We want to be thinner, smarter, younger, and richer — or so we think. But at the very bottom of the well of human desire lays our deepest desire: to be happy. The question that plagues us, however, is how?
That’s often where the thinner, smarter, richer, and oh-so-much-younger responses come in to distract us, if not make us miserable (there are no hands large or powerful enough to turn back the clock, unfortunately).
But a recent article in Psychology Today says that rather than focus on looking good and accumulating status symbols, the real secret to leading a satisfying life is “to seek out wisdom that helps you cultivate strong relationships of all kinds. Studies show that people who enjoy close ties with friends and family are happier, have fewer health problems, and are more resilient to the stresses of our times,” writes Elizabeth Svoboda.
Svoboda has done the hard work of mining the best research to support that goal. Here are two insights that struck a chord with this reader (for the full list, go to the article).
Insight No. 1: Don’t try and change people.
Love is an edgy emotion. It can make us fiercely protective of our partners, friends and family and at the same time — almost in the very same instant — it can make us fiercely critical of their perceived flaws, all the things they do that drive us crazy. But rather than turn harpy or overly critical with our beloveds, experts suggest we take the path of least resistance.
“Look inward to fix the problem rather than trying to change the other person,” Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel tells Svoboda.
Insight No. 2: Do yourself a favour, marry someone like you.
If the first rule is don’t try and change people, the second rule is find someone who shares your values and perspective on life, love, and commitment. Svoboda cites studies that underline the fact that “homogamy” or “shared values, personality traits, economic background, and religion, as well as closeness in age,” are key factors in “romantic success” over the long haul.
That doesn’t mean you have to clone your own DNA and hope the result emerges tall, dark and handsome. But it does suggest that dating or committing to someone who doesn’t share your thoughts on love, marriage, life, and children is a high-risk gamble where the odds favour losing over winning big.
What would you say is a great rule to follow when it comes to happiness?