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What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life? Where should you invest your time and energy now for the future?
A survey of millennials revealed that 80% said that their major life goal was to be rich. Another 50% of the same survey said another major life goal was to be famous.
We are given the impression that we must lean into work, to push harder and achieve more in order to have a good life.
Is this true?
What if we could observe the lives of people from their teen years until old age and assess what was the good life for them? We can.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked the lives of 724 men for 75 years year after year about all aspects of their lives. About 60 of the original 724 are still alive, now in their 90s.
Since 1938 the lives of two groups of men were tracked. One group were 2nd year students at Harvard College. The second group were boys from Boston’s poorest neighbourhood, from troubled and disadvantaged families.
Their future achievements ranged from the high (President of the USA) to low (alcoholism) and everywhere in between.
What was learnt? It wasn’t about wealth and fame and working harder and harder.
The message learnt was this:
Good relationships keep us happy and healthier.
Three big lessons about relationships:
- Social connections are good for us and loneliness kills.
- It’s not the number of friends you have, or whether you have a committed relationship, but the quality of your close relationships that count towards a good quality of life.
People who were the most satisfied in their relationships aged 50 were the healthiest aged 80.
- Good relationships not only protect our bodies, they protect our brains.
People in relationships where they feel they cannot count on the other one, are people who experience a decline in their memories.
So why is it so hard to get and so easy to ignore?
Because we are humans and relationships can be messy.
The study has shown that people who fared best were the people who nurtured relationships with family, with friends, with community.
The good life is built with good relationships. Get to it.
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