Are you happy? Do you smile and laugh at work? Do you act lovingly towards your spouse? Do you casually speak to strangers while waiting at the food check-out line? If you answered no to two or more questions, then you are probably not happy with your life. You did everything right; you went to school, got your advanced degree, met a remarkable person to marry, had a dream wedding, enjoyed a lavish honeymoon, landed a high-paying position, had a couple of kids and bought a new home. What happened to the happiness that supposed to come with all that?
Why do we struggle to go to work? Why do we lack enthusiasm as we watch our kids on the playground? Why do we shrug off the idea of having a date night with our spouse? Why do we prefer to ‘veg out’ on the couch than to attend a professional function? We are missing something that isn’t taught by our parents or lectured in class. We are missing a lifeline. According to Ferazzi in “Who’s Got Your Back?” (2009), we all need at least three lifelines to be happy. A lifeline is a person, preferably not a spouse or a family member, who you can be completely honest and candid with. You will not be judged or criticized by your lifeline. Your lifeline will hear your stories, your dreams, ideas and plans. Your lifeline will share with you their expertise on those ideas and plans. A really good lifeline will be equally honest and tell you the brutal truth with the good intention of making you a better person. Do you have a lifeline? If you find yourself unhappy most of the time, then you probably don’t have a lifeline.
In summary, the three lifelines help us succeed in these 4 ways:
1. To help us identify what success truly means for us, including long term goals
2. To help us figure out the most robust plan to get there through short term goals and strategies
3. To help us identify what we need to do to move forward in our lives and stop doing things that hold us back (i.e. prejudice, behavior, hostility)
4. To have people around us committed to ensuring that we sustain change
To find a lifeline, write down your life goals. Goals can be short-term like to lose weight, find a new style or be a better spouse. They can also be long-term like to be a dessert chef, write a book, sell your own paintings or start your own e-commerce business. For every goal, you should have at least one lifeline. For short-term goals like losing weight, one lifeline is sufficient. For larger goals like to start your own company, you need at least three lifelines who are also experts in that field.
Next, you need to go to functions where you might meet your lifeline. If you want to lose weight, you need to go to the gym or to a Weight Watchers meeting to meet a potential lifeline. If you want to re-vamp your wardrobe and style, you should hire a personal shopper or ask your stylish friend to be your lifeline. If you want to start your own pharmacy with emphasis on beauty products, then you need to attend the next National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) conference or join pharmacy networking sites like RxEconsult, LinkedIn or Facebook to find your lifeline. We are living in a highly connected world. It is not difficult to find your stylish lifeline or pharmacy expert with the tap of your fingertips.
It is also possible that your lifeline already exists in your current circle of friends. However, you may not have tapped into that relationship because you have not opened up about your dreams, plans and ideas. If you cannot be candid and openly honest, lifelines cannot exist in your life. If you take the initiative and try to be honest with your potential lifeline, then the relationship becomes less of a superficial one and more of a meaningful bond. If the potential lifeline reciprocates with the same level of honesty, then you have found a lifeline. If you offer the same amount of support and advice in your lifeline’s goals, then you have become theirlifeline.
Don’t be discouraged if your friend doesn’t pan out as a lifeline. Sometimes, friends do not reciprocate or are unable to help you because they have their own personal lives to attend to. Continue the search. All you need are three lifelines. Three friends who can tell you when you have to revise your business plan, when the price point of your painting is too high, when you are ‘over the line’ with your spouse or when you are starting to drink too much alcohol. Three friends who can tell you that you have been moody and unbearable or that you are too frugal.
You don’t have to take their advice. But you should listen and think about what they are saying. Are they right? Have you noticed that you have been unbearable? Have you become difficult at work? Swallow your pride and take their advice. If you want to make a change for the better, start with yourself and make the change. You will be happier if you do.
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
-Michael Jackson, “Man in the Mirror”
Ferazzi K. (2009) Who’s Got Your Back? New York, NY: Crown Publishing.
About the Author
Dr. Karine Wong has a 10 year history of working in hospital management and 2 years as a hospital pharmacist and outpatient pharmacist. She recently published a children's book called Don't Sit On Her.
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