This piece is my call to any man (and perhaps a few women) who believe that career and personal growth are THE most important pursuits in this precious thing called life.
I dare you to read the points below and to consider that maybe just maybe before you lie on your deathbed (see that research down below also) you might want to spend a little extra time investing in your relationships (both intimate and the friendship kind) more.
As a top ten countdown…
#10. Deeper happiness comes to those who GIVE to others
There’s what psychologists call “hedonic” approach to life satisfaction which is all about more pleasure and less pain. That’s what climbing the status ladder, earning more money, lying on the beach in winter, and a host of other delights we chase get us: fleeting rush, fun for bit, and hungry for MORE!
And then there’s the “eudaimonic” (mouthful to say) approach which focuses in every day speak is all about doing what is meaningful and fulfills us most deeply.
You can imagine — NO DUH! — that the second one leads to a deeper type of happiness, a satisfaction that lasts.
When you wonder what we find most meaningful and what makes us most fulfilled, it’s also little surprise that focusing on and giving to others leads to some of the most permanent types of joy.
“The secret to living is giving.” ~ Anthony Robbins
Here’s some research (if you need to read it to be convinced further):
Being Generous Really Does Make You Happier
It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to know that doing nice things for people feels good. But now, researchers say they’ve…
In case you feel overwhelmed with survival or consumed with your own personal ambitions, remember this…
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
― Mother Theresa
#9. Healthy relationships make us healthier & younger
Everyone knows that an unhealthy relationship makes us miserable and even sick. There’s more research to drill that painful truth home.
There’s also a growing body of evidence that socially isolating ourselves kills us sooner— ouch.
But, lets look at the flip side of the coin: the positive health benefits of being in a strong and secure relationship.
Here is a great piece by Liz Mineo of The Harvard Gazette that ties together generations of data showing us that “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”
Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life
He recorded his TED talk, titled "What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness," in 2015, and it…
“When the study began, nobody cared about empathy or attachment. But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.”
— George Vaillant
8. Without daily care, your love will wither…
Relationships are a like a garden, needing constant and consummate care.
Left neglected, they become overgrown with tenacious weeds like boredom and resentment, which strangle the joy and love that is possible.
It took me years to really appreciate the impact of how I was neglecting my dearest wife (and prior partners) thus leaving our relationship in an impoverished state.
This resource page from the University Of Minnesota reminds us of extensive research showing that…
“the healthiest, longest-living people in the world all have something in common: they put their families first.”
The shift that made the most impact in my marriage was to simply accept the wisdom and responsibility of investing in my marriage on a daily, even moment to moment basis. A loving text here. A warm hug there. All of it adds up to making us feel better and better together over the years.
7. “I wish I hadn’t wasted that time…” said. no. man. ever!
Every one of us will face death at some point.
Each of us will have the wake of our own lives to look back on and to contend with.
You might have read this article (link below) a few years ago or the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying written by Bronnie Ware, a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care revealing to us the biggest regrets people cling to on their death beds.
Top five regrets of the dying
A palliative nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying. What would your biggest regret be if this was…
What’s notable to me are the following regrets (#2, #3 and #4) and what Bronnie noted about each one, in quotes below.
#2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.”
6. It’s the most challenging AND satisfying thing you could do with your whole damn life!
Relationships are the most perilous and most rewarding adventure any man can ever dare to go on!
That’s not just my belief, but the mindset and attitude of the countless men who were fully honest with me about their own struggles and successes in relationships.
I know that many of us grew up thinking. “We just gotta find “the one” and ride off into the sunset.”
Our childhood fantasy of a “real” adventure was imagining ourselves sailing across the Pacific, heroically saving someone in distress, or fighting some good fight defeating evil doers and slaying dragons.
The girl (or boy if you love men) was the prize which only came after we proved ourselves worthy to some individualistic and heroic tasks.
But, think about this for a moment.
Is there a more scary — and exciting — adventure than getting physically naked and emotionally honest with someone else?
The most important places we need to travel to are not very far away. They are often but a few inches from us: seeing into the tender eyes of our lover, walking side by side with a dear friend, playfully wrestling with our kids.
The greatest (and scariest) journey men can ever dare to go on is the one from their heads to their hearts.
The dragons we need to slay are our own demons, the fears and doubts and regrets we face every day.
We can hide from them in busying ourselves with complex mind puzzling tasks but when we come home they are reflected back to us in our relationships.
Is there a greater and more worthy challenge in life than earning the respect and lasting love of someone who comes to know us warts and all?
I have found none. If you have, I dare you to tell me.
5. It’ll make you deeply proud to make things better for you and your loved ones
We often think of pride as a sin — rather than a virtue.
I think of it as a practical and innate part of what it means to be human and a powerful driving force in life, which would it be wise of us to embrace.
Pride is what makes us do difficult tasks and persevere to develop grit under ongoing stress and frustration.
Eric Barker sums up the benefits of developing healthy pride (see link below) as well as distinguishing between the heady arrogant kinds of pride that stoke our egos but fizzle away easily and the deeper kinds of pride that make us feel fulfilled to our toes.
