Category: Relationships

Be a Problem Solver, not a Problem Creator

Be a Problem Solver, not a Problem Creator

This is a very simple, yet effective, principle to follow that leads to success in any area of your life.  

If you are a problem creator at home, you will soon lose your family. If you are a problem creator at work, you will soon lose your job. If you are a problem creator with your friends, you will soon lose your friends. This is a very natural and predictable outcome. 

On the other hand, if you are a problem solver – at home, at work, anywhere – you will be welcome. You will be wanted. You will be needed. That is why there is such a term as a “solution provider”. A solution provider is basically a problem solver. A solution provider provides a solution to your problem. 

Think about it. The supermarket solves your food problem. The doctor solves your health problem. The accountant solves your accounting problem. Even entertainers solve your boredom problem.  

Most of us do not want to be a problem creator, nor do we set out to be one. However, we sometimes create problems unconsciously and unnecessary due to our lack of self-awareness. We constantly react to people and situation automatically, out of habits. Our past experiences condition our reactions. In other words, we continue to live in the past.  

Once, a lady patient came to see me due to stress. On further discussion, her problem started because of a simple phone call from her mother-in-law to her husband late at night. She was totally upset with that late night phone call, and therefore upset with her husband. When I asked her whether she would have reacted in the same way if the caller had been her own mother or sister, instead of her mother-in-law, she was stunned for a while. Then she responded that she would not have reacted in the same way.  

On further examination, the issue was not really the phone call. The real issue was her own relationship with her mother-in-law. She has had a troubled past with her mother-in-law, and from those old experiences had come this conditioned reaction that she was not aware of.  

Often, we are caught in similar situations where we react to people or situations simply out of past conditioning without our conscious awareness. Many of our relationship problems arise in this manner. Thus, if one has a high degree of self-awareness, many problems can be prevented in this way. 

While most of us may not consciously set out to be a problem creator, we need to be aware of those who intentionally set out to create problems, and then pretend to offer you the solution. We see this modus operandi a lot in politicians. Many politicians love to divide and rule. They create or fan racial or religious issues, turning them into big problems, and then offer themselves as the solution provider. 

 Unfortunately, this simple modus operandi is easy to implement and succeed because we ourselves have inner prejudices and biases which we are either not aware of, or not willing to admit and take responsibility for. In this way, we become easy pawns for their manipulations. Thus, we see here how denial can be harmful not just to ourselves, but also to others, and to society at large. Denial can make us an unconscious and unwitting participant to problem creation.  

Reality itself does not create problems.  

Healing a Broken Relationship

Healing a Broken Relationship

Understanding a Relationship 

Before we talk about healing a relationship, it is important that we understand what a relationship is, or rather, what makes a good relationship. 

  1. A relationship is a mutual responsibility. A relationship can only happen when there are at least 2 people involved in it. A relationship is like a clap. It can only occur when two hands clapped. One hand alone cannot produce the clap. Therefore, a relationship is a mutual responsibility. 
  1. A relationship is a privilege. It is a privilege because one can always choose not to have a relationship. One always has this freedom of choice. A relationship is not one-sided, coerced or compelled. One must be free to enter into or walk out of a relationship. 
  1. A relationship must be mutually beneficial. We choose to have a relationship because we see its potential to enrich our life, to make it better, to flourish together. Therefore, both sides must benefit from it. Without these mutual benefits, the relationship will eventually fail. 
  1. A relationship is a mirror. We like someone or fall in love with someone because that person mirrors something in us that we like, admire or want. At the same time, we must bear in mind that he or she will also mirror our fears, insecurities, weaknesses and limitations. This is not necessary a bad thing. In fact, this offers us ample opportunities to recognize, acknowledge and heal our own fears and limitations, that may otherwise go unnoticed, unacknowledged and therefore unable to be healed. It is here that you can turn a crisis into an opportunity for growth. Use it well. 
  1. In a relationship. honesty is the best policy. At any time, a relationship can go bad, go sour or become broken. This often happens because one or both in the relationship fails to or is unwilling to face his or her own inner fears, and therefore ends up unable to communicate truthfully or effectively with each other. In fact, the most common reaction is one that looks for someone to place the blame on. Most ego understand this but cannot seem to help itself. Unfortunately, this is not only unhelpful but often worsen an already bad situation. It is here that honesty is the best policy. For any relationship to flourish, truth must be the foundation of that relationship. Honesty is needed for truth to be upheld. 

