Realizing The Source Of True Happiness Before Your Deathbed
By Kevin R. Strauss, M.E.
Has anyone ever been on their deathbed and said, “My one regret is that I didn’t spend enough time working.”? Well, maybe someone said it, somewhere, over the course of human history but it is far more likely a dying person says, “I wish I spent more time with family.”
So many of us say family is the most important thing in our life yet our actions reveal something very different. If we continue on this path of making work our true priority and allowing family to be second, third or even lower on our list, how will we feel about our life? How will this affect our spouse, our children, our parents, siblings and friends?
Unfortunately, we already know what happens when we don’t spend quality time with those closest to us. And without quality time together we certainly cannot nurture its goal which is truly feeling connected to another person. So what happens when we don’t feel connected to others, to someone?
It’s not very well known, yet, but the research is quite clear about the need for connection. In 2012, Harvard University researcher, George E. Vaillant, published the results of a 75-year long study in a book called Triumphs of Experience. The results were clear and connection is the key to lifelong happiness. We work so hard to earn money, cars, houses, power, control yet none of those things help us feel happy deep inside ourselves where it really counts.
All of this time spent working, in meetings, buying, gathering, collecting and checking email, text messages, social media at all hours of the day and night while our children are simply ignored but still learning from our behavior. As young as 2 or 3 children are learning how to navigate a smartphone or tablet and not learning how to understand and express their feelings. They look to instantly gratifying gadgets to “feel” happy but the results are short-lived. So, they cry for more just as we stand in line to buy the newest iPhone, iPad, XBox or trade up for a new car or bigger house; most likely one we cannot afford.
We continue to replace, suppress, ignore and otherwise compensate for not recognizing, expressing and sharing our true feelings and thoughts with those closest to us and that causes a disconnect. Sure, we post on Facebook and Twitter what might be on our mind, at the moment, but those mediums do not provide a true and intimate relationship and connection with another person. Until we confide in someone and they you, you’ll be hard pressed to form a true connection.
True connection requires a two-way sharing of information at a personal level. There is a level of mutual trust, caring and sincere interest that brings people together and that is what nurtures our emotional well-being. This type of connection does not typically occur in one conversation or even a day or a week. We’re talking about building a relationship and that takes time. Humans need time to observe behavior until a reliable pattern is formed. When actions do not follow words we become confused by the inconsistency and that violates our trust. When we can’t trust someone we are less likely to confide in them and the cycle of disconnection continues.
Of course, if you are not comfortable trusting a person then you certainly will not share your most personal thoughts and feelings. But connection and sharing, in the beginning, does not have to be so deep so soon. As I stated earlier, trust, relationships, and connection take time and the best way to get started is to begin with the little things. It’s really a lot easier than most people think if they would simply take a few minutes to tell someone what’s on their mind and then listen and hear what that person has to say.
So, what’s the problem? Why are we not having the real conversations anymore? Well, just as this post began, our priorities are mixed up. We claim (i.e. our words) family is most important but we spend all of our time (i.e. our actions) elsewhere. We look to instantly gratifying means for happiness when true happiness has been shown time and again to come from relationships which take time and effort to develop.
We think we have to spend massive amounts of time talking to one another when in reality, any form of communication can work. Face-to-face, phone and video calls are great but require both people to be available at the same time. Furthermore, we, as humans, seem to find it a lot harder to speak our thoughts and feelings probably due to fear for how we might be judged or how our words might be received.
So, why not try writing to share what’s on your mind and in your heart? Letter writing is incredible effective in communicating your thoughts and feelings. It gives you time to think and organize your thoughts and allows the reader to ponder what you’re saying. These days, email has mostly replaced letter writing but it’s really the same thing only with a faster delivery time.
But what if you want to connect with someone and you don’t even know where to begin? A blank sheet of paper or email can feel insurmountable requiring so much effort just to get started it seems impossible. That’s where tools like FamilyeJournal.com (now known as Uchi) can be used to get the conversation started. Uchi uses a database of simple questions that you can answer and share with those closest to you. When others in your family (or group) answer the same fun and light questions and you read their answers you’re getting to know that person on a whole new level. Even simple questions can bring people together such as “Describe a memorable experience from childhood.” or “What is your favorite song and why?”.
Whether you use letters, email or Uchi, you no longer have to converse in real-time but you are still sharing and connecting with others. All of these tools only take a few minutes and you don’t have to bear your soul. All you really need to do is share what’s on your mind, hopefully in a constructive way, and listen to others.
By taking just a few minutes and focusing on what we all claim really matters in our life we can find the happiness we’re all looking for. It truly is just that simple.