The scientific benefits of pride
No, not lust. Calm down. This is not that kind of website. I'm talking about pride. When you think about the deadly…
Now, consider this. What makes you feel most deeply proud in that wholesome making you blush, “Gosh, golly, it was nothing any decent person wouldn’t do really!” kinda way?
Or, what makes you so proud that you just want to shoot it out and then cry with joy and thank every star and blade of grass around you at that moment?
It’s probably something to do with you doing something meaningful for someone else. Or it comes from seeing someone you love and have invested in accomplishing a goal that was unreachable to them prior.
Nurturing our relationships leads us to develop a pride that fills our hearts and souls and reminds us of why we are here on earth.
No personally selfish accomplishment can compare.
4. It’ll change how you see yourself and feel about yourself.
Despite all the self-affirming b.s. out there, we are social and relational beings.
We come to develop and revise our sense of identity based on how we are seen and treated by those we value the most in our lives.
Here’s a simple equation.
If you put energy into making your relationship better, you will experience the rippling effect of the following two gains:
- You will change how your partner feels about you — for the better.
- You will grow to embody the image of how they are growing to see you.
The result is that you will become a more true and fuller version of yourself, than you had before: more confident, courageous, powerful, and worthy of being loved.
Here’s some research that makes these links in scientific jargon, like “Inclusion of other in the self and self-esteem mediated the association between self-concept clarity and relationship quality measure.”
Here’s another piece that links how we feel about ourselves and the quality of our relationships. It’s impossible to tease out which causes which, because who we are as we love another is intimately intertwined with who we become as we are loved by another.
Then, there’s a caveat from Eckhart Tolle.
“Relationships will make you conscious, not happy.” — Eckhart Tolle
What I take from that is that…
Love does not always make us feel good. But, it does awaken us to who we are.
3. We are all wired for love. Denying this will make your miserable
Stan Tatkin, who wrote the book WIRED for LOVE, makes a pretty compelling and empirically backed up case for how our neurobiology (wiring) has evolved us into becoming ever more deeply relational beings.
We are not an island or a rock, as Simon and Garfunkle muse ironically…
Amy Banks lays out a similar argument in her Psychology Today column (also titled Wired for Love) here:
Connection: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Imagine a seventy-five year-old African-American man, ten years into retirement and suffering with arthritis, high…
The warning to heed is to NOT pretend we can be happy in isolation.
2. You will change the world in the most impactful way
Before you kick the can, you want to make a positive dent in the universe, right?
You could invent some contraption, which lets be honest ultimately someone else would invent.
You could work to the bone and affect lots of people, but you will never impact anyone else more deeply and profoundly that your immediate lover, your closest family and your friends.
“Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.”
Says Bob Burg, the author of The Go-Giver.
You could say it’s like apples and oranges. Trying to compare the wide impact on millions of people with something you do going viral against how you intimately affect your inner circle.
You could argue that.
To me, the depth of impact is most important.
And it leads me to what type of acts I do now that will make the most lasting and ongoing impacts going forward.
Which brings me to the #1 reason…
1. It’s your Legacy. Own it!
This is where it hits home about the tremendous power of our relationships.
Studies show that how you get along with your partner affects your kids and sets them up for life.
And then there’s the legacy of how you raise your kids affecting their offspring, your decendents and future generations. There’s research on intergenerational trauma revealing the dark side of this, the baggage that what we pass on through our genes.
One day, I suspect we will also come to study also about how the positive ways we influence each other now affects the health and wellbeing of future generations.
Till then, we have the evidence of our ancestors to nudge us into realizing the tremendous power of love (or lack of it) has on us all.
Heed the call.
Invest in loving the people around you. For your sake. Because it is how you will be remembered.
But, most of all, after you die and are forgotten, what will remain is the way you loved them. The gifts you generously gave them, will live on.
Take 2 minutes to prove it to yourself further…
Want to experience the positive power of a healthy relationship right now?
I dare you to take 2 minutes to do this simple excercize encouraged by Amy Banks in Psychology Today.
Don’t worry, it’s quick, easy and painless. It’s a thought experience that leads you to feel into the possibilities of powerful and positive emotions that would come from investing more in your relationships.
Healthy Relationships Overlooked in Search for a Quick Fix
Verified by Psychology Today Source: Lisa Langhammer used with permission We live in a time of easy access and quick…
Hungry to know more about how to create powerful and loving relationships?
In terms of which strategies go farthest in creating healthy, happy and strong relationships, there are a few experts like the Gottmans and Stan Tatkin whose science and practical strategies I personally lean on and trust.
For a quick summary, this researcher and his team did a thorough meta analysis of 1100 — that’s right eleven hundred — relationship studies since the 1950’s.
They distilled it down into 17 easy to read strategies (see link below):
What Makes Relationships Last, According to 1100 Studies
A psychology professor analyzed more than 1100 academic studies on how people stay together. He came up with 17…
I support all of them.
Related readings from David…
MEN and RELATIONSHIPS →
MASTERING CONFLICT (3 part series) →
- The 3 SHAPES of CONFLICT: how do you fight with your partner?
- The 5 Elements of Masting Conflict
- WHERE can we learn to do conflicts better?