Healing a Broken Relationship 

When a relationship is broken, these are some of the things we should keep in mind. 

  1. A broken relationship needs a safe space to heal. A healthy relationship creates a safe space for communication. In this safe communication, the goal is NOT to find someone to blame, or to look for a scapegoat. The goal is to find CLARITY and UNDERSTANDING of the dynamics in the relationship that had led to the unhealthy situation. It is here that we need HONESTY and COMPASSION. We need empathy – to be able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Once we see and understand the dynamics involved and can acknowledge it, we can have the opportunity to heal it or to make it better. At times, that may require some compromises from both sides. 
  1. A relationship offers us opportunities for self-understanding and self-knowledge. It offers us self-growth. This happens through the mirroring effect in a relationship.  We can choose to accept these opportunities when they present to us, or we can reject them. Again, this requires HONESTY, and also COURAGE to face one’s own vulnerabilities. A safe space needs to be created for this.  
  1. Some common, and often unconscious, dynamics need healing because they are no longer serving us well. They may have served us well in the past because they were needed at a time when we were more vulnerable and less mature to be able to handle the situation. Presumably, we are more mature now to be able to see the limits of those dynamics and coping mechanisms.  
  1. Seek to recognize and acknowledge unhealthy habits and beliefs. One of the most common habits is our habit of looking outward for someone to blame when things go wrong, instead of examining ourselves inwardly. This habit persists despite the fact that it is one of the most ineffective methods in solving any problem. In fact, it often aggravates the problem. We should learn to see it for what it really is – an ego trying to protect itself from perceived threats.  
  1. Be aware of self-deception and denial. The ego is cunning, and often can and do try to deceive itself through taking a self-righteous position and offering all kinds of justifications for why the blame should be on someone else. Denial is a common coping mechanism, together with rationalization and justification. As we have said before, the goal of the enquiry is not to blame or find a convenient scapegoat. It is to find understanding. Still, some egos may choose this route rather than take the more courageous route to face its own vulnerabilities. While we strongly encourage self-honesty, we also need to recognize that some egos may not be ready or willing to do this. They may reject this opportunity to heal, or they may choose to confront this issue at another time. Self-growth cannot be forced. It has to come willingly from the ego. 

Things to Avoid, or How Relationship Fails 

It is useful to keep some of these pointers in mind in order to preserve a relationship. Very often, these are what keeps a relationship healthy. 

  1. Do not take things personally. This is a very good advice from Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements. Very often, problem arises because we take things that are not personal to be personal. This is because we tend to see things from our own perspective, from our own life experiences. We think that everything the other person does is about us. In fact, this is often not true. Everything the other person does is about him or her, not about you. If you are honest with yourself, you will also see that this is true for you. When we take things personally, we get a skewed view of reality, a distortion of what is. This leads us to form wrong or inaccurate conclusions about the situation or person. Based on this wrong conclusion, we act and disaster follows.  
  1. Do not make assumptions. Often a relationship goes wrong because we simply jump to conclusions about things. We assign a motive for the other person’s actions without knowing for certain whether that motivation is true or not because we did not verify it with him or her. Based on that assumption, we act as if our assumption is right, and disaster follows. 
  1. Do not be accusatory in your approach. Nobody likes to be accused of things, and especially things they did not do, or motivations they did not have. For the same reason, do not put words into the other person’s mouth. 
  1. Do not be judgmental. Our habits of being judgmental and taking things personally are the main reasons problems arise in our relationships. Avoiding these two habits goes a long way in preserving and nurturing a relationship. 
  1. We do not have to stick to our original narrative. We can always change our narrative. There is a deeper truth in this simple statement. Everything and every experience in our life is a story we tell ourselves. Fundamentally, there is nothing true in our narrative because we base our story on our past experiences, that are themselves also not true. In this way, we create for ourselves an illusory world of make believe. It is important for us to see this and to know that we can change this narrative. When we see things from a different perspective, that is essentially what we are doing – changing our narrative. 

