If you’re craving a long and fulfilling life, there turns out to be a surprisingly simple and well-researched solution. Whether it’s the 75-year-long Harvard Grant study or Susan Pinker’s research on longevity, research questions of “how do I live a good and long life?” seem to be quite simply answered: “Prioritize your relationships.”
I feel so grateful that these researchers have done the holy work of cracking this question, so that I can base my life around their answer! I now know what I need to live a long and fulfilled life. I need to focus on building authentic and reliable relationships. But what about the how? How exactly do we build relationships that will sustain us? How do we connect with people in our lives in a way that brings the depth and familiarity that is required to live a long and fulfilling life?
Another surprisingly simple answer: Increase empathy.
Empathy is one of the more challengingly simple practices to do. Basically, it’s listening to another and feeling what they’re feeling… without fixing, out-shining, or covering up.
Empathy comes from the root word ‘path’… which ironically means both feeling and disease. Practicing empathy is difficult because, in fact, while trying to do the first (feel!) we get scared of the second (disease!). So we start thinking protective thoughts like…
“If I feel their sadness, will I ever get rid of it? I should probably just stay away.”
“This despair they’re sharing looks like a disease…I should try to fix it!”
“I can’t share my real feelings with them… that would be like sharing a disease!”
Do any of these sound particularly familiar to you? Over the next week or so, notice your pattern around empathy. When others share something vulnerable, how do you react? When you want to share something vulnerable with someone else, what thoughts and feelings show up for you?
If we’re to build the kind of enduring and reliable relationships that research says brings a fulfilling and long life, we’re going to need to put down the shield and really feel with others (and, as a side note, with ourselves!). In noticing these patterns, you’re building the first steps of awareness around cultivating relationships that will sustain you + make your life one worth living.
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Before making your observations for the week, what patterns do you suspect you’ll find around your empathy practice?
How might your awareness provoke deeper connections with others?
How would you like to feel while connecting with those who are important to you? How would you like them to feel?
PS- I’ve just completed my 70th coaching hour of the 100 I need to become an ICF-certified ACC coach– Celebrate! Have you been interested in trying coaching but don’t think you can afford it? Or want to learn more? Check out this page or simply respond to this email to inquire about my special coaching rates while I train 🙂
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