A relationship, a bond, a union, a friend, a family member, an interdependence, and an affiliation...It doesn’t matter what you call it, or the form it takes within one of these terms, the reality is that relationships are what matters MOST! Sure, we all “know” this but why is it that it takes a significant event like: the birth of a child, a wedding, or sadly during the grave illness of a loved one to become keenly aware of this again? Specifically, in the case of a loved one being in the autumn of their life and battling serious medical challenges, I am here as a gentle reminder for you that nurturing connections can’t wait!
It's never too late to nurture a connection
Yes, we “know” this but to better illustrate the point take a look at the well respected Grant Study of Adult Development that has been studying a group of Harvard graduates since 1939. Seriously… since 1939! In it, they have been studying countless topics and one touches on connectedness. Their research agrees that it is never too early or too late to nurture your relationships because these connections are indicators of one’s level of happiness.
They explain in their findings that our relationships with others, rather than how we view ourselves, or how much we have in our checking accounts, may be what matters most. When you look more closely, this isn’t a new concept, our cave–dwelling ancestors, created amazingly complex social structures to increase their odds of survival. Think about how much their connectedness meant to them? Life or death in many cases! Even for us it's life impacting. Read on…
Life satisfaction =Loving Relationships
Today our social connections and ways of connecting are much different but the benefits remain. One specific component of this study talked about how the lead researcher and his colleagues had found that life satisfaction (in this case for older men) was directly correlated to the capacity of loving relationships that they had.
As I reflect on this topic, I can’t help but think of an amazing man, who over the past 46 years of my life has proven this point that relationships are indeed the most important thing in one’s life. Specifically, him having dealt with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis for over 40 years and the pain and struggles that come with this condition, have shown me that his ability to be brave and put on a smile and keep going so he can live out his Limitless Spark (feeling like you are doing what you were meant to do) were fueled largely by his deep and nurtured connections with God, his wife, his children/grandchildren, and his friends and neighbors. My Dad, Gene Williams, is an incredible example of someone who continues even at the age of 74 to nurture the most important connections in his life. Even with the excruciating pain he endures every day, he is still one of the happiest, most loving, people I know.
Thank you Dad for always being such an incredible example to me. I love you.
With or without a “medal of bravery”, I am always inspired, but rarely surprised at stories that highlight the lengths that a mother will go to protect her child. The true David versus Goliath story that follows is one of those that reminds me that women/moms really are capable of amazing things that we likely don’t even know are within us!
In this case,“David” was a 41 year old woman, slight framed woman named Lydia Angiyou who was said to have stood 5 feet tall and weighed 90 pounds. (A woman’s weight typically shouldn’t be a necessary reference point in a story should it?.... but here it just better illustrates the awesomeness of Lydia!) She clearly wasn’t an intimidating figure but when she heard a commotion a little ways away she was soon to act like a hero. When she turned around to see a bear sizing up her seven year old son, her attention quickly turned to putting herself between the "Goliath" of a 700 pound bear that appeared out of nowhere in a Canadian town.
According to Police reports, without hesitation she told the children to run and she charged at the bear and began yelling loudly to keep its attention away from the children. Then, as the bear attacked her she was kicking and punching at it though it swatted her aside with ease. With the bear now on top of her, Ms. Angyiou is said to have began kicking her legs in a bicycle motion. The bear swatted her once more and stepped back a bit, but as it moved toward her again it became distracted by a good samaritan that began firing warning shots. This true story from just a few years back, ends with Lydia bravely, having saved the children from harm, and surprisingly she escaped this bear encounter with only a few scratches and a black eye. She was awarded Canada’s Medal of Bravery, by the Governor, for her actions but to me the amazing part is the fearlessness that she summoned. Granted, I don’t expect to be dealing with bears each day in my “what’s next” but knowing that we have limitless resources that we rarely tap into gives me confidence to take even some small and measured steps to overcome simple or silly fears that might be holding me back from exploring and discovering more.
What's holding you back???
Working to “redefine normal" through simple challenges, particularly in my case as an empty nester, can help you consider and make small changes that make a big difference in how you approach or simply view your “life” going forward. Our Love What’s Next Free Project participants are seeing this first hand as they get their feet wet in the series of daily and weekly challenges that they are participating in.
While on my journey to uncover my “what’s next", I explored a variety of approaches and perspectives. In doing so, I came across an interesting study that enlisted participants to help answer this question (this is how I defined the question) ” Which is a better way to approach life... to have that extra brownie with ice cream and feed ones self indulgence for an immediate degree of happiness…. Or refocus energy and efforts on things that would lead one towards long term happiness?” I appreciate the fact that Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and colleagues who study on well being (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ) helped answer this question but deep down...I suppose I knew before reading it, that the answer would be something that didn’t include warm brownies and ice cream.
Yep, I dug around a bit and found there are some fancy ways of saying “brownies and ice cream“ (hedonistic) and long term happiness (eudemonic) but no matter what name you apply to them, Dr Fredrickson’s, (and other studies) show that adults who reported greater focus on a sense of purpose (as opposed to self indulgence) were much happier and healthier in the long run.
Is It Ok to Agree… And to Disagree?
To a degree, respectfully, Dr. Fredrickson, I think so. Read on…
Yes, I do believe that these studies share a truth that we all know is largely accurate. Having a sense of purpose long term has enormous value to us as human beings. As a matter of fact, I feel that this is so important that this is the pinnacle pursuit within the six pursuits that the Love What’s Next Project is built upon. We call it Limitless Spark (feeling like you are doing what you were meant to do). But, in my opinion (as well as in the Love What’s Next Project) I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. As many of the participants of our Love What’s Next Projects know, we have a variety of challenges that tie back to what we call “Simple Bliss”. These are in fact “self indulgences” but we believe that they are small, simple, inexpensive yet significant steps that help us not only be grateful for the simple things in our life but to also fuel us with a few simple pleasures that help us stock up for endless pursuits as we explore “what’s next”.
So here’s to the occasional warm brownie and ice cream as fuel for the journey towards Loving Whats Next!!!
Nicole Cavey is the Chief Pursuit Officer of Love What's Next. Through her personal journey to uncover what was next for her, she discovered that you can love where you are no matter what stage in life you are in... as long as you know how. Her mission is to show YOU how!