Lastly, it is important that at every point in this journey of healing, stick to the truth – the deeper truth. Let truth be your guide and motivator in everything you do and say, and remember to do this with compassion. It is here that the truth will set you free – free from guilt and free from worries. It is a very liberating feeling, a joy. 

Relationship is a source of worldly happiness

Relationship is a source of worldly happiness

Very often we work so hard to build a career that we forget to spend time to build relationships. Someone once told me that whatever it is in life that you want, you will find that it eventually has to come from someone else. Thus, your success and happiness in life – and I am referring to worldly happiness here – is dependent on someone else.

When we are able to see that, we can start to remove the non-essential things and focus more time and energy on what is truly important in our lives.

This short video clip below reminds us of what is truly important in our lives.

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong

Despite your best intentions and efforts, it is inevitable: At some point in your life, you will be wrong.

Mistakes can be hard to digest, so sometimes we double down rather than face them. Our confirmation bias kicks in, causing us to seek out evidence to prove what we already believe. The car you cut off has a small dent in its bumper, which obviously means that it is the other driver’s fault.

Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance — the stress we experience when we hold two contradictory thoughts, beliefs, opinions or attitudes. For example, you might believe you are a kind and fair person, so when you rudely cut someone off, you experience dissonance. To cope with it, you deny your mistake and insist the other driver should have seen you, or you had the right of way even if you didn’t.

“Cognitive dissonance is what we feel when the self-concept — I’m smart, I’m kind, I’m convinced this belief is true — is threatened by evidence that we did something that wasn’t smart, that we did something that hurt another person, that the belief isn’t true,” said Carol Tavris, a co-author of the book “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).”

She added that cognitive dissonance threatened our sense of self.

“To reduce dissonance, we have to modify the self-concept or accept the evidence,” Ms. Tavris said. “Guess which route people prefer?”

Or maybe you cope by justifying your mistake. The psychologist Leon Festinger suggested the theory of cognitive dissonance in the 1950s when he studied a small religious group that believed a flying saucer would rescue its members from an apocalypse on Dec. 20, 1954. Publishing his findings in the book “When Prophecy Fails,” he wrote that the group doubled down on its belief and said God had simply decided to spare the members, coping with their own cognitive dissonance by clinging to a justification.

“Dissonance is uncomfortable and we are motivated to reduce it,” Ms. Tavris said.

When we apologize for being wrong, we have to accept this dissonance, and that is unpleasant. On the other hand, research has shown that it can feel good to stick to our guns. One study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found that people who refused to apologize after a mistake had more self-esteem and felt more in control and powerful than those who did not refuse.

“In a way, apologies give power to their recipients,” said Tyler Okimoto, an author of the study. “For example, apologizing to my wife admits my wrongdoing; but apologizing also gives her the power to choose whether she wants to alleviate my shame through forgiveness, or increase my shame by holding a grudge. Our research has found that people experience a short-term increase in their feelings of personal power and control after refusing to apologize.”

Feeling powerful may be an attractive short-term benefit, but there are long-term consequences. Refusing to apologize could potentially jeopardize “the trust on which a relationship is based,” Mr. Okimoto said, adding that it can extend conflict and encourage outrage or retaliation.

When you refuse to admit your mistakes, you are also less open to constructive criticism, experts said, which can help hone skills, rectify bad habits and improve yourself over all.

