On Wednesday morning, during another wacky, wild, random snowstorm here in Denver, a friend called me in distress about her relationship with her boyfriend.
She wasn’t happy. They weren’t communicating well. There was one misunderstanding after another, and now they weren’t talking.
After 20 minutes we worked out a plan… that I’ll share below. But it got me thinking about how easy it is for us to slip from what I call, The Simple & Happy Life Plan.
I read a lot of books and the one that has helped me be happier and less stressed than any other is called, The Art Of Living. It’s a simple little book containing short lessons from an ancient Stoic philosopher, Epictetus.
He taught me the 3-C Formula that guides my life:
- Control what you can
- Cope with what you can’t
- Concentrate one what counts
I take this to mean:
- You can only control your thoughts, words and deeds… what you say, how you think, and what you do can make the situation better or worse…so choose wisely
- You can’t control other people or their moods, or the weather, or traffic… so be prepared to cope with the wild and wacky ups-and-downs of friends, family, and yes, even late-March snowstorms… (and always remember: You control your reaction… you can raise your voice… or you can be calm. Your choice.)
- You must concentrate on what counts… on what really matters in life… not the things that won’t matter in 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, or 3 hours.
But what really matters?
The answer, according to science from Harvard University, is that people and experiences matter more than anything else.
In a study that started all the way back in 1938, and has since tracked over 700 people, (including JFK!), if you want to be happy, don’t chase money or fame. Instead, spend more time with others that you love.
The most important factor in happiness, long-term health, and wellbeing is:
The strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.
The study has also led to other interesting findings such as:
- The #1 thing you can do for your health is to avoid smoking.
- Alcohol was the primary cause of divorce.
- Alcohol abuse often precedes depression.
But most importantly…
“The people in the strongest relationships were protected against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline – even if the relationships had ups and downs.”
“Those good relationships don’t have to be smooth all the time,” said Dr. Robert Waldinger, the current leader of the research study.
“Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker day in and day out. But as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”
So what does the Harvard study suggest we do?
Well, it’s the same sort of plan I gave my friend to help her relationship… (yep, I’m a regular ol’ Dr. Phil here, ha!)
The Plan for My Friend to Regain Her Happiness & Relationship
- Stop trying to have the conversation via email. Connect in-person instead. When he gets home tonight, go for a walk. We communicate – and understand one another – better in person, even if the conversations are difficult.
- Once you sort out the issue, do something new together. The Harvard study recommends livening up stale relationships with long walks or date nights. My good friends, Bedros and Di Keuilian, go out every Tuesday night. It’s one of the foundations of their strong marriage.
- Don’t ignore the conflict… the old saying about “Never go to bed mad” is great advice that stands the test of time.
(And this goes for family relationships, too… according to the Harvard study, we should “reach out to the family member we haven’t spoken to in years — because those family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges.”)
No one’s perfect, myself included, and we won’t ever live a life free of conflict, but as long as we work to strengthen the relationships with our loved ones, and focus on people and experiences, we’ll live a long, satisfied, and healthy life.
That’s what it’s about… not money in the bank, job titles, or hours spent at work.
Have a Happy Easter weekend!
Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer
PS – And don’t forget to laugh!