The Frequently Overlooked Path to Happiness

I’ve found that one of the most controllable aspects of my happiness and acumen is the people I spend time with. Because many of us are in a good-not-great situation in this regard I suspect many might not realize how deceptively important it is. I’ve split my interactions with others into three:

Routine People. Those that you interact with without planned effort. Your spouse, co-workers, neighbours and family fall into this bucket. Do you enjoy being with them? Do they motivate you to be better? Think smarter? Be kinder? Most of your life will be spent with these people. You should have extremely high expectations of them. If they aren’t stellar, you should treat that as an urgent problem.

Out-of-routine People. Planned social interactions. For example, dinner with a friend or a trip to see family in a foreign city. Key questions to think about: Do you have a list of people that you’d like to spend time with? How often do you try to meet them? Not sure where to start? Think about qualities you want to have. Then think about the best person who excels at that virtue in your extended friend group. Want to become more empathetic? Spend more time with very empathetic people.

Once you find people that you really enjoy being with, you might figure out how to turn them into Routine People. For example: move near friends so that you can see them causally without the overhead of scheduling.

Out-of-reality People. While not as good as being surrounded by (living) fantastic people, I’ve found that reading about inspiring individuals (Benjamin Franklin, Gandhi, Shackleton) to afford similar advantages. For example, I found I was thinking about leadership principles much more in the week after reading about Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.

Think carefully about who you surround yourself with. Your time on Earth is a valuable resource — it might merit optimizing.