Susccess & Hapiness

Great arti­cle.

What is your expe­ri­ence of a relationship

between suc­cess and happiness?

The San­dra Bul­lok Trade

By David Brooks
The New York Times
March 30, 2010

Two things hap­pened to San­dra Bul­lock this month. First, she won an Acad­emy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claim­ing that her hus­band is an adul­ter­ous jerk. So the philo­sophic ques­tion of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremen­dous pro­fes­sional tri­umph for a severe per­sonal blow?

On the one hand, an Acad­emy Award is noth­ing to sneeze at. Bul­lock has earned the admi­ra­tion of her peers in a way very few expe­ri­ence. She’ll make more money for years to come. She may even live longer. Research by Don­ald A. Redelmeier and Shel­don M. Singh has found that, on aver­age, Oscar win­ners live nearly four years longer than nom­i­nees that don’t win.

Nonethe­less, if you had to take more than three sec­onds to think about this ques­tion, you are absolutely crazy. Mar­i­tal hap­pi­ness is far more impor­tant than any­thing else in deter­min­ing per­sonal well-being. If you have a suc­cess­ful mar­riage, it doesn’t mat­ter how many pro­fes­sional set­backs you endure, you will be rea­son­ably happy. If you have an unsuc­cess­ful mar­riage, it doesn’t mat­ter how many career tri­umphs you record, you will remain sig­nif­i­cantly unfulfilled.

This isn’t just ser­mo­niz­ing. This is the age of research, so there’s data to back this up. Over the past few decades, teams of researchers have been study­ing hap­pi­ness. Their work, which seemed flimsy at first, has devel­oped an impres­sive rigor, and one of the key find­ings is that, just as the old sages pre­dicted, worldly suc­cess has shal­low roots while inter­per­sonal bonds per­me­ate through and through.

For exam­ple, the rela­tion­ship between hap­pi­ness and income is com­pli­cated, and after a point, ten­u­ous. It is true that poor nations become hap­pier as they become middle-class nations. But once the basic neces­si­ties have been achieved, future income is lightly con­nected to well-being. Grow­ing coun­tries are slightly less happy than coun­tries with slower growth rates, accord­ing to Carol Gra­ham of the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion and Eduardo Lora. The United States is much richer than it was 50 years ago, but this has pro­duced no mea­sur­able increase in over­all hap­pi­ness. On the other hand, it has become a much more unequal coun­try, but this inequal­ity doesn’t seem to have reduced national happiness.

On a per­sonal scale, win­ning the lot­tery doesn’t seem to pro­duce last­ing gains in well-being. Peo­ple aren’t hap­pi­est dur­ing the years when they are win­ning the most pro­mo­tions. Instead, peo­ple are happy in their 20’s, dip in mid­dle age and then, on aver­age, hit peak hap­pi­ness just after retire­ment at age 65.

Peo­ple get slightly hap­pier as they climb the income scale, but this depends on how they expe­ri­ence growth. Does wealth inflame unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions? Does it desta­bi­lize set­tled rela­tion­ships? Or does it flow from a vir­tu­ous cycle in which an inter­est­ing job pro­duces hard work that in turn leads to more inter­est­ing opportunities?

If the rela­tion­ship between money and well-being is com­pli­cated, the cor­re­spon­dence between per­sonal rela­tion­ships and hap­pi­ness is not. The daily activ­i­ties most asso­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness are sex, social­iz­ing after work and hav­ing din­ner with oth­ers. The daily activ­ity most inju­ri­ous to hap­pi­ness is com­mut­ing. Accord­ing to one study, join­ing a group that meets even just once a month pro­duces the same hap­pi­ness gain as dou­bling your income. Accord­ing to another, being mar­ried pro­duces a psy­chic gain equiv­a­lent to more than $100,000 a year.

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask peo­ple if they trust their neigh­bors. Lev­els of social trust vary enor­mously, but coun­tries with high social trust have hap­pier peo­ple, bet­ter health, more effi­cient gov­ern­ment, more eco­nomic growth, and less fear of crime (regard­less of whether actual crime rates are increas­ing or decreasing).

The over­all impres­sion from this research is that eco­nomic and pro­fes­sional suc­cess exists on the sur­face of life, and that they emerge out of inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships, which are much deeper and more important.

The sec­ond impres­sion is that most of us pay atten­tion to the wrong things. Most peo­ple vastly over­es­ti­mate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and col­leges spend too much time prepar­ing stu­dents for careers and not enough prepar­ing them to make social deci­sions. Most gov­ern­ments release a ton of data on eco­nomic trends but not enough on trust and other social con­di­tions. In short, mod­ern soci­eties have devel­oped vast insti­tu­tions ori­ented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that mat­ter most. They have an affin­ity for mate­r­ial con­cerns and a pri­mor­dial fear of moral and social ones.

This may be chang­ing. There is a rash of com­pelling books — includ­ing “The Hid­den Wealth of Nations” by David Halpern and “The Pol­i­tics of Hap­pi­ness” by Derek Bok — that argue that pub­lic insti­tu­tions should pay atten­tion to well-being and not just mate­r­ial growth nar­rowly conceived.

Gov­ern­ments keep ini­ti­at­ing poli­cies they think will pro­duce pros­per­ity, only to get sacked, time and again, from their spir­i­tual blind side.


Integrity In Relationships

Here is the theme and the state­ment of the day:  In order for any rela­tion­ship to work and have any last­ing prospect of exis­tence what it must have first and fore­most is INTEGRITY.

So, what is this thing we call integrity? We use the word usu­ally in rela­tion­ship with oth­ers, like politi­cians, busi­ness peo­ple, and such. We can say when ‘those peo­ple’ have no integrity. How often do we think about and con­sider our own integrity? Do we know when we are in integrity and when we are not?

In the con­text of who we are in our rela­tion­ships there are at least three lev­els of integrity to consider:

1. Obey the rules. This means the rules that you implic­itly or explic­itly agreed to keep. Like from “always wipe your shoes before you enter the house” and “ you stop at the stop sign” to “we do not call each other names” and every­thing you can pos­si­bly think of in between.
2. Keep your word. This means keep­ing your promises and hon­or­ing your word as you would honor your­self as well as hon­or­ing what oth­ers expect you to do and doing what you know that you should do even if you did not say you would do it. (Well, you may want to read this one again.)
3. Be con­sis­tent with who you say you are or who you want oth­ers to regard you to be. If you are a spouse, be a good one and the one you are expected to be. Peo­ple expect you to be cer­tain way and do, or not do cer­tainn things. It is a mat­ter of integrity to meet their expectations.

With­out integrity NOTHING works. The mean­ing of the word ‘integrity’ is ‘whole and com­plete.’ If it is out of integrity it means it is dis-integrated, there­fore it can­not work. So what has this got to do with us? You may even say if we dis­in­te­grate we die. Well, not so dras­tic, any­way. Our body is intact but our char­ac­ter and who we are per­ceived to be, there­fore our suc­cess in any under­tak­ing includ­ing rela­tion­ships is at stake. I hope you get the point.

Aware­ness exer­cise: Pay atten­tion to:
–How often you break rules even if no one notices it.
–How often you break your promises no mat­ter how small on insignif­i­cant they are.
–How often you are not at your best in any role you assigned your­self to be.
–How often you do not ful­fill another’s expec­ta­tions.
Try to be 100% (and no less) in integrity for any amount of time. Notice if any­thing changes.

Please share your expe­ri­ances with us.
Also, please feel fre to ask any ques­tions as well.

Thank you


The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less Relationship



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