David Brooks wrote a great article in the New York Times a couple of days ago. A big thanks to Jeremy Haynes for sending it to me. Brooks addresses what he calls “The Sandra Bullock Trade.” Sandra Bullock, a well-known actress, recently received an Academy Award for a film performance. Unfortunately, she’s also been dealing with a very public discovery that her husband has been unfaithful.
The question Brooks poses is this: would you trade personal hardship for professional awards? The following quote, based on recent research, shows his opinion:
If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.
I can’t help but agree 🙂 Through work with my clients and my own personal experience, I’ve found over and over that more money doesn’t do much for happiness unless relationships are also prospering. I’ve seen several individuals lately who’ve been out of work in the current economic climate. Those who have strong relationships seem to cope with their circumstances noticeably better than those without. It works the other way too – many of my higher income clients are still struggling with how to feel fulfilled, and our work often focuses on developing more solid connections with others.
It’s not just marriage or long-term partnership that helps boost happiness, either.
According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income.
I’ll be the first to wonder how researchers arrived that this claim, statistically speaking. But there’s something to be said for the idea that social relationships far outweigh income when it comes to happiness. When we feel safe and secure in our relationships, it gives us the ability to be flexible and adaptive to other life circumstances that may not be going so well. I know that when I find myself feeling down, the first thing I do is reach out to my wife and close friends for support. I teach my clients the same thing, especially those struggling with depression – learn to reach out and build relationships, and it’s almost impossible not to feel better.
So the moral of the story is this: ditch work early today and go have dinner with some friends! Take your spouse or partner on a date. Go to that party you were thinking about skipping. And tell your boss that your choice is supported by research 🙂