My priorities may be slightly out of whack. I blindly spend much of my time focused on earning: reading about how to be a good leader, a more successful sales and businessperson, how to squeeze more into seemingly less and less time, and many other topics all meant to increase income.
This TED Talk inspired me to make a change. It was delivered by Robert Waldinger, the current director of a Harvard longevity study, designed to track the lives of 724 men over the past 78 years and uncover the factors contributing most significantly to their health and happiness.
Assuming the main goal of life is happiness, Mr. Waldinger’s presentation has me thinking that while career/income should be a priority, it should not be my main one. As I examined where I spend most of my time, I realized I am not focused on the aspect of life the study has proven to have the greatest impact on happiness. The key finding of the study:
Good relationships keep us healthier and happier.
Anecdotally, it makes sense. Some of the wealthiest people are the ones with the highest depression rates, and some of the world’s poorest people, can be amongst the happiest and most content with their lives.
Making money was the goal instilled in me, dating back to high school. Go to school, get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job, and stay in it for years and years until you’ve saved enough money to not have to work anymore. But this year, I’m planning on experimenting with a slightly different focus.
I’m going to shift my priorities as I head into 2018. Instead of always reading about how to make more money and become a better businessperson, I’m choosing to focus on becoming better in my relationships – how to listen, communicate effectively, practice empathy, display kindness, and willingly give without seeking anything in return.
I’ve chosen my first two books for the year: 10% Happier by Dan Harris, to calm the voices in my head as they relate to running a business and earning income. Then, People Skills by Robert Bolton, to help me hone an overlooked, but critically important skill for building relationships: listening.
Another book-related goal I have for this year, which plays well into strengthening relationships: reading the Bible. Despite not attending church nor associating with any denomination, I feel a strong curiosity to read it. Many self-help books I’ve read, including one of my favorites, The Success Principles, mention faith. I feel the entire genre has roots extending from the Bible and I’m curious to explore.
To up my book consumption, I’m implementing at least an hour of uninterrupted reading into my day. Computer away, phone on airplane mode. I will aim for a single sitting, but will make up any lost time by reading before falling asleep.
I want to make sure I’m setting myself up to be the happiest I can be. Strengthening existing friendships and relationships seemed to be a logical place to start. The study found that while quantity of friendships was important to those in their 20s, it was the quality of those close few relationships that became most important as participants reached their 30s and beyond. And the folks most satisfied with their relationships at 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
I’m not going to lose focus on my career or business, but I’m curious to see the effect on my happiness level as my priority shifts from earning income to learning to nurture relationships.