Images by Suzi54241/Flickr
A good friend of mine likes to say that when your body is trying to get your attention, you had better listen. It will keep kicking you harder and harder until you do.
I like simple principles that people can remember. Too often, we receive advice that is so hopelessly complicated and convoluted that you can't even understand it, never mind live by it. (How many times have you walked out of a meeting confused by what, if anything, was decided?)
Be quiet, have a purpose, and make friends is a simple prescription for a spectacular life and career. If you have a minute, I'd like to explain why.
The odds are stacked against you.
Everything in your life is external: your friends, family, colleagues, possessions, obligations, and smartphone. With one exception: The Quiet You.
The Quiet You knows that you (I'm making this up) really hate bossing people around, even though you manage a staff of 150. It knows that you're scared of dying, that you really want to be a singer, or that you have never liked your sister.
In other words, The Quiet You is you, stripped of all pretensions and social conventions.
All that external stuff distracts you from paying attention to The Quiet You, but this is a mistake. Without regular check-ins, it's too easy to start living someone else's life.
I'm not going to tell you that you have to:
b. Practice mindfulness
c. Learn relaxation exercises
d. Take Tai Chi
e. Go for long walks alone on the beach
f. Chant "Om"
g. Swim laps
i. Practice loving kindness
j. Sit quietly with good friends or someone you love
...but any of these would be a step in the right direction. Do what works for you, and stick with it.
This is the first, critical step to being happy and productive.
There's a big difference between a reason to get out of bed versus something that makes you smile when you wake up. It's the difference between an obligation and a purpose.
At the risk of harping on one point, knowing the difference is directly related to paying attention to The Quiet You.
What do you most value? Where can you have the greatest impact? What is possible, given your stage of life and personal circumstances?
I received a note earlier this week from a woman who sounded desperately lonely and very upset that she had no support. She was wrestling with some real problems, none of which I could solve with an email. Instead, I made a simple suggestion: find a way to help others. If she flipped her mindset, she might be able to form meaningful connections with other human beings. Instead of waiting to be helped, she could help others. Will she still have serious problems? Yes. Will she be as lonely and isolated? No.
Find a way to help others, and find the intersection between doing so and giving yourself satisfaction.
Here's a great way to get started.
"Social capital is one of the biggest predictors for health, happiness, and longevity" reports BeWell@Stanford University. Many physical and mental ailments are basically loneliness manifesting itself in your body.
If you don't believe me, let me make the same point from a negative perspective. "Captors use social isolation to torture prisoners of war—to drastic effect. Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and even death" observes this research report.
To stay healthy, you have to make good friends. I'm not talking about getting 98 Likes on your latest Instagram post. I'm talking about making the kind of friends who will help you clean your garage or invite you over to dinner on the spur of the moment.
If you don't know how to make friends, here is a wonderful primer on how to get started, along with these resources:
- How to Become a Magnet for Friends
- How to Make Friends as a Grownup
- 10 Useful Tips to Make New Friends