If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you. (Steve Jobs)
Surrounding ourselves with the right people is one half of the recipe for leading a happy, balanced and successful life. The right people are those who have our best interests at heart. These people value us for who we are as human beings, not because of what we do for a living or what favours or status we can bestow upon them. They will always be prepared to tell us what we need to hear, and not just what we want to hear. They will not attempt to undermine our achievements, nor to belittle us in order to make themselves feel better. Surrounding ourselves with these people will enable us to grow in confidence, to learn from our mistakes and to share our best moments with those who really appreciate them.
The world is full of people who make empty promises to satisfy their own agendas. Whilst it is “as well to know what tunes the devil is playing” (Jeeves and Wooster, Comrade Bingo, 1992), it is vitally important not to get carried away with them. Be mindful that work and wellbeing do not always go hand in hand. What appears good for us professionally may not be good for us personally. This is where surrounding ourselves with the right people becomes crucial.
“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.”
A friend may be a colleague, but not all colleagues are friends. Even those who we are friendly with and with whom we have established good working relationships do not necessarily want what is best for us or wish us well. In fact, if we are in any way competition for them, it will typically be quite the opposite, despite appearances. This is why, as we progress through life, it is essential to maintain a solid network of friends and family who do have our best interests at heart and who will give us good advice when our own judgement is clouded by a difficult situation.
Maintaining healthy relationships that benefit our wellbeing requires mutual effort. Nowadays, friendships are more fragile than ever, as people move around for jobs and work much longer hours, including evenings and weekends – prime social times. Before we know it, weeks have passed by and we still haven’t got round to having that Skype chat, coffee date or park walk – and nobody is happier or better off because of it. We can believe that we are in touch with people through social media, which serves its own purpose but is no replacement for regular real life contact with the people who are good for our souls. Without these connections, we can begin to feel isolated, lonely, emotionally less resilient and consequently downright unhappy. Human beings are social creatures. We have developed unrivalled communication skills for a good reason and we must remember to use them to benefit our wellbeing as well as our careers.
“Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said I’m here for you, and proved it.”
With the pressures of the working world seeming to increase year by year, friendships can suffer from financial and temporal restraints. “I haven’t got time” is an all too familiar excuse for many of us. However, if we stop to reflect on how we choose to spend each moment of our 168 hour week, we may find that we do actually have time for a coffee or a phone call, if we learn to prioritise. We must ensure that those people who are essential to our wellbeing always remain a priority. Yes, this might mean pulling out of work drinks, or switching off our favourite television series, but these are small sacrifices for maintaining special relationships. Spending quality time with someone who values us is priceless. As such, we should be very careful not to marginalise these opportunities as life becomes too busy. Instead of neglecting friendships in the assumed certainty that they will still be there when we really need them, we should try to focus on investing in them regularly, so that we can draw upon the positive energy that they generate, which can help carry us through the challenges of the week and ensure that we come out smiling at the end of it.
The essence of this article is perspective. The pace and fashion of modern living has allowed us more easily to adopt insular lifestyles, losing sight of the importance of real life contact with those individuals who enrich our existence and who encourage our personal growth. If we stop to think about the last time we actually saw the face of, or even heard the voice of, someone we consider a good friend, we might be surprised. Whilst it has become normal to maintain relationships through social media, there is a visceral nourishment to be found in the tones of a friendly voice or the warmth of a loving hug that cannot be communicated via a tweet or a post. As sentient, social beings, we crave this human contact, and the longer we deprive ourselves of it, the more likely we are to feel lonely and isolated.
So what are we waiting for? Pick up the phone, make that call, schedule that coffee, turn the television off, go for that park walk and show the important people in our lives how much we truly value those relationships. Good, positive relationships can act as a buffer between ourselves and the pressures of the world. Putting effort into securing them is essential if we are to maintain healthy, balanced and happy lives.
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. (Confucius)
We work to live and not live to work as the age old saying goes. I was thinking about this expression as I woke up this morning in my comfy hotel bed.
For some of us, it’s necessary to work long hours, including evenings and weekends. We may be saving for a house, paying for education or healthcare, studying alongside a job or running our own business, to name but a few reasons. But in a culture where work occupies so much of our time, it is important to make a little space in our busy schedules to do something that we love. Something to restore our inner balance and support our sense of purpose. It could be a five minute daily meditation, or a weekly fitness class or craft group. Or maybe a seasonal trip to the theatre or a sporting event.
Whatever floats your boat – and the world is an ocean of individually handcrafted vessels – it is important to know what puts a smile on your face and to allow yourself to enjoy it as often as you can.
Ask yourself today: what joy do I have in my life? What do I do for fun?
It’s easy to forget these basic needs that are so apparent to us as children, but that can become overlooked as adults, as we immerse ourselves in the working world. As an adult, the balance of priorities can very easily shift from personal enjoyment to professional gain, from pleasing ourselves to pleasing others.
Whilst working long and hard may allow us to plan for a more prosperous future and to protect and provide for our loved ones, it’s equally important not to forget the small pleasures that nourish our own souls and bring happiness to our day-to-day lives.
Sometimes it’s difficult to accept that the path we’re on is not the right one for us. Even if we know it deep down. In my experience, true happiness can only be achieved when we stop pretending to ourselves that what we’re doing is working, or will work out in the end. Yes, great things require hard work and commitment, but that’s a completely different scenario to flogging a dead horse.
For me, learning to accept that my life needs to change in order for me to truly fulfil my potential has been the biggest lesson. Tapping into my inner strength in order to initiate that change is what has enabled me to embrace new things, discover new places, meet new people and to live the life that I now love. This has led me to find happiness in the most remote and unassuming places.
Believing we can be happy is the first step to achieving happiness. Actioning change and embracing the uncertainties that come with it is the second step. Even though the road ahead of us may be rough, barely trodden or even completely unmapped, we must have the courage to follow our hearts in order to fulfil our dreams and find true happiness.