Last night I had the pleasure of attending a University Lecture Series at the University of Texas. The moderator introduced to an auditorium of students, Dr. William Cunningham and Dr. Bill Powers, who were recent presidents of the University. Turning Points was the topic each man was asked to address. What were the big turning points of these successful men’s lives?
Since I was in the midst of preparing a presentation for a Conference for Moms, my ears perked up when I heard each man speak of the birth of his children and their early years as one of his big turning points. It dawned on me that when we go through periods of vulnerability we clearly remember those periods. Vulnerability as defined by Dr. Brene Brown is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. In these early years with small children, vulnerability looks like: holding a crying baby and not knowing how to calm him, waiting for the doctor to call when a baby is sick, balancing the budget when one of the parents decides to stay home, determining the appropriate day care, and initiating sex after the birth of a child.
Walking through the vulnerability of the early childhood years requires courage, and this journey cannot be done alone. Reaching out is the key to navigating this exciting life turning point for parents of young children.
Like you, I receive several Facebook posts or emails prompting me to watch stories or click links to read interesting articles. Like you I quickly skim through the posts and emails and rarely do I pause for a closer look. Last week, however, a post really caught my eye. The post was a TED Talk titled, “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness”.
The Longest Study on Happiness began in 1938 with 724 men who came from two groups. Group one was made up of men from Harvard University who were teenagers but were quickly recruited for WWII and served in the armed forces. The second group were teenagers from Boston who came from impoverished and fractured backgrounds. The purpose of the study was to track people from teenage to old age and determine what keeps people happy and healthier.
Robert Waldinger, the most recent director of the study, said that recently when millennials were asked what will help you be happy and have the best life in terms of time and energy. Eighty percent of the millennials answered “to get rich” and 50 percent “to be famous”. The study’s results, however, were contrary to the thought of the millennials. What were the lessons of the 75-year study? The lessons were not that working harder or fame made us happier or healthier, the clearest message is that good relationships are the keys to a happy and healthy life. The study pointed out three big lessons about relationships.
The first lesson was that social connections are good for us and that loneliness kills. People who are lonely are less healthy as they age. Lesson number two is that it is not the number of the friendships but it is the quality of the relationships. Living in conflict is worse than being in no relationship. Good close relationships protect us as we age. Finally lesson number three..good and close relationships protect our brains and as well as our physical and mental health.
As a life coach who works with clients to find direction during transitions such as job changes, break up of relationships (divorce or separation) or even retirement, I see the power of a strong support system made up family and friends. For this reason, I strongly encourage clients to push away from screen time and meet friends, be open and ask for help from loved ones and if there are fractured relationships take the first step to make amends. Quality relationships can strengthen that bridge to the next chapter of life.
I often hear that people don’t like change or transitions. There is the disappointment that something did not work out, there is the need to let go of the past, there is the uncertainty of what the future holds and there is the need to move out of our comfort zone. However difficult life’s transitions can be, the beautiful thing about transitions is that we can move forward.
Moving forward during a life transition gives us several opportunities. The opportunity to examine what is working in our lives and what is not working. The opportunity to be courageous and move through the uncertainty of change. The opportunity to reach out to friends and family for support. And the opportunity to create new beginnings in our lives.
New beginnings are the result of forward movement, accepting change and faith in ourselves and others. Let life transitions and new beginnings continue!
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch