What time and energy would you invest now to create your future best self? Harvard has been doing a study of adult development spanning 75 years. In his TED talk, Robert Waldinger, who’s director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, shares key insights of the study. 

The researchers asked millennials what their life goals were and 80% said wealth, while 50% also said fame. That seems logical when we’re young and in the process of developing our identities. We’re attracted to what we think will make us more secure and comfortable. But how sustainable is it over the span of our lives? Will wealth and fame actually give us what we think we need to create such a life? The study says “no.” 

Rather, it’s relationships. Strong relationships make us happier and healthier. Here are three important lessons from the study: 

  1. Social connections keep you physically healthy. 
  2. It’s not just the number of friends you have. It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.
  3. Strong relationships don’t just protect your body; they protect your mind. They create mental fitness health. The caveat, though, is this: it’s not harmony in the relationship, but harmony in the goal, that does this. Goal harmony means we’re committed to the same goal of strengthening the relationship. That sustains the inevitable stress we’ll experience as we grow our relationships. 

These three points seem like common sense, so why is it so difficult to do it? It’s because of undirected comfort motivation. Relationships are messy. We have differing opinions, values, and desires. That causes stress. Goal harmony directs our comfort motivation toward lifelong commitment of working through the mess. What does that look like? 

In practical terms, it means shifting “screen time” to “people time.” We can do this by changing the flow of our attention. Screen time traps our attention in the mind, creating a virtual world of our own making. It separates us from real connection with others. By shifting to people time, and getting outside, we direct our attention through the body into the actual relationships we want to strengthen. You’re reading this on a screen. So, screens are unavoidable in our modern age. Yet, we can limit our time on them. Find balance by looking your family and friends in the eyes and getting outside. Doing that is the starting point for building deep, quality relationships.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Gaby Pignotti

    Thank you Arno, this lesson is excellent!

  2. Hannah

    Excellent points! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Gordon

    I’ve been culling all unread notifications from my email box to practice some digital hygiene. I keep this one because it keeps me grounded in what matters. Thank you!

    1. Arno

      Yes, all that clutter both in our closets and computers. 🙂 a

  4. Jessica Meiris

    Great Ted talk! Thanks for including that one Arno!

    1. Arno

      Welcome Jes. You probably know I struggled a little with having “good” in the title. 🙂

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