“We cling to old ways of doing things, even when new ways are better and healthier and smarter. We cling to self-defeating beliefs long past their shelf life,” Ms. Tavris said. “And we make our partners, co-workers, parents and kids really, really mad at us.”

Another study, from the Stanford researchers Carol Dweck and Karina Schumann, found that subjects were more likely to take responsibility for their mistakes when they believed they had the power to change their behavior. This is easier said than done, though, so how exactly do you change your behavior and learn to embrace your mistakes?

The first step is to recognize cognitive dissonance in action. Your mind will go to great lengths to preserve your sense of identity, so it helps to be aware of what that dissonance feels like. Typically, it manifests as confusion, stress, embarrassment or guilt. Those feelings do not necessarily mean you are in the wrong, but you can at least use them as reminders to explore the situation from an impartial perspective and objectively question whether you are at fault.

Similarly, learn to recognize your usual justifications and rationalizations. Think of a time you were wrong and knew it, but tried to justify it instead. Remember how it felt to rationalize your behavior and pinpoint that feeling as cognitive dissonance the next time it happens.

Mr. Okimoto said it also helped to remember that people were often more forgiving than you might think. Traits like honesty and humility make you more human and therefore more relatable. On the flip side, if it is undeniably clear that you are in the wrong, refusing to apologize reveals low self-confidence.

“If it is clear to everybody that you made a mistake,” Mr. Okimoto said, “digging your heels in actually shows people your weakness of character rather than strength.”

Source: New York Times

A Look at the Principle of Mutuality

A Look at the Principle of Mutuality

The Principle of Mutuality is a universal principle that says that every interaction we have with another is based on mutual agreement. By this, we mean that the interaction must be fair and beneficial to both parties. Only in this way can the interaction become truly meaningful and healthy.

The acceptance of this principle is implied in every relationship. Problems arise when this principle is violated. Violation can be at the conscious level or the unconscious level.

Taking What is not Given

At the conscious level, we violate this principle each time we consciously intent and act to take from others what is not given. This includes the taking of intangible as well as tangible things. Tangible things are things like properties, belongings, money and even this body. Intangibles are things like life, rights, space, time, self esteem, choices, values and trust. Avoiding taking tangible things from others without their explicit permissions is easier as it requires coarser awareness. Avoiding taking intangible things from others, on the other hand, requires more awareness and attention on our part.

We also often violates the principle of mutuality in an unconscious way. By this I mean that we are not fully aware of having violated this principle. Perhaps we did not have the conscious intention to take what is not given to us but due to our lack of self awareness, we nevertheless violated it. To prevent this unconscious violation requires a much higher level of self awareness from us. It requires courageous introspection and the examination of our habitual mental tendencies. Only then can we eliminate this unintentional violation of the principle of mutuality.

Giving Away our Power

Another source of problems with this principle is when we ourselves give away our power to the other party. Most often, we do this unconsciously and unintentionally. When we do not know how to be assertive with our rights, we dis-empower ourselves. When we do not even know our own rights, we do not know what we have given away. Thus, knowing our rights and being assertive are two essential elements to empowering ourselves. Knowledge is required for the former and courage for the latter.

Two to Tango?

The principle of mutuality is a spiritual principle that governs relationships. When adhered to, it can bring forth spiritually fulfilling encounters and outcomes for everyone in the relationships. This is the ideal spiritual relationship. It is a win-win and is conducive to growth and personal transformation.

Although every relationship involves two or more parties, it does not mean that if the other party chooses to violate this principle, you on your own cannot adhere to it. In fact, irregardless of whether the other party is aware of or adhere to this principle of mutuality or not, you can continue to live in accordance with it.

The Right Attitude

All it needs to succeed with this principle is to have the right attitude. What is the right attitude? When interacting with another, ask yourself “How can I make this interaction beneficial, meaningful and fulfilling to all concerned?”

