One upon a time, we were all cavemen. We outlived a lot of our rival hominids because we hunted in groups, defended one another from saber-toothed tigers, and got together to do the horizontal mambo. Our genetic predisposition to form groups was protected and replicated.
“Surround yourself with successful people,” is one aphorism of personal development that I think needs to go. It’s a phrase often repeated by individuals who aims for financial or career success at any cost. First, I’d redefine our meaning of success, and then I’d replace the phrase with this:
“Connect with people who nurture you.”
Social Contact is Critical to Physical and Mental Health
In the highly individualistic post-industrial culture of the West, we often overlook the fundamental importance of social interaction. Social connections and positive social impact
We are at the top of social food-chain. Humans are more social than other primates who are more social than other mammals. It’s wired into our brains. Thank great-granddaddy caveman for that.
Social rejection, mocking, breakups – hurt us just like losing a foot. In our brains, we experience social pain as physical pain. We can get our feelings hurt and our hearts broken., “You’re killing me Smalls,” is a popular Internet meme taken from the 1993 movie Sandlot. We also have the ability to empathize—feel the pain of others. This helps us bond and understand our fellow humans.
Numerous studies have found that lower quantity and quality of social connections is linked to higher mortality rates. Fewer or lower quality social relationships lead to health problems like heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, even slower wound healing. Low social connectedness is also related to increases in inflammatory markers – a troubling indicator of conditions which include depression.
Do you want to live a long, healthy, life? Get married and form nurturing close relationships.
What do we mean by successful people?
Arguably, the traditional view of the successful in our culture is something akin to the powerful CEO. The power, the money, the prestige – he or she seems to have it all. And we value, almost worship, this power.
Keep in mind that one out of five CEO’s is a psychopath, a rate twenty times higher than the
general population. Now, we can argue about whether or not our culture rewards the wrong things, but we can probably agree that befriending psychopaths isn’t a very good idea.
Certainly, there are CEOs who are wonderful, nurturing people. It’s just that financial and career success may not be the sole criteria around which you build social networks.
Be careful with whom you surround yourself.
There is nothing wrong with reaching for financial and career success. There is a bigger picture, however. Life in balance that includes health, happiness, and great social connections is more complete.
Who nurtures you and why?
Have you ever noticed that there are people you spend time with who leave you feeling good, and those who drain you? If you think of your mood and energy as a bank account, there are those who take your energy investment and make it grow. There are others who drain your account.
The quality of our relationships is of greater importance than the quantity of our social connections. Healthy relationships are critical to health and happiness. So why not shoot for relationships that nurture you? Hang out with people who make you feel good.
Sometimes we feel obligated to spend time with people who leave us disempowered. I know You have that one relative or the spouse of someone who always seems to be around. It’s important to take stock of how they make you feel. How do you feel when you find out you’re going to see this person? How do you feel afterward?
In my life, I noticed there was this person who was always negative, always in a fight with someone, always pushing people’s buttons. I got a feeling of dread when I was going somewhere I knew she would be. I would often leave her feeling steamed.
I asked myself what it was that got me so upset. First, she was petty and mean, totally lacking in kindness and compassion. She thrived on creating drama. She also had no sense of humor – always looking like she was the butt of every joke.
I decided that the people who I like are the opposite. They are first kind, and compassionate. They are drama-free for the most part. Lastly, they have great senses of humor.
You can take the people who drive you crazy and learn from them. Build a set of qualities you like and don’t like. Then find people with qualities you like and spend more time with them. You’ll be happier and live longer.
Photo credit: Pixabay