Research reveals that the secret to happiness lies in the quality of our relationships ... with others, with ourselves. 

"Happiness is not a goal 

      ... it's a by-product of a life well-lived"

Eleanor Roosevelt, American politician, diplomat, activist

This month’s newsletter focuses on the secret to happiness.

While this may differ from person to person, the findings of the longest recorded research project suggests that the quality of our relationships is the deciding factor.

Over the years, it has become my custom in Life Planning meetings to assert that no area of the Wheel of Balance is more important than another. And, for many years, I have held this to be true.

But, more recently, I have come to realise that the most happiness and unhappiness I have seen has been as a result of healthy or destructive relationships.

The 'other' is an opportunity

Each Life Planning meeting commences with an exploration of individual personalities. Very often, we find that couples are comprised of opposites: the ying and yang principle. 

Don’t imagine that this is negative – different perspectives only enhance our own wisdom and expand our view of life. We become more self-aware, as the ‘other’ offers us the opportunity to discover what we might never have discerned about ourselves. 

Sound narcissistic?  Not at all! Rather, knowing ourselves well facilitates understanding – why we think and behave the way we do … and knowing when we are acting irrationally. 

Much of our thinking is sub-conscious.
Research shows that only 10% of our actions are driven by conscious thought.

Let’s take a practical example:  consider that situation in which someone says something that triggers an emotional reaction in you – your heart beats faster, your jaw clenches, your throat burns!

Can you take a step back and recognise that this response has less to do with the words heard and more to do with a past experience?

These moments of tension are more about how we feel about ourselves, and normally have nothing to do with others. What stings us almost always touches on something in ourselves that we haven’t yet become aware of or haven’t dealt with sufficiently.

I have named this instinctive response my “two-year old self” – it is likely to be a hurtful lashing out, often wounding those closest to us. Years of these responses can do irreparable damage to our relationships

Instead, I try to allow myself to take a deep breath and walk away – a response when I have calmed down tends to be more effective.

There are more practical tips on how to become more self-aware, thereby taking control of your responses and benefitting your relationships, in the rest of this article.  I hope you will enjoy it: click here.

Please take note of the useful ways to
"Invite romance in" in the article of that title in this newsletter.  I am a great advocate of finding ways to keep our intimate relationships alive.

Respect in relationships

Nature has a way of reminding us to renew ourselves. With each new season comes the need to pack this away, plant that, try a new activity, start a new habit.

This is no less true of our relationships, and I have found a fantastic tool to tack stock of this vital part of our lives - after all, relationships, it has been shown, are the key to our happiness. 

The JenMoff graphic above depicts the elements of respectful relationships: support, accountability, safety, co-operation, trust, physical intimacy. It provides a short description of the attitudes needed for each of these elements - a useful guide in assessing the quality of your relationships - both how you treat your significant others, and how they treat you.  These summaries also provide practical tips to remediate any areas that are lacking.

You can get your own copy of the graphic (and its opposite - what characterises an unhealthy relationship) since this email template does not allow for a large copy.  Simply click here and fill in your email address to receive a free copy of the booklet on conscious relationships. (I signed up and have only received the booklet, not a hundred pesky emails!) 

The author, Jen Moff, encourages you to take a quick inventory of the five people in your life to whom you devote most of your time and energy, and to ask questions regarding the quality of those relationships: Is she supportive and encouraging?  Does he unintentionally make me the best me I can be? Could this relationships be here to teach me something? 

Are you authoring your own life script?

"You already know you’ve got one life to live, and that’s why it’s so important that you. Live. Your. Own. Story."

So says Retirementor, Alan Hosking, in an article in which he asks us to take a closer look at the script according to which you are living - is it one you have written yourself? Or have you been shaping your life to accommodate the life script of someone else? 

What about shared stories?
"Living your story means you make your own decisions regarding your life and don’t live according to someone else’s requirements. I am not advocating that people in long-term relationships should behave selfishly with no regard for their partners in the interests of living their own story. Couples in long-term relationships are actually living their own shared story – a story of a life together and that story is an important and valid story. But that’s a story that they will have mutually agreed on," continues Alan. 

Avoiding regret
People who end up living someone else’s story die sad, bitter and regretful people. The tragedy of regret is that it is the one emotion we feel because we cannot do something about what we regret. That’s why we experience regret.

Whatever your age now, make a decision to start living your own story. How many years are you going to waste living someone else’s story?

People who live their own stories find success and fulfilment and, most importantly, make a significant contribution to the world, to society or to their family. That’s because each of us was born to live our own story!

You can read the rest of this article on our Retire Successfully website by clicking here.


What makes a good life, according to a Harvard study 

Robert Waldinger is the fourth director of a unique Harvard study, and he opens his TED talk by asking this: “What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life?"

"If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy?” 

This Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked 724 men (yes, I know, why not the women when it began?) over 75 years, year after year, asking about various aspects of their lives – this is probably the longest study of adult life ever done. 

“So what have we learned?” asks Waldinger.  “What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we've generated on these lives?” He acknowledges that the lessons had little to do with wealth or fame or working harder and harder.
The clear lesson, in fact, is that good relationships keep us healthier and happier. 

Waldinger cites three significant lessons about relationships emerging from the study: first, connections are good for us and loneliness kills; second, it is the quality, not quantity of your close relationships that matter (all those Facebook friends may not qualify!); and, thirdly, good relationships don’t protect just our bodies but also our minds. 

You can imagine that there are many more fascinating facts behind this rather truncated summary.  Should you wish to find out more about the study and its findings, please do visit the Ted Talk site to watch Waldinger’s full commentary – I am convinced that you will derive much value from watching it: CLICK HERE.

Certainly, I love the quotation with which Waldinger concludes.  American author, Mark Twain, reflects on his life:
“There isn't time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that."

Invite romance in

In the online resource: Life Reimagined (click here to access it), one of the areas the authors focus on is recreating the romance and intimacy of a relationship with your spouse, partner, lover.

Here are some of their suggestions.

One way to bring back desire is to step out of the everyday. You can accomplish it in small ways, because everything makes a difference.

Explore how play can allow you to see each other in a new light.

Plan to play
Play is a safe space where you can experiment, reinvent yourself and take chances. Create a communication channel exclusively for the two of you, and share seductive thoughts and ideas.

Create an erotic space
You may have cultivated predictability to make you feel secure, but this may have resulted in boredom. 
The answer? 
Explore ways to bring play and eroticism into your relationship. Breaking routine is powerful. It energises, renews and gives you a sense of freedom.

If you have a conservative nature and pursuing these ideas seems a bit challenging for you, why not start with small actions and, when you enjoy the result, continue trying the formerly 'forbidden'! 

  • Add candles to routine events such as meals together;
  • bathe together and reflect on past romantic moments;
  • give your partner a relaxing and fragrant massage; and
  • don't forget those most seductive qualities of listening, being respectful and kind, and showing your partner you still find him or her attractive and you cherish your relationship!


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