A couple months ago I started a gratitude journal where every single day I would write down 5 things that I was grateful for. Now fast-forward to a couple months later and I wanted to see what it was that I was most grateful for. Turns out that 90% of the things that I wrote weren’t about my job, money or even health. They were about the people in my life and the relationships I have, along with the many ways in which they come to play in my existence.
In 2013, Bronnie Ware, a nurse in a terminal palliative care unit in Sydney, Australia decided to survey her patients to see what exactly was their biggest regret on their deathbed. And what she found was that one of the top 5 things people said while they were dying, was that they wished they had called their friends more often.
Now, we’re all guilty of this. We all have those moments where we prioritize our goals and our career in front of the people in our lives. And that’s okay, it happens. But in a recent study millennials were asked what one of their major life goals was. 80% of them said one of their major life goals was to be rich, and 50% of them said that one of their major life goals was to be famous.
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the happiness study from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, but it’s the longest study conducted on adult life that’s ever been done. It took these people 75 years to track the lives of 724 men from sophomores in college to late adult life. They asked about their work life, home life, etc. And what they found, according to Robert Waldinger one of the conductors of the study, was that it didn’t matter if you were coming from a broken home and dirt poor, or if you were a Forbes 500 CEO and filthy rich. Your happiness was contingent on one thing—your relationships.
Happiness aside though, the study found that good relationships can actually have a huge impact on our health. The people who identified as lonely saw their health and brain functioning decline sooner than those who did not identify as lonely. The memories of the people with good relationships were also stronger than those with poor relationships. Even The New York Times has gone so far as to say that having a bad relationship in your life is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic.
Now I’m not saying you should go out and smoke a pack a day or anything, but I am imploring you take care of your relationships. Treat your relationships like a garden; feed them and water them, and they will yield results that you couldn’t even have fathomed. We need to call up our family and friends every once in a while and say, “hey how is your day going? How are you doing?” We need to not be “too cool” or “too busy” for the people in our lives that frankly love the crap out of us.
Because our existence is less so about making a living, than it is about making a life.