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In 2015, Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who led a 75-year Harvard study (the longest study of its kind) on true happiness and satisfaction in life presented his findings at a TED Talk. In his talk, he revealed THE key to building a fulfilling and long life: good relationships. These are what keep us healthier and happier. You can access Waldinger’s TED Talk directly at the end of this post.
Bonds That Break - A Recent Experience
Throughout life, you’re gonna have some great relationships with people and some that you wish you’d ended long ago. It’s a journey filled with many learnings - one of which I had recently encountered. While this doesn’t happen too often, I occasionally will have this someone challenge or make passive aggressive comments about my choice to blog, to write, to take pictures and engage in a blogger’s world. Some bloggers help brands tell stories, while others help people aspire to reach their goals. Some just write because they love it. I aspire to do all three. This “friend,” however, has made numerous disparaging comments about the industry that are meant in a general context, not directed to me (despite fully knowing I’m in the industry) - indicating not only a complete lack of respect for what I like to do but also indicating very little understanding. But rather than engage in a conversation to find out more, I get judgement passed onto me instead.
I will always try and see the positive in someone. But if that is the type of reception you get from those you call “friends”, there is a lesson to be learned here. The lesson is that life is too short to surround yourself with people who don’t see your value and celebrate with you. Clear your dance card and fill it with like-minded people who will help you achieve your dreams.
The Dart Board of Life
With this in mind, I started thinking about ALL the relationships I currently have with people around me. I visualize a dartboard where the center holds my most important relationships: family. I am fortunate to have a boyfriend who’s loving and supportive and a true partner - sharing the workload at home, getting excited for each other’s personal projects and career achievements, and unconditional love.
I’m also thankful for my relationship with my two kids. My teenage son, who’s now 13, could be that typical moody, brooding boy (that I’m still anticipating!) but he still grabs my hand and blows me kisses. My younger one, who’s 11, is still my baby and loves being with me. Together as a family, we prioritize weekends focused on each other, going out to have a good time - whether it’s hitting the ski hills, going to a movie or headed for a hike.
As I move outward from the center of the dartboard into the next ring, it would be my closest, longest friendships. There are ones whom I’ve had for nearly two decades and these are friends who have been through everything with you - every relationship, joy, despair, and crazy fun times - they’re the ones you can always count on. Those who celebrate your successes and comfort and raise you up in times of despair - and vice versa. There are no mind games, no competition, no judgement. You’re just there for each other. You may not see each other for months but then get back together and continue the conversation you left off like it was yesterday. They’re the keepers.
Continue moving outward onto the next ring and you’ll come across friends you’ve made in the last few years; whether through work, play or other activities.
On the outer ring, there are the acquaintances - people whom you see once in a while - whether through the same industry, at parties or events. They’re great people to know and have wonderful conversations with - you learn from each other and it helps to build community.
Now here’s the thing - you only have a limited number of hours in a day and each one is so valuable. In fact, time is the most valuable thing we own. Think about what Waldinger discovered - it’s all about the quality of our relationships. If the quality of time spent on relationships were currency, you would place the most coins in the center and as you move out, you’d begin sprinkling less and less coins - being as judicious as you can.
This year, you’ll see me making some major changes in the number of things I’m involved in - more to come on that by June. And in reducing the number of things I do, it allows me to actually spend time with the center of my dart board, working on the relationships that bring me the most joy. That will be 2017 for me.
Check out Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness/transcript?language=en