In 2020, we all faced significant trials as we learned to navigate the pandemic world. With COVID-19 not quite in our rearview mirror, as an entrepreneur, I’ve had to pivot and learn a great deal about cultivating and maintaining my personal and professional relationships in this remade nation.

No matter what you do for a living or aspire to become, relationships are the new currency; not your virtual network, your real one. Building relationships isn’t just a critical career skill, it’s also a critical life skill. Building and maintaining authentic relationships with positive, like-minded people with great energy will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams and can catapult you into another level of greatness in 2021.

In personal relationships, we value the quality of the connection with the other person. Many people have spent more time with their family, partners, friends and by themselves in the past 12 months than anyone could have expected. What we’ve all learned is that some of our relationships have become invaluable — and that others are dragging us down.

In our professional relationships, we may genuinely like the other person; we have each other’s back and support one another. Still, this type of relationship is about helping the other person advance in their career or business venture.

Our professional relationships are forged in service of our professional goals, whereas our personal relationships arise out of our basic human need for connection, love and belonging. In personal relationships, you also have to understand your kryptonite, what relationships are draining, toxic, or that you’re still in past its expiration date.

The stakes are very different in the two types of relationships. In personal relationships, our pride is at risk; in professional relationships, our livelihood is, and this is why it’s so vital to be that much more careful in our professional relationships.

In our personal relationships, we want to be open. We want to be appreciated for who we really are. In professional relationships, we need to be more strategic; we want to be well-liked and respected, but not necessarily well known.

There are 10 “discouragement eliminators,” including No. 7, that I live by: “Give What You Require.” Let me share five important tips on how we can manage our professional and personal relationships to live a more rewarding and happy life:

  1. Evaluate your connections. Remember, your relationships are your currency. Are they offering you a return on your investment?
  2. Deposit before you withdraw. If you want something out of your relationship, you have to be willing to look beyond yourself and put something into it.
  3. Nurture the relationship you have with yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. You need to dig deep to build up your self-esteem.
  4. Know when to stop depositing. There comes a point when you have to tell yourself it’s time to move on. Do it. Don’t waste time. It will be better for you and the person with which you’re involved. You don’t need to explain yourself.
  5. Monitor your emotional bank account. It boils down to this: the love and positivity you receive are dependent on the love and positivity you put out into the world.

In the DNA of relationships is generosity, and a critical part of cultivating and maintaining relationships is being able to offer something others find helpful or what they can’t even imagine.

In the end, the key is to think of building personal and professional relationships not as a professional skill but a life skill, one that should be carried out with care, respect, time, trust and generosity. When you approach relationship building that way, you’ll be rewarded.