I study mindful productivity, happiness, habit building, and human nature. And people often ask me, “What is the secret to happiness?” I give different answers, depending on what perspective is taken. But, one answer which I give concerning relationships remains constant.
What’s the Secret to Happiness?
To be happy in any relationship, we need enduring, intimate bonds. We need to feel like we belong here; we need to be able to confide; we need to be able to get support—and just as important, give support. Anything that deepens or broadens relationships tends to make us happier.
Another answer is self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is key because we can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own values, our own interests, and our own temperament. When we know ourselves, we can take action based on our values and our nature, and that makes us happier. In reality, these two answers are intertwined, because it’s when we know ourselves that we can connect most deeply and harmoniously with others.
It’s so easy to assume that’s what true for us is true for everyone and vice versa. But the fact is, there’s a paradox: we’re more alike than we think, but the differences among us are very important. Or to put it another way, you’re unique—just like everybody else.
Just by thinking through that how people are different and how they have different preferences, need different strategies and see the world in a different way—This way, we can gain more compassion for others, and also for ourselves. Because when we don’t understand how people can be different, we can feel hurt, puzzled, resentful, or angry especially when they don’t do things our way. Or we can feel discouraged or frustrated with ourselves when we can’t do things someone else’s way.
To give just a few examples of differences:
Morning people and night people :- As a morning person, I used to think everyone could be a morning person if they just went to bed on time. But in fact, it’s largely genetically determined, and a function of age. Once we realize that some people are morning people, and some people are night people, we can use that understanding.
Simplicity-lovers and abundance-lovers:- Simplicity lovers are attracted by space, bare surfaces and lots of room on the shelves whereas abundance lovers are attracted by buzz, profusion and collections. Simplicity lovers and abundance lovers thrive in different environments—which is fine, unless a boss declares, “A cluttered desk means a cluttered mind,” and forces everyone to embrace simplicity. Or a boss declares, “Let’s really decorate for the holidays” and covers everything with twinkle lights and garlands for two months.
The fact is, some people love simplicity, and some people love abundance—so it is important that we should create an environment where everyone feels comfortable?
Accountability:- Some people need outer accountability ( I call them Obliger), even to meet their expectations for themselves. If they want to exercise more, they need to work out with a trainer, work out with a friend who’s annoyed if they don’t show up, or raise money for a charity. But other people resist accountability ( I call them a Rebel ):- they don’t want someone looking over their shoulder, or tying up their schedule with appointments, and they do better when they do what they want, when and how they want to do it.
I’ve seen this difference crop up among bloggeres and writers too. To learn more about the key factor of accountability, I would recommend you to check out Four Tendencies personality framework and take this quiz to find out if you’re an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner, or Upholder.)
- When we understand that people are different, instead of trying to convince each other that “I’m right,” feeling bad when thinking “You’re right,” or arguing about the “best” or “right” way of doing things, we can focus instead on creating an environment where everyone can thrive. After all, there is a best way to cook an egg.
By knowing ourselves, we can grow closer to others.
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Main Image Credit: Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash
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