I see this approach working out very well in my work as a general practitioner. As soon as a patient walked into my consultation room, I ask myself “How can I make this encounter a wonderful experience for him/her?” Most people are already quite apprehensive when they see a doctor, so simply by being warm and friendly, and making them feel at ease begins the process of healing for them.

I believe this approach is suitable for all types of interactions, including personal, social and business, and strongly encourage that you give it a try. You would be amazed at the results.

 

The Principle of Mutuality in Relationships

The Principle of Mutuality in Relationships

There is a universal rule or principle that, if properly practiced and adhered to in every layer of societies, will bring about peace, prosperity and justice for all. This principle is called the principle of mutuality. Elsewhere in the scriptures, it is also known as the Golden Rule or “do unto others as you would want others to do unto you”.

The principle of mutuality is based on the recognition that life is precious to all living beings and that every being has the equal right to life, liberty and self expression, provided that in expressing yourself you do not trample on another being’s similar rights. For this principle to work effectively, there is a need for openness, honesty and courage, and the realization that we are all subjected to the universal law of cause and effect. You reap what you sow.

In practical terms, what this means is that you have the same universal rights as everyone else. You do not have more rights than another. Neither do you have less rights than others. This is irregardless of whether you are rich or poor; a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Jew; a European, Asian, African or Aborigine; a male or female; or whether you are smarter or dumber than others. Likewise, in corporations and governments, you have these same rights to demand for equal justice, regardless of whether you are the governed or the governor.

In our relationships with others, this principle is particularly important in bringing about an equal and enriching partnership. When adhered to, it brings about respect for each other, fair play and sharing of roles and responsibilities. It encourages personal and mutual growth, as well as spiritual development. However, putting this principle into practice is not easy as it requires a high degree of self awareness, a non-judgmental attitude and especially the taming of the ego.

The ego has this attitude that “I am more important than you”. Thus we often see how it tries to manipulate every relationship to its own advantage at the expense of others. In a position of power, it will abuse its power. We see this in government and institutional leaders as well as in homes and families. We see this in teacher-student relationships as well. Even among friends, we need to be aware of this dynamics.

If I ask you to examine your own key relationships, such as husband-wife, parent-child, and employer-employee relationships, are you able to honestly say that these relationships are equal and fair for all concern, or are they heavily leaning to one side? One simple way to know whether our relationship is balanced is to see how happy the two persons in the relationship are. If it is well balanced, then both are equally happy. If either one is unhappy or both are, then an unequal dynamic exists. The more it diverts from the center, the more unhealthy the relationship is, and the more important it is for you to do something about it. Leaving such one-sided relationships in status quo only serves to perpetuate this inequality in your relationships as well as in society. In addition, inaction on your part breeds contempt for yourself and squashes your personal and spiritual growth.

Now is as good a time as any to re-examine all your relationships.

2 traits scientifically proven to make your relationship last

2 traits scientifically proven to make your relationship last

Love is all about feelings, right? We lead with our hearts and ignore our heads. Not exactly. It turns out there is a lot of physiology and psychology involved in falling in love and maintaining relationships. If you want to make yours last, you might want to read up on current scientific findings.

Husband and wife psychologists John and Julie Gottman, who study marriage stability and run The Gottman Institute, have spent 30 years learning about what makes relationships last. Amazingly enough, they’ve been able to disseminate years of research and identify just two traits that determine relationship success.

After studying hundreds of couples in a “love lab” located at the University of Washington, Gottman and his colleagues determined how to predict how long couples would stay together, with 94 percent accuracy, just by watching for certain behaviors. The two traits most important in making your relationship last: kindness and generosity.

What? That’s too simple, right? Kindness and generosity are traits taught to toddlers then reinforced throughout life. Applying them to marriage and long-term loving, intimate relationships is more complex, but the basic idea still applies.

The Gottmans talk about “masters” and “disasters” as they categorize couples. The masters have learned to apply kindness and generosity to nearly every interaction they have with their spouses, while disasters employ hostility and contempt instead.

