The conclusion from the longest (75 years and ongoing), most expensive (20 million USD) and most extended scientific study about happiness (The Grant Study, named after its main funder), conducted by Harvard, was: the ONLY great factor defining happiness in our lives is the quality of our relationships!
Furthermore, another well-known study confirmed that although feeling happy is largely determined by our DNA (50%) we still have huge power to influence our happiness by undertaking certain actions (40%). Only 10% of our happiness is determined by our environment. So let’s be smart and combine the two: surround yourself with great relationships and make the effort to nurture and cultivate those that really matter to you. That will make you a happy person, it’s scientifically proven!
I don’t have to explain the benefits of a great relationship. It will elevate your productivity, effectiveness and satisfaction. And it certainly works both ways, although most execs will not show it in an obvious way. Become a relationship master, make this skill your own, define ways that work for you and stick to your values. I believe that relationships are the single most important element in our PA profession. By definition, it entails ‘personal’ focus and ‘assistant’ literally means that someone is leaning on you to get ahead. All that makes me a very proud PA.
So how do you keep your happiness factory up and running? Here is a 3-step plan to make it work.
Step one: Selection & prioritizing
First of all you need to evaluate the state of your relationships once in a while. Did you know that the state of your wellbeing is the average of the wellbeing of your 5 closest relationships? Do your math.
Relationships have a great influence on your life, so I urge you to make an educated decision about which relationships to select and mark as important and dear to you. Go through this selection regularly, because relationships are like humans: they move, they evolve and they change over time.
Step two: Attention & focus ranking
How do you measure if something is important or valuable to you? It’s the amount of your attention to it and the quality of your focus while engaging in it. It’s important to be honest with yourself here, because we often say something is important to us – but we don’t spend nearly enough time and attention on that subject. So rate your selected relationship to know exactly which ones need more grooming.
Step tree: Time, money and effort investment
Now you know where you need to improve and here is how to do that.
Define per each relationship your ideal time investment. This basically means how much time you are willing to spend with them. Hot tip: Ignore for a second your actual available time right now, because we tend to create time when something turns out to be important to us! And it can vary from a call once a week, to a movie night once a month, to a 2-weeks’ vacation far away from home together.
Then you set an acceptable money investment. Define your budget for fun and cool things you could purchase to boost and spice up make your relationship. Don’t go overboard here, because it’s easy to buy something expensive thinking that will improve your relationship. We all know that enjoyment of material things only goes so far. Financial investments need to benefit the two of you! It needs to enable something for you two to be involved in so you can work on enjoying each other’s company. An occasional gift is a great option, but to be able to give the perfect gift (never mind how small) you actually need to know the person well. And so we come to the last point…
This is absolutely the most crucial one – plan to spend some real and honest effort to be interested in the world of the person of your focus. Ask real questions and actually demand a real answer. Remember what they tell you and make mental notes to come back to it at some point. Only give advice when specifically asked for, because sometimes we just want to talk! Why? Latest study revealed a surprising result of the act of describing what’s going on in your life to others. Apparently, your body rewards you for talking about your inner world by releasing happy hormones (endorphins) and even special hormones which have pain killing abilities.
And all that is next to the phenomenon of gaining instant perspective just by explaining to others what they don’t know yet. It shapes a mental distance. Instantly you gain a clear view and suddenly you can make educated decisions without even getting a direct advice. Your body is intelligent, use it to your advantage.
So give yourself this power of inner wisdom and make sure you grant this gift freely to the chosen people around you. You always look taller with someone else standing on your shoulders. Groom your important relationships, make the effort to invest and it will prove to be a win-win happiness machine!
Check out my recently published book on Amazon for more tips and guidelines on being an Indispensable Assistant: “Six Essential Soft Skills of Indispensable Assistants”