the only thing that really matters
Psychiatrist George Vaillant is the analyst of the Grant study that followed a cohort of well-adjusted Harvard sophomores for over 70 years. The study examined a somewhat seemingly bizarre array of physical, psychological, and social factors to try to determine what leads to a successful life. In 2008, Valliant was asked if he could summarize what he had learned from the study. What are the keys to a happy successful life? Money? Genetics? Physical features? Type of job?
Vaillant responded: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
Having one or more close relationships is a strong predictor of thriving.
How do we start building connections if we don’t have them? Lots of us wait for someone to come into our life or to invite us into theirs. This usually doesn’t work so well.
However, the old adage of ‘want a friend, be a friend’ truly seems to work.
- Joining a group or an activity that we find interesting.
- Inviting our neighbor to coffee.
- Joining others in the lunchroom at work.
- Starting a conversation with someone who seems to be sitting by themselves on the sideline of their kids soccer game.
Interestingly, strong relationships and social connections are linked with improved immunity, reduced heart disease, and stronger mental function. Good relationships don’t just make us feel good, they are truly good for our health.
For those of us introverts, it is important to note that while having broad networks help us feel like we belong, the emphasis is on the quality not simply the quantity of relationships!
People matter. People in our life matter a lot.