Leaning Into Relationships

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It’s very easy to focus on what we don’t have. Perhaps we feel we don’t have enough money – or time. Maybe we wish we had more acknowledgment or praise from loved ones, work mates, or society in general. Another common lament is not having opportunities that seemingly have been unfairly granted to everyone else, but us. We spend energy trying to acquire these things we think we lack, assuming it will bring us happiness, or in the least, ease our suffering. And, in our focus of what we DON’T have, we focus on what others DO have, making us even more miserable in our comparisons.

Relationships are messy and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending to family and friends, it’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends.”

So why do we spend so much time focusing on things that ultimately just make us jealous or frustrated? Why don’t we naturally rejoice in our plenitudes? This human preoccupation with what we don’t have both stems from and feeds a basic human survival instinct to need to know our place in the world, where we belong and preserve that sense of belonging. With that comes nagging pervasive thoughts like Who is the enemy? Who is on MY side? If I am right, they must be wrong. If they have something, I must have nothing. And you would think this zero sum mentality would be limited across political party lines or football fans, but this us/them instinct can tragically extend into our personal relationships creating a competitive and damaging you/me dynamic with our loved ones.

But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community”.

According to Robert Waldinger , director of the longest study on adult life and happiness the one thing that WILL ease our suffering and bring more happiness into old age is the very thing we often don’t recognize as threatened: our relationships. We take them for granted, or worse, push them away, in our other pursuits we deem more important. (e.g. money, time, praise, opportunity…being right!, etc.)

The good life is built with good relationships.
 

Waldinger, who has devoted his research to spreading the word about the importance of relationships — any kind of relationship–states in his TedTalk, that the act of nurturing relationships doesn’t have to be complicated or earth shattering. It could be the difference of how you spend five minutes of your day with someone.
 
But, don’t be hard on yourself. It takes awareness and vigilance to work with and against our survival instinct to “win” and “be right” and “get ahead”, the very instinct that acts as a roadblock to fulfilling our deep human need for love and connection.
 
Please join me in reading the transcript of Waldinger’s TED Talk and be amazed at your multiple and varied relationships right in front of you — every day.
 
They, alone, in their madness and mundaneness are your most likely passage to lifelong happiness.

 

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