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COLUMN: Change our approach to happiness



Peter Levine, a guest lecturer from Tufts University, said in my Applied Research and Inquiry class Thursday that at 50, what he wished he knew at 25 was that “so much of his happiness is relational.”

He meant that most of his satisfaction and pride in his life are derived from relationships with other people, including friends, family, colleagues and students. 

And it makes sense. After all, humankind tends to place great emphasis on family and doing well by others. But, we as young adults are trained to focus on personal success and doing everything one can to attain that while young. 

This approach needs to change. 

The National Health Institute says focusing on strong relationships from a young age is good for mental health. These relationships can lead to a truer definition of personal success from an earlier age. They can give us a clearer distinction between what may be societally and materially important to us now and what will actually be important to us for the rest of our lives. 

In our young adult years, through high school, college and interning, we are thrown into situations in which building relationships is easy. This is because they are largely out of convenience.

Living in a dorm, joining a club, pledging a sorority or fraternity are experiences that expose us to a lot of relationships that require little to no work to tend to. 

Surface-level relationships with multitudes of people can be the norm in college and younger life because you come into contact with so many people, it's hard to keep up. 

However, as we grow older and join the workforce, the most meaningful opportunities and experiences will come from people who trust us, people who we help out in their time of need and people with whom we go much deeper with than surface level. 

Therefore, we need to be pushed now to learn how to go out of our way to create meaningful relationships. We need to be taught not for school but for life.

For example, in the business school, alongside networking training, students should be coached in their guidance classes on how to maintain relationships with mentors and peers in more than a give-and-take way than just searching for internships and jobs.

Building meaningful friendships is something we are taught in grade school but lost on us as young adults. 

Personal relationships are shown to be a source of success and contentedness in life, so in college and through internships or training programs, we need to work on creating them. 

These skills will help us attain more genuine personal success and show us what what we find meaningful going forward.

ccarigan@indiana.edu
@carmesanchicken

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