In 1938, Harvard University began a study that has now gone on for 80 years. They studied, “what makes a good life?” Only 19 of the original 500 cohort are still alive, but the study has branched out included their offspring as well. The original group studied was all male (yes, even Harvard professors were oppressive boors back then) and included JFK and Ben Bradlee (famed editor of the Washington Post). The main takeaway of this decades-long study on happiness is quite remarkable. The study revealed that good relationships, more than money, fame or achievement are what keep people happy and healthy throughout their lives. Relational health is a better indicator of even physical health in old age. It’s a better indicator than social class, IQ or genetics. “The people who were most satisfied in their relationships at 50, were the most healthy at 80” said Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
So what are they keys to building and maintaining healthy relationships? Here are a few in no particular order:
- Being courteous. Smiling, remembering your manners, holding your tongue when you’re angry, and overlooking minor slights
- Being a lifter, not a leaner. If what you have to say is going to unnecessarily drag people down, keep it to yourself
- Acting with integrity.
- Showing genuine care for others
- Rolling up your sleeves and helping rather than barking orders
- Considering the other person’s perspective before responding
- Building a reputation for honesty
- Saying sorry when you’ve messed up
Good relationships are a joy, they make you healthier, they make you live longer, and they also make you money (!) Long term profit almost always comes from relationships based on trust.
What is one rule you can work on this week?