From the authors of "The Good Life: Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness":
Human beings are social creatures; in essence this simply means that each of us as individuals cannot provide everything we need for ourselves. The process of giving and receiving in mutually-beneficial relationships is the foundation of a meaningful, happy life.
Here is an exercise that will help you make meaning of your own "social universe." The table below is arranged around what the Harvard Study of Adult Development considers keystones of support.
Print out the table below (pdf). The first column is to identify the relationships you think have the greatest impact on you. Place a plus (+) symbol in the appropriate columns to the right if a relationship seems to add to that type of support in your life, and a minus (-) symbol if a relationship lacks that type of support.
Remember: it's okay if not all (or even most) relationships offer you all of these types of support.
Understanding the keystones of support:
- Safety and Security: Who would you turn to in a moment of crisis?
- Learning and Growth: Who encourages you to try new things, take chances, or pursue your life's goals?
- Emotional Closeness and Confiding: Who knows everything (or most things) about you? Who can you turn to for support when you are stressed?
- Identity Affirmation and Shared Experience: Is there someone in your life who has shared many experiences with you and who helps strengthen your sense of self?
- Romantic Intimacy: Do you feel satisfied with the amount of romantic connection in your life?
- Help: Who do you turn to if you need expertise or help solving a practical problem?
- Fun and Relaxation: Who makes you laugh? Who makes you feel relaxed, connected and at ease?
Sources of Support in My Life
My relationship with:
Safety and Security
Learning and Growth
Emotional Closeness and Confiding
Identity Affirmation and Shared Experience
Help (Both Info and Practical)
Fun and Relaxation
After you've completed the chart, here are some questions to consider and reflect on:
- If you're feeling a certain dissatisfaction in your life, do any of the gaps on the chart resonate with that feeling?
- Are there columns that have a lot of pluses (or minuses)? What does this tell you?
- Do you notice any surprises in how you responded to these questions?
For more info:
- "The Good Life: Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness" by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz (Simon & Schuster), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound
- Harvard Study of Adult Development
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