We all have issues and things we wished had happened differently over the years. The key is to learn from life’s experiences, accept what is and become better one day at a time. Once you accept that you are a work in progress and stop striving to appear perfect to the rest of the world, it frees you to be you. And others feel comfortable being themselves around you. When that happens, you connect in your relationships on a meaningful level.

Do I have conflicting intentions?
If you find yourself saying that you desire a better relationship, but your actions say the opposite, then you have conflicting intentions. If you want to experience real change and transformation, be willing to make a real change in your actions.

What am I avoiding
Fear, if you allow it, can keep you from having the abundance of joy, success and love that you were meant to enjoy. By knowing exactly what you are avoiding in your life, you can better understand the reactions, emotions and behavior that keep you from taking positive steps forward. Avoiding issues does not make them go away. Don’t allow fear to minimize your potential to enrich your life and your relationships. Identify what you are avoiding, and begin taking action to face your fears and overcome them.

What’s missing in my life
Too often, people rely on the people in their lives to fill the void of the things that are missing — from a parent living vicariously through their child to a person who seeks their identity in the status of their spouse or family. You will never be fulfilled by seeking internal needs through external sources. Ask yourself, “What’s missing in my life?” Then search within for your solution. By connecting with yourself — and spiritually — the missing pieces can be found.

My challenge to you this week: Take Action!
Take time for yourself. In the hectic pace of life, it can be easy to take care of everyone and everything else and forget about taking care of you! Make an appointment with yourself for at least one hour. Time alone gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your mind, body and spirit.

Journaling assignment
This week, take time to answer the five key questions in this week’s column. Take out your journal or a notebook, and explore your answers honestly.

Valorie Burton is a bestselling Christian author, life coach and regular media guest on topics of living a more fulfilling, less stressful life. Her latest book, Listen to Your Life, identifies seven principles to hear what your life is saying to you and fulfill your purpose in your career, finances, relationships, health and spiritual life. Visit her at .

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