Our Most Valuable Investments
For February, we explore measurements of our values of:
Relationships: Reflections on our personal investment practices, inspired by the Harvard Study of Adult Development.
Time: Strategic investments of this most priceless resource equate in greater happiness.
February Wonder Questions:
- Who is in your portfolio of relationships?
- What is your ROA, return on attention?
- Where and with whom do you feel most alive, peaceful, and joyful?
- How are you allocating financial resources to optimize your portfolio of relationships?
What am I investing in
and why is that important?
What is my ROA,
return on attention?
Every two to three years an article updates the longest study – 85 years and counting – of health and happiness. The most recent article arrived in the WSJ mid-January touting the new book by the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. I cherish these articles. Besides lending a light of optimism, the message or teaching remains consistent, unwavering, unchanging, perhaps we could say – permanent. `
Sustained health and happiness come from investing in relationships.
Since 1938, an original group of 724 men and more than 1,300 descendants, have been asked thousands of questions, producing hundreds of measurements, to answer what keeps people happy and healthy. The permanent, we could say guaranteed, response to this question remains, in the authors words, “if you want to make one decision to ensure your own health and happiness, it would be to cultivate warm relationships of all kinds.” The simplicity of this answer can be jarring, particularly when many of us spend the majority of our time, energy and yes, money, on other pursuits, actions, achievements, experiences, and objects that bring passing results.
Daily I receive a minimum of ten emails strongly suggesting (to borderline ravage terror intimidation) a new financial product. These communications ask for my attention and a follow-up action to read, review, research and decide to invest, and/or recommend investing to others. I delete most of them and forward a discreet few to the members of the CK Investment Integrity Committee. But these emails, and many others you might receive too, reflect the urgency and incongruence of our modern world with what we all seek and what researchers say is our best human investment.
Please don’t misconstrue my words, the work and services engaged in investment integrity is vitally important. And, for the happiness and well-being all humans seek, we recognize our financial portfolio is important and partial, one of many portfolios we cultivate.
In February, the month of love and connection, let’s look to the Greek words for love and their meaning to assist us with our portfolio of relationships and the practice of relationship diversification.
• Eros – sexual or romantic love
• Phileo – fraternal or friendly love
• Agape – unbounded love
• Storge – familial love
Let’s expand our awareness of portfolios and intentionally create an investment practice for our relationship portfolio. Let’s contemplate different kinds of relationship through the use of four types of Love. Consider using these reflection prompts for this month of inquiry to honor and develop your relationship portfolio with as much attention, discernment, care, and clarity as you bring to your other portfolios of well-being.
• Who is in your portfolio of relationships?
• What is your ROA, return on attention?
• Where and with whom do you feel most alive, peaceful, and joyful?
• How are you allocating financial resources to optimize your portfolio of relationships?
As you reflect and journal your answers, go slow, mindfully breathe – generously in your lungs, belly and back – and recall what matters most to you nesting in the center of your heart. I plan to engage these wonder questions too in preparation of intentionally rebuilding my relationship portfolio. If you choose to engage this practice, please share what you discover and create.
Calculating Our Expenditures of Time
“Time is the singular resource that if invested correctly can produce a good, maybe even great, life,” writes author, social scientist, and UCLA Anderson School of Management professor Cassie Holmes in Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most (Gallery Books).
Happiness is an unusual starting point for business success, but the author makes a compelling case. “It can make you more resilient, better at your job, and more giving to the people around you,” she writes. “Decades of studies have shown that feeling happy benefits us both in the office and in our relationships.”
Holmes evaluates quality of life in a quantitative, businesslike way. While the tips she shares are broadly familiar—build meaningful relationships, find purpose in life—her transactional approach to happiness is something new. “That comes from my business school roots, where so many people are so attentive to money,” she says. “But they don’t think of time in terms of its value, which leads them to squander it without recognizing that this is the currency of our lives.”
For example, one of the exercises Holmes suggests requires people to think of day-to-day activities that bring them joy—walking the dog, say, or hanging out with friends. “I ask them to calculate how many times they have done this so far, how many times they will do it in the future, and what percentage remains,” she says. “For instance, I have 35 percent of my coffee dates with my daughter left, and she’s only 7. This leads me to make time to be with her. It also makes me pay attention and soak up that time. When you understand that these things won’t last forever, they become more precious.”
The compose-your-own-eulogy prompt reminds us of Colman Knight’s Presencing Scenarios—where we invite clients to look at their lives from unusual angles.
Holmes says people react in very different ways to the assignment to project forward to the end of your life and write what you want to be said about you. Some students get anxious; some find it validating.
“The exercise clarifies what matters most to you, what kind of life you want to live, the legacy you want to leave,” Holmes says. As she sums up in the book: “The point is, you don’t want to wait until the end to decide who you want to be.”