Summary: “Meaning and relationships matter most.”
Several years ago I was invited to speak to a group of young leaders. The folks asking me to speak were tactful about it, but basically they said (politely), “You are an old leader…we want you to come and speak to our young leaders about what matters most in life.” I thought it was a very interesting topic…I said, “I’m in!”
For years, I have recognized the value of exploring different perspectives when developing responses to such questions. So, I had fun looking at this question from a business/leadership point of view. Then I explored the viewpoint of various mental health experts. Then I checked out the Harvard Grant Study and Glueck Studies that tracked (and is still tracking) a group of Harvard students and another group of disadvantaged inner-city Boston youths for over 70 years. I checked out Gail Sheehy’s books and writings on life passages. Then I looked at Richard Leider’s research on the aging population (in general, people 70+ year-olds); then Bronnie Ware’s work related to people with terminal illnesses; and finally Joseph Campbell’s work on the hero’s journey (basically the collective wisdom of about 100 billion people who have passed through this world and left behind life lessons through mythologies, fairy tales, religions, and various other forms of artistic expression). So, that pretty much covers most of the stages of life where people have the cognitive prowess to contemplate such a question…and then some.
To make a long story short, many, many things matter in life. However, two things kept popping up over and over as I explored all these viewpoints: meaning and relationships.
In general, meaning is about being involved with something that is bigger than you. Activity that goes well beyond any personal benefit you might derive from the activity. I’ve mentioned it several times before on this blog, but one of the best resources to help you deepen your understanding of this concept is a video titled Finding Joe by Patrick Tayaka Solomon.
The importance of relationships came up in pretty much every place I looked. According to George Vaillant, who was involved in the Grant/Glueck studies for over 30 years, “Success in relationships was very highly correlated with both economic success and strong mental and physical health. In short, it was a history of warm intimate relationships—and the ability to foster them in maturity—that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.” (Unfortunately, as a sign of the times, no women were included in the studies).
So, it seems that focusing on meaning and relationships matters most…among the many things that matter most. Here are more postings on this topic:
Joyfully participate in life today…Chris