LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
There are several elements to happiness but none more important, by far, than good relationships. In my career as a doctor when people are stripped of all they have and are, on their death beds, it’s all about relationships. I could reference hundreds of studies showing the positive effects of strong relationships on health, happiness, finances, longevity and everything good.
There are countless books and programs—and indeed religious teachings—about how to develop good relationships, but it is still one of the things that people struggle with. Very often someone starts out looking for the right person and despairs of “finding the right one.” What they don’t realize is that what they need to do is become the “right one.” Some of the classics: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” –Andrew Carnegie; “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”—Stephen Covey, “Man’s Search for Meaning”—Victor Frankel, “As a Man Thinketh”—James Allen, and of course the Bible (see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7 and others).
Each author will have their own angle, but they share the fundamentals and, individuals will realize as they think about it what they like about a person and what attributes people have that they admire. Sometimes, though, people get confused about what’s important and what leads to happiness. Let’s list some important qualities to develop to be a worthy half of a good relationship either romantic, business or professional—it doesn’t matter.
Before we get into this list I want to point out that many of us started out, through no fault of our own, in very difficult circumstances of severe abuse of one kind or another or have other distressing histories that can cloud our thinking in relationships or in life. I urge you to talk with a counselor. You may feel like you are fine but just talk with them it can really help, you won’t be able to shock them, believe me.
Dependability, truthfulness, transparency, solidness, honesty, loyalty, faithful, trustworthy. All these have their foundation in integrity. If you don’t have integrity then you can’t develop strong relationships. You should guard your integrity with every action. Always do what you say you will; never lie. Admit it, you like a person with integrity.
Be kind to everyone, to animals, and even to your surroundings, (special dispensation here for wartime duties). Even if you will never see them again, even if you are the boss, even if they can’t do a thing for you, even if it’s a comment on the internet. If they are rude or mean, be kind; it is a reward to yourself. Being negative and hateful is a mental cancer that ruins relationship success and your own happiness.
There are few things more harmful than pride, the opposite of humility. The prideful person has trouble saying “I’m sorry,” trouble listening to advice. What many people don’t realize is that humility is necessary to change. If you can’t admit that you are wrong then you can’t generate the energy to change. We all need change. You may have been born a certain way but the wonderful truth is you don’t have to stay that way! Humble people realize that everyone has value and can teach you something. The humble person will be prepared to take advantage of the pearls of wisdom that they come upon.
Humble people find it easier to be grateful, another key to happiness.
Be industrious, produce value, and develop skills. You should be able to add value to your home, your job, your relationships, your activities. What do you bring to the table? Your abilities should always be improving and increasing. Would you rather be with a (not too) hard worker?
Ignorance isn’t attractive. Get educated. This doesn’t always mean going to school, though school is important. You could be learning by reading or studying by other means, attending lectures or seminars; there are so many ways to learn. Be curious about the world around you and always strive to develop valuable interests.
Even if you are an introvert, you need people. Put your self out there. Try some new wholesome activity with some new people. And if you are an extrovert, try listening more and let the introverts say something!
You would like to be with a fit person, right? There are so many benefits. Just do it. You don’t have to be a gym rat but you do have to move and get sweaty several times a week or you won’t be as happy as you could be. Start with something that interests you or with something you hate the least. Stay with it. Even vigorous walking will provide huge benefits over no exercise. If you don’t know what to do, read a book, work with a trainer or see free programs on line like CrossFit. Eat healthy; if you’re not sure how, talk to a dietician once or read a book about it. It will change your life. Again, this may sound daunting but it doesn’t have to be. A simple program can give you 100% of what you need to optimize happiness.
Get enough. I saw a lady once, smart, talented, a good person but she had lots of complaints that were vague and troubling. I took a sleep history and she was getting about 5 hours of sleep a night. I looked at her and said, “Ma’am, you can’t expect to feel good if you don’t sleep enough.” She looked back at me like I had three heads. I don’t know the end of her story, hopefully she was humble enough to take my advice. Sleep deprivation is a leading contributor to mental health problems, weight gain, etc.
Contemplate your relationship with the universe. Is it God? Is it something else? Are we all connected? Is there a purpose to life? Why are we here? Is there life after death? These are important questions. Find your answer and then be true to it. Go to church if that’s what you believe. Be guided by principal not just random behavior in the moment.
Not very important to happiness (really!) but financial responsibility is. Be disciplined, collaborate with your partner.
Developing these attributes to high levels takes work! It takes effort to be the right person. Happiness takes effort. Be patient, it takes time but it will happen, make a little progress every day and you will have the reward.