What makes a good life?

Last Christmas Sarah (my wife) and I decided to take our boys (Max 10 and Luca 8) on a road trip up to the Sunshine Coast stopping along the way to visit family and friends.

As we stacked the car to the brim with luggage, Sarah and I, realising we were about to cover 2,500km over a few short weeks with 2 energetic boys – then aged 9 & 7 – looked at each other and said “what are we doing, are we crazy?”.

However we all jumped in and hit the road. As it turned out it was an amazing trip with great experiences for all of us. To top it off both boys yelled “best holiday EVER!” when we got home.

A great success.

How are you planning to spend Christmas this year?

It’s the season to be merry. And after a busy year, it’s a great time to catch up with family and friends we may not have seen all year. Or to just spend some relaxing moments at home, pottering around in the garden, catching up on your favourite series, and indulging in delicious food.

We don’t do that enough, do we? Relax and do the things we love.

I mean, when you really think about it, that’s why we invest in property, isn’t it?

Sure you want capital appreciation and good rental income. And you need to work really hard to save and invest.

But what you’re really after is why you work so hard to save and invest. Why you successfully juggle family, career, and household with such superhuman abilities.

What you’re really after is bigger than the ho-hum of day-to-day living. You’re after the dream that’s entirely possible. You’re after the freedom and options that being financially secure gives you:

The option to work less.
The choice to retire early.
To have time to do more of what you love.
To be less stressed.

That’s why you work so hard. You don’t want to be caught out at retirement not having enough to live the life you want. Not being in control of your future.

Add to that, you need to work hard enough so you can be more successful. And be respected by those you care about.

Right?

I mean, if you didn’t achieve these by the end of your life, you’d regret not trying harder wouldn’t you?

Understandably.

“What you’re really after is bigger than the ho-hum of day-to-day living. You’re after the dream that’s entirely possible. You’re after the freedom and options that being financially secure gives you.”

Well consider this:

In what is possibly the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done, Robert Waldinger and his team tracked the lives of 724 men. They wanted to discover what makes a good life.

Each year since 1938, the team tracked the lives of 2 groups of men. One group was educated and had served in the war. The other group was from Boston’s poor neighborhoods, with troubled and disadvantaged families.

Each year for over 75 years, the men were asked about their work, home lives, and health.

Robert Waldinger and his team were surprised that the typical assumptions of what people think make a good life: wealth, fame, and career were not what makes a good life.

Instead, what they found consistently over both groups during the 75 years (and still going), was this:

Good relationships make a good life.

Specifically:

  1. Social connections are good for us: loneliness can literally kill us through health problems and poorer brain function
  2. Quality of close relationships matter: high conflict relationships are bad for health
  3. Good relationships protect our brains: it makes memories stay sharper longer

Relationships matter

This Christmas break, stress less about the gifts, the food, and where they’ll all sit. Instead:

Play with your kids.
Laugh with your siblings.
Chat to your mates.
Shake hands with a stranger.

Figure out how you can strengthen those relationships over the next year.

Your time is precious. Don’t regret the one thing that makes a good life:

Good relationships.

Happy Christmas.

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

– Mark Twain

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