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How To Live ‘The Good Life’

Is there a secret to living a better and happier life?

In, Robert Waldinger, M.D., and Marc Schultz, Ph.D., co-directors of the Harvard Adult Development study, write “Positive relationships are essential to human well-being.” This finding, drawn from the Harvard Adult Development Study, which began in the late 1930s, echoes something we humans have known for millennials. The authors quote Lao Tzu, who wrote 2400 years ago, “The more you give to others, the greater your abundance.”

Building good relationships

Relationships, according to are not merely external. “If you think about it, you carry around many people you care about inside you all day long. You can call up a warm image of a friend or a loved one. And so in that sense, we carry them around. You carry around a warm image of somebody who may have passed away a long time ago. So it’s often useful to think about how we carry people with us as we go through the world.”

Fostering good relations with others can depend upon what the authors call “the power of generosity.”

Dr. Waldinger said, “Research tells us that when we are generous, we feel better and happier. We feel like our lives are more meaningful. So when we help people, we take care of ourselves… We know that being generous makes us feel like our lives are better.”

Helping ourselves

One practical element, among many, in the book is the W.I.S.E.R. model (Watch. Interpret. Select. Engage. Reflect). “Wiser model is really just a way of slowing things down when you have a challenging interaction, particularly with another person.” As the authors write, imagine you receive an email from your boss at 5 p.m. saying he wants to meet you at 9 a.m. The intent of the email is ambiguous. “And the problem with our wonderful minds doing that is that we can often create a story that isn’t true when we get this kind of challenging stimulus from somebody else.”

Dr Waldinger says, “Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t reply right away if you don’t have to. But just think, okay, what might be going on? What am I assuming and what do I actually know for a fact?”

“When you receive an angry email or an angry text and you want to reply right away with something, and that’s the time to stop and slow down,” says Dr. Waldinger. “Take a moment, take a breath, or count backwards from five back to zero. Just anything to interrupt the swirl of thoughts. Think about it.”

Addressing loneliness

Loneliness is an epidemic in our country, and according to the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, it is a health issue. issued by his office in 2023, Dr. Murthy wrote that beyond health hazards such as cardiovascular disease and dementia, “the harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished.”

Fostering a sense of belonging is an essential antidote to loneliness. Human resource professionals need to address this issue more seriously in the workplace. Leaders must show the way by “being interested in other people’s lives, curiosity about your colleagues and your workers. It means modeling vulnerability and not knowing. It means modeling, learning to get help from other people, all that as part of enhancing relationships with other people.”

Value others

Good relationships are essential to a life well-lived. We must find ways to connect that benefit others and, in turn, ourselves. It is important to be open to possibility of deep connection. It’s good for you and your life. The authors write in their concluding chapter that it is essential to realize that “the good life is not a destination. It is the path itself, and the people who are walking it with you.”

“Keep reaching out to people, email people, text people regularly saying, just thinking about you, wanting to say hi or checking in about how they’re doing,” says Dr. Waldinger. “For the people who are really important, make regular dates with them. Make sure that you have a once a month lunch with that friend who you don’t want to lose touch with no matter what.” Recognize their contributions to you and let them know it.