Consider how you respond when you reconnect with your spouse after a long day. Are you genuinely interested in the events of his day, mundane or exciting? I’ve run into this with my husband. He knows a lot about accounting and financial empirical research. I know almost nothing. Rather than tune out and literally “turn away” from him, something the Gottmans tracked, I’ve tried to gain a basic grasp of his work and world economics so that we can have discussions.

My willingness to learn and his patience with my ignorance of things that are simple to him have allowed us to grow closer over something that is crucial to both of our lives: his career. This example shows both kindness and generosity.

Another example: Your wife leaves her clothes all over the closet floor causing you to have to step over a big mess to reach your clothing. This bothers you. It’s important to remember that your spouse doesn’t have malice in mind when she does something that annoys you. Perhaps your wife had to leave quickly to get the kids to school on time or had to take an important phone call. As you discuss issues with kindness, leaving criticism out of the conversation, you show generosity by giving your loved one the benefit of the doubt.

Developing the traits of kindness and generosity in your relationship will take effort and time. It’s important to be kind not only during difficult times, like during an argument or when you feel stress, but also during the happy times, like when your spouse has success in her career or reaches an important goal. Employing kindness and generosity throughout life means you’ll be a master of your meaningful relationship with the one you love.

Source: FamilyShare.com.

Secrets to a Happy Life

Secrets to a Happy Life

By George E. Vaillant
This article appears in the Greater Good Science Center
This essay is adapted from Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

At 19 years old, Godfrey Minot Camille was a tall redheaded boy with a charming manner who planned to enter medicine or the ministry. In 1938, Camille enrolled in a study that would follow him for the rest of his life, along with 267 other Harvard College sophomores deemed by recruiters as likely to lead “successful” lives.

Only gradually did the study’s staff discover that the allegedly “normal” Godfrey was an intractable and unhappy hypochondriac. On the 10th anniversary of his joining the study, each man was given an A through E rating anticipating future personality stability. When it was Godfrey’s turn, he was assigned an “E.”

But if Godfrey Camille was a disaster as a young man, by the time he was an old one he had become a star. His occupational success; measurable enjoyment of work, love, and play; his health; the depth and breadth of his social supports; the quality of his marriage and relationship to his children—all that and more combined to make him one of the most successful of the surviving men of the study. What made the difference? How did this sorry lad develop such an abundant capacity for flourishing?

These are the kinds of questions that can only be answered by a study that follows participants over the course of a lifetime, and the study in which Camille participated—known as the Grant Study, because it was originally funded by entrepreneur and philanthropist William T. Grant—is now the longest longitudinal study of biosocial human development ever undertaken, and is still on-going. Through reviews of Camille’s and his Harvard peers’ medical records, coupled with periodic interviews and questionnaires exploring their careers, relationships, and mental well-being, the study’s goal was to identify the key factors to a happy and healthy life.

I arrived at the Grant Study in 1966. I became its director in 1972, a position I held until 2004. The single most personally rewarding facet of my involvement with the Grant Study has been the chance to interview these men over four decades. I’ve found that no single interview, no single questionnaire is ever adequate to reveal the complete man, but the mosaic of interviews produced over many years can be most revealing.

This was certainly the case with Camille, whose life illuminates two of the most important lessons from the 75-year, 20-million-dollar Grant Study. One is that happiness is love. Virgil, of course, needed only three words to say the same thing, and he said it a very long time ago—Omnia vincit amor, or “love conquers all”—but unfortunately he had no data to back them up. The other lesson is people really can change. As we see in the example of this man’s life, they really can grow.

Up from a bleak childhood

Camille’s parents were upper class, but they were also socially isolated and pathologically suspicious. A child psychiatrist who reviewed Camille’s record 30 years later thought his childhood one of the bleakest in the Study.

