What memories will race through your mind as you approach the end of your life?
We confuse wealth with more money. How we spend our time directly impacts our well-being.
People often spend more time at work to earn more money for their families. Sadly, often the family would prefer more of their attention. It is also common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. Research shows that finding the right balance is important as it deeply effects our “return on life”. Our happiness.
So many people climb the ladder of success only to find that it was standing against the wrong wall. Have you also felt let down after achieving a goal that you thought was important only to shift your focus to the next thing? Getting there did not make you as happy as you expected.
Arrival Fallacy is the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy, as opposed to focussing on enjoying the progression towards the destination.
What really matters in life?
One might consider what is called “deathbed wisdom”
The dying might occupy a perspective that allows them to see better what’s trivial and what’s truly significant. The prospect of imminent death might carry them above petty squabbles and the pursuit of money and status and allow them a clear view of what makes our lives worthwhile.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian former nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Her blog (Inspiration and Chai) recorded these bedside conversations and became the basis for her bestselling book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”.
What really matters, it turns out, is family and relationships and authenticity. According to her, the dying expressed five common regrets:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I agree that your “financially secure older self” would have a different perspective when compared to your “younger worried past self” who struggled to make ends meet to provide for the family. But even when we consider this hindsight-bias we still find that the points raised above resonates broadly with what people value. People seem to wish for a more meaningful life.
Money, Fame, and Happiness
Harvard scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression. They hoped the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives. This active study has now been running for more than 80 years. In the 1970’s they broadened the study to include Boston inner-city residents including their wives.
They got more than they expected.
Over the years, researchers have studied the participants’ health trajectories and their broader lives, including their triumphs and failures in careers and marriage. The finding has produced startling lessons – and not only for the researchers.
Dr Robert Waldinger, director of the study and professor of psychiatry at Harvard said:
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. The study found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health later in life than their cholesterol levels were. Researchers also found that those with strong social support experienced less mental deterioration as they aged.
“When we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,” said Waldinger, “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”
What is clear from both the deathbed wisdom perspective and the Harvard study is that we need to be mindful how we spend our time. It also matters who we spend our time with. This is where we create moments and memories which affects both our emotional and physical being.
We need spend enough time reflecting on what is truly important to us when we do our life planning. Our plan should be informed by what we deeply value and can control. Not by what could happen next in the markets which nobody can control or predict with any consistency.
Our happiness is determined by the choices we make daily and how we align our actions with our values. When we understand not only “what” is important to us but also “why” it is important it transforms our level of commitment. Our own choices and behaviour determine our ultimate outcomes, not the ebb-and -flow of the markets.
It is better to be deeply connected to your values than the daily “noise” of the media.
This requires deep reflection and self-awareness. Slow down. Simplify your lifestyle and make conscious decisions to create more space for yourself. What is truly important to the self-aware you? Life is about choices. Make conscious decisions.
It appears that your life depends on it.
Bronnie Ware – “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. Bronnieware.com
The Harvard Gazette – “Good genes are nice, but joy is better” – news.harvard.edu
The above article was written by Marius Kilian.