Are You Taking People for Granted?

It’s True or False time!

True or False: You put off calling/ Zooming/ visiting an old friend/ boss/ mentor/ family member because you assume you can just connect with them “later.”

If you answered True, you are so fabulously human, and we shall bond in our gory take-things-for-granted humanity together here. We suck, but we suck together.

If you answered False, you’re a total liar! But I still love you, Little Pinocchio, so stick around and keep reading.

Three examples of taking people for granted…

I created a People I Want to Interview chart while dreaming up the outline of my book. For a year I tinkered with it as I mustered up the courage to Just. Get. Started. You know what happened? Two of the people on my list died before I had the chance to interview them.

  • I took for granted that I’d be able to interview Chris-Tia, a cancer-survivor client whose story I briefly shared in my TEDx talk. She died of breast cancer at the age of 42.
  • I took for granted that I’d be able to interview Barry, a mentor I’d connect with once or twice a year—infrequently, but deeply. He died at the age of 80.

I assumed these people would be there—not just as contributors for the book, but as meaningful players in my life. I fell into the “later” trap: naively believing we’d be able to talk at some point down the road. Ugh.

I think about the relationships I took for granted in the cities I used to live in. I didn’t spend as much time with people I cared about because I duped myself into thinking I could be with them “any old time.” When you know you can go to brunch any old Sunday with a friend or happy hour with colleagues any old Thursday, it’s easy to pass on an invite or fail to initiate an outing. We lull ourselves into thinking we can hang out later… some other time. Oh! How I wish I had spent more time with friends and clients and coworkers in Toronto and Chicago… Terri! Deb! Becka! Dad! Bill! Leslie! Gary! And the list goes on. I only realized this after I left, this feeling of friendship left on the table—dinners we could have had, walks we could have taken, markets we could have strolled through (okay I have never strolled through a market with a friend but you see my point). I so rue the feeling of taking time and people for granted.

I was at a conference at UPenn a few weeks ago where I saw dozens of friends and former classmates from the Master of Applied Psychology Program. I was so excited to see and hug such delicious people! And I took them for granted. I saw Courtney, for example, twice, and both times when I could have interacted and had a quality conversation beyond a glee-filled hello in the street, I said to myself, “I’ll have time to sit and chat with her later.” Au contraire. My travel plans changed and I had to leave a bit early, so I ended up exchanging zero Deep and Meaningful words with her (well, however deep and meaningful I could have been after a glass or two of wine at the reception). I did this with so many people that weekend: I assumed I’d have time to connect with them later. Had I known I’d be leaving early, would I have acted differently? Yes. Of course I deferred wine-soaked hellos with friends because I assumed I’d see them the next day. But I still wish I had seized the opportunities to connect in the moment. All we have is the moment, right? Tomorrow is a premise, not a promise.

Okay so in reality . . .

Are You Taking People for Granted? OF COURSE YOU ARE.We’re busy. We’re tired, and sometimes we’re downright exhausted. We’ve got to prioritize our priorities and sometimes we have more priorities than will ever fit into our days/ weeks/ years/ lifetimes. So yes, we have to accept that some people will “make the cut” of how we spend our dwindling time, and some people simply won’t fit in because we’ve got that big work project to finish or that wedding to plan or ten new episodes of the Great British Baking Show to catch up on. Let’s all accept, illustrated with a bummer face emoji 😔, that we simply won’t get to spend as much time as we’d like with the people who matter in our lives.

Our opportunity here is to be more intentional, though, isn’t it? It’s to identify the people who do matter in the grand scheme of things (i.e.: life), and to be deliberate about scheduling a call/ FaceTime/ lunch/ trip to New Zealand with them.

Three questions and an action step:

  • Who in your life would you feel gut-punched if they died, because you had all sorts of intentions to spend more time with them? This gut punch stretches beyond the typical “oh, that’s sad they died” run-of-the-mill grief, because it highlights the plans you failed to take action on with them.
  • If you relocated to a different city tomorrow, who in your town would you wish you’d spent more time with, while you had the luxury of seeing them any time?
  • If you were at an event with many people you cared about, who would you make sure to spend time with? Who would you feel that feeling of “oh nooooo” if you had to leave the event prematurely and didn’t have a chance to visit?

Reach out to the people you just identified, before they die . . . or before you die, because NEWSFLASH!—you might die first, and it’d be super shitty to get to your afterlife and think, “I never did go for that Bloody Mary brunch with Monica.” (Hi Monica! I’m sorry I took you for granted in Chicago!)

Be aware of “later” thinking. Sooner is almost always better than later when we live such limited lives.

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: Check out (okay, and maybe preorder) my upcoming book, You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End with No Regrets!

P.P.S.: Let’s do Instagram together!

P.P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!


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