Unloved and not yet grown into a sense of autonomy, Camille as a student adopted the unconscious survival strategy of frequent reports to the college infirmary. No evidence of tangible illness was found at most of his visits, and in his junior year a usually sympathetic college physician dismissed him with the disgusted comment, “This boy is turning into a regular psychoneurotic.” Camille’s constant complaining was an immature coping style. It didn’t connect with other people, and it kept them from connecting with him; they didn’t see his real underlying suffering and just got angry at his apparent manipulations.

After graduation from medical school, the newly minted Dr. Camille attempted suicide. The Study consensus at the time of his 10-year personality assessment was that he was “not fitted for the practice of medicine,” and, unloved as he was, he found taking care of other people’s needs overwhelming. But several sessions with a psychiatrist gave him a different view of himself. He wrote to the Study, “My hypochondriasis has been mainly dissipated. It was an apology, a self-inflicted punishment for aggressive impulses.”

Then, at age 35, he had a life-changing experience. He was hospitalized for 14 months in a veterans’ hospital with pulmonary tuberculosis. Ten years later he recalled his first thought on being admitted: “It’s neat; I can go to bed for a year, do what I want, and get away with it.”

“I was glad to be sick,” he confessed. His illness, a real one, finally ended up giving him the emotional security that his childhood—along with his hypochondriacal symptoms and subsequent careful neutrality—never had. Camille felt his time in the hospital almost like a religious rebirth. “Someone with a capital ‘S’ cared about me,” he wrote. “Nothing has been so tough since that year in the sack.”

Released from the hospital, Dr. Camille became an independent physician, married, and grew into a responsible father and clinic leader. His coping style changed as the decades passed. His transitional reliance on displacement (the unconscious avoidance of emotional intensity) was replaced by the still more empathic involuntary coping mechanisms of altruism and generativity (a wish to nurture others’ development). He was now functioning as a giving adult. Whereas at 30 he had hated his dependent patients, by 40 his adolescent fantasy of caring for others had become a reality. In vivid contrast with his post-graduation panic, he now reported that what he liked most about medicine was that “I had problems and went to others, and now I enjoy people coming to me.”

When I was 55 and Camille was almost 70, I asked him what he had learned from his children. “You know what I learned from my children?” he blurted out, tears in his eyes. “I learned love!” Many years later, having seized a serendipitous opportunity to interview his daughter, I believed him. I have interviewed many Grant Study children, but this woman’s love for her father remains the most stunning that I have encountered among them.

At age 75, Camille took the opportunity to describe in greater detail how love had healed him:

Before there were dysfunctional families, I came from one. My professional life hasn’t been disappointing—far from it—but the truly gratifying unfolding has been into the person I’ve slowly become: comfortable, joyful, connected, and effective. Since it wasn’t widely available then, I hadn’t read that children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, which tells how connectedness is something we must let happen to us, and then we become solid and whole.

As that tale recounts tenderly, only love can make us real. Denied this in boyhood for reasons I now understand, it took me years to tap substitute sources. What seems marvelous is how many there are and how restorative they prove. What durable and pliable creatures we are, and what a storehouse of goodwill lurks in the social fabric. . . I never dreamed my later years would be so stimulating and rewarding.

That convalescent year, transformative though it was, was not the end of Camille’s story. Once he grasped what had happened, he seized the ball and ran with it, straight into a developmental explosion that went on for 30 years. A professional awakening and a spiritual one; a wife and two children of his own; two psychoanalyses, a return to the church of his early years—all these allowed him to build for himself the loving surround that he had so missed as a child, and to give to others out of its riches.

At 82, Godfrey Minot Camille had a fatal heart attack while mountain climbing in the Alps, which he dearly loved. His church was packed for the memorial service. “There was a deep and holy authenticity about the man,” said the Bishop in his eulogy. His son said, “He lived a very simple life, but it was very rich in relationships.” Yet prior to age 30, Camille’s life had been essentially barren of relationship. Folks change. But they stay the same, too. Camille had spent his years before the hospital looking for love, too. It just took him a while to learn how to do it well.

