As we step out from behind our computer screens – where we related to people through Zoom, Teams, etc. to interact with more and more people, think about the power of connections, and maximize the ones you already have and form more and more new ones.
In 1938, during the Great Depression, a longitudinal study was launched as part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development to reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives. For nearly 80 years, the world’s longest studies of adult life, has been generating critical information. (Nineteen of the original subjects are alive and the offspring now number 1,300 and are in their 50s and 60s.) As the current project director, Robert Waldinger, notes “the surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health (and longevity).” “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care, too.”
The Happiness Curve, by Jonathan Rauch shows that we’re least happy in mid-life, when we’re overloaded with responsibilities toward those with whom we’re connected including the extended family (e.g.,2-4 generations), work/career (e.g., stakeholders including workers, clients, and networks that help us pivot, etc. As we age through our later and then senior years, happiness increases due to fewer pressures, but the number of connections also decline – as people we knew years ago move and/or die.
This is our opportunity to lead a more fulfilling life as you age, by replenishing connections and forging new ones to nurture and treasure for the years ahead.
In The Lost Art of Connecting, Susan McPherson focuses on what we can do to build stronger relationships. While her focus is on business relationships, her ideas are focused on helping us reclaim the power of genuine human connections. She notes that “networking”, especially through social media platforms is often considered a necessary evil, because it is transactional, agenda-driven, and dehumanizing; it leaves professionals feeling burnt out and stressed out.
Instead, we should connect on a human level and build authentic relationships. We need to remember that technology is only a tool. We need to tap into our humanity and learn to be more intentional and authentic.
To generate genuine connections in and out of work, she recommends three steps:
- Gather: Create your own opportunities, don’t wait for others to take the initiative.
- Ask: Instead of starting with rehearsed elevator pitches, open the door to share resources, experience, contacts, and perspectives that add diversity to your own vision.
- Do: Turn new connections into meaningful relationships by taking these newly formed relationships deeper. Follow through on the promises you made and keep in touch.
The lesson of all these books/studies is clear: regardless of what stage of adulthood you’re in, connecting with others to form meaningful authentic relationships can lead to future years of happiness. As you take innovative steps to do so, share your strategies with others. Age Brilliantly wants all adults to head fulfilling, elongated lives to 100+.