Warning: Spoiler Alert
I watched this Ted Talk, “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” by Robert Waldinger, a few years ago. It is the one Talk that has had the biggest impact on me, year after year. It’s under 13 minutes and explains the learnings of a study that’s been going on for over 70 years; possibly the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done.
Almost as if I’m meant to watch it every year, I’ll see an article or someone else having posted it, and it will be a reminder for me to watch it. A good reminder that money and fame or throwing all your energy into work alone are things that are not going to make you happy. The one thing that does bring happiness and satisfaction? You guessed it: “Good relationships keep us healthier and happier.” Imagine that? Yeah, sorry for all of us who are chasing money and fame that’s for sure and disappointing.
“The second biggest lesson learnt is that it’s not just the number of friends you have or whether or not you’re in a committed relationship; but it’s the quality of your relationships that matters.” From first hand experience and from someone who over recent years is continuously examining the value brought into my life through all of my relationships, I can say this is true. And because I’ve seen the impact people have in each other’s lives and the decrease in health fueled by bad relationships, I am more and more purposeful about who I let into my circle; blood ties or not. I’ve seen family and friends so badly affected by their relationships with their partners that they become a shell of the person they used to be; I’ve experienced friendships that gave me so much anxiety I’d jump every time the phone buzzed in fear of the drama it brought.
Now you may be the type of person, like how I used to be, who thought no one person can have such a big effect on me, relationship, friendship, familyship, whatevership. I’m my own person. But having listened to this talk and hearing the number of years the research has been going on for, it did get me thinking. And I took a step back and started observing how I felt when certain people called or my reaction when I received certain messages. I observed my excitement or levels of frustration, before even taking to them. And after having that chat, I would observe my reactions to the tasks I did immediately after. Sometimes I would find making tea a frustration, other times I could do a 10km run with ease. Ah yes, different people definitely had different impacts on me. Now if relationships can create such reactions with small actions like a phone call or message, imagine the impact of bigger actions by people close to you? Imagine the impact that conflict-driven friendships or relationships would have on you after a number of years? Scary to think about or even admit, isn’t it?
On a positive note, I now value those relationships that make me feel safe and content. I have become so aware of the importance of relationships, that I notice how, when I’m surrounded by good relationships, obstacles are easier to jump over, stress is lighter and quicker to be removed, and even sleep is deeper.
As an introvert, a workaholic, control freak (work in progress), someone who struggles with boundaries, it has taken me years to accept the impact people and my relationships with them have on my life. And maybe that’s why I get a reminder annually to watch this Talk. It’s 13 minutes that could possibly impact the next 30 years (or however long I’m meant to be alive). And quite honestly, it’s worth it.