How to flourish

In 2009, I delved into the Grant Study data to establish a Decathlon of Flourishing—a set of ten accomplishments that covered many different facets of success. Two of the items in the Decathlon had to do with economic success, four with mental and physical health, and four with social supports and relationships. Then I set out to see how these accomplishments correlated, or didn’t, with three gifts of nature and nurture—physical constitution, social and economic advantage, and a loving childhood.

The results were as clear-cut as they were startling.

We found that measures of family socioeconomic status had no significant correlation at all with later success in any of these areas. Alcoholism and depression in family histories proved irrelevant to flourishing at 80, as did longevity. The sociability and extraversion that were so highly valued in the initial process of selecting the men did not correlate with later flourishing either.

In contrast with the weak and scattershot correlations among the biological and socioeconomic variables, a loving childhood—and other factors like empathic capacity and warm relationships as a young adult—predicted later success in all ten categories of the Decathlon. What’s more, success in relationships was very highly correlated with both economic success and strong mental and physical health, the other two broad areas of the Decathlon.

In short, it was a history of warm intimate relationships—and the ability to foster them in maturity—that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.

We found, for instance, that there was no significant difference between the maximum earned incomes of the men with IQs of 110–115 and the incomes of the men with IQs of 150-plus. On the other hand, men with warm mothers took home $87,000 more than those men whose mothers were uncaring. The men who had good sibling relationships when young were making an average of $51,000 more a year than the men who had poor relationships with their siblings. The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made an average of $243,000 a year; in contrast, the 31 men with the worst scores for relationships earned an average maximum salary of $102,000 a year.

So when it comes to late-life success—even when success is measured strictly in financial terms—the Grant Study finds that nurture trumps nature. And by far the most important influence on a flourishing life is love. Not early love exclusively, and not necessarily romantic love. But love early in life facilitates not only love later on, but also the other trappings of success, such as high income and prestige. It also encourages the development of coping styles that facilitate intimacy, as opposed to the ones that discourage it. The majority of the men who flourished found love before 30, and the data suggests that was why they flourished.

We can’t choose our childhoods, but the story of Godfrey Minot Camille reveals that bleak ones do not doom us. If you follow lives long enough, people adapt and they change, and so do the factors that affect healthy adjustment. Our journeys through this world are filled with discontinuities. Nobody in the Study was doomed at the outset, but nobody had it made, either. Inheriting the genes for alcoholism can turn the most otherwise blessed golden boy into a skid row bum. Conversely, an encounter with a very dangerous disease liberated the pitiful young Dr. Camille from a life of loneliness and dependency. Who could have foreseen, when he was 29 and the Study staff ranked him in the bottom three percent of the cohort in personality stability, that he would die a happy, giving, and beloved man?

Only those who understand that happiness is only the cart; love is the horse. And perhaps those who recognize that our so-called defense mechanisms, our involuntary ways of coping with life, are very important indeed. Before age 30, Camille depended on narcissistic hypochondriasis to cope with his life and his feelings; after 50 he used empathic altruism and a pragmatic stoicism about taking what comes. The two pillars of happiness revealed by the 75-year-old Grant Study—and exemplified by Dr. Godfrey Minot Camille—are love and a mature coping style that does not push love away.

Above all, the Study reveals how men like Dr. Camille adapted themselves to life and adapted their lives to themselves—a process of maturation that unfolds over time. Indeed, I have always regarded the Grant Study as an instrument that permitted the study of time, much as the telescope uncovered the mysteries of the galaxies and the microscope enabled the study of microbes.

For researchers, prolonged follow-up can be a rock upon which fine theories founder, but it also can be a means of discovering robust and enduring truth. At the outset of the Study in 1939, it was thought that men with masculine body types—broad shoulders and a slender waist—would succeed the most in life. That turned out to be one of many theories demolished by the Study as it has followed the lives of these men. To benefit from the lessons both of the Grant Study and of life requires persistence and humility, for maturation makes liars of us all.