Outsourcing Our Sanity: The Hidden Role of Social Groups

Here’s an alternative way to see the value in having social groups:

We feel a responsibility to live by our values and behave properly in front of our friends, because they’ll call us out if we start acting selfishly or out of alignment with how they expect us to behave.

By being in contact and in the presence of our friends, we are effectively outsourcing the problem of our sanity. In essence, it isn’t that we are relying purely on ourselves to remain mentally healthy, we are actually unknowingly being reminded how to think, act and speak by those around us.

We can use this force to help us to become the best people we can possibly become, and as a result be a good influence on our own friends in return.

Contrast this with not having a solid social structure in your life. It’s much easier to come off the rails if no-one is there to see it happen. With good habits slowly unravelling and bad habits overgrowing like weeds, we begin to slip in life. Waking up early with a solid work and exercise routine metamorphoses into waking up on the couch at 3 A.M. covered in Cheetos dust with Netflix asking whether we’re still there. And because nobody can see that, there’s nobody to help pull us up, to keep us accountable.

If you’re a person lacking that social structure, make it an aim to start connecting it together again – despite the crippling anxiety it can so often induce. If you’re worried that one of your friends or family lacks a reliable social structure, take the responsibility to check in on them to see how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to. It might just help more than you know.

Happiness the 80/20 Way

Richard Koch writes in his book The 80/20 Principle some daily and medium-term stratagems for happiness. Unlike money which can be saved and spent later, happiness is experienced in the Now and the more happiness we experience day-to-day sets up us for happiness going forward.

Koch’s Daily Happiness Habits

  1. Exercise
  2. Mental stimulation
  3. Spiritual/artistic stimulation or meditation
  4. Doing something for another person or people
  5. Taking a pleasure break with a friend
  6. Giving yourself a treat
  7. Congratulating yourself on a day’s worthwhile living

Koch’s Medium-term Stratagems for Happiness

  1. Maximize control in your life. This could come in the form of self-employment for example, and usually requires planning and some risk-taking. Those that lack autonomy in life usually end up stressed or bored.
  2. Set attainable goals. Goals that are too easy lead to complacency, and those that are unrealistic lead to demoralization. Attainable goals give us something to stretch to and keep us stimulated. Err on the soft side when setting goals. Remember that hitting goals is good for happiness!
  3. Be flexible. Chance events tend to interfere with expectations, and it’s our job to do the best we can do given the situation. Goals and strategy may change and the more ready we are to take the challenge on, the happier we will be.
  4. Have a close relationship with your partner. Koch reminds us that the happiness of your partner will have a huge bearing on your mood too, and vice versa. In that case, choosing your partner is one of the most important decisions to be made in life – teaming up with an unhappy partner is likely to lead to you being unhappy too. This also highlights your own happiness you bring to the relationship, since it’s just as bad to be bringing your partner’s happiness down too.
  5. Have a few happy friends. Most of your happiness will usually derive from a small number of friends. Make sure you are spending the most time with the friends that give you energy and happiness.
  6. Have a few close professional alliances. You shouldn’t be friends with all your work colleagues, but it makes sense to be close friends with a few of them. Not only could this help with your career, it also increases the pleasure you take from the time you spend at work.
  7. Evolve your ideal lifestyle. An ideal lifestyle is unique to each of us. Consider where you’d need to live and who with, what kind of work you’d be doing, and how much time is allocated to family, socializing and hobbies. An ideal life would be one where we are equally happy at work and outside of work.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life Rule 3: Make Friends with People Who Want the Best For You

As a child growing up, I made friends with other kids that I had things in common with – football, skateboarding, snooker, videogames. I also made friends with kids that lived close by, or I went to school with. These would be the friends that knocked on the door asking if I’d like to come out. We’d play games like “Kick the Can”, let one another ride each other’s bikes, or climb and jump off trees.

As I grew older, I came across and met more and more people. There were college friends, and university friends, and table tennis friends, and housemates, and Myspace friends. Once I graduated, there were work friends, New Zealand friends, Australia friends, Canada friends, and UK friends.

But in the end there are really only two types of friends – friends who want the best for you, and friends who don’t want the best for you.

Friends who want the best for you are your biggest cheerleaders. You can feel their love. They do nice things for you, and support you in your goals whatever they may be. The hold your hair when you throw up from drinking too much, and are the first to read your blog posts. They ask how your family are doing, and listen.

Friends who don’t want the best for you are the ones that explain why you won’t achieve your goals. They try to make you look bad in front of a group and disguise it as banter. They get a little bit giddy when you do something wrong or receive bad news.

It’s important once in a while to look at who you’re spending most of your time with. People who empower you to be the best and most fulfilled as you can be? Or those that are secretly hoping you screw up so that they feel a bit better about their own inadequacies?

Imagine if you were only friends with those people who wanted the best for you. There would be no-one holding you back, inhibiting you. In fact, everyone would be encouraging you, rooting for you with authenticity. They win if you win.

Peterson invites us to consider: If you have a friend that you would not recommend to your sister or your parents or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?

This post is for those in my life that want the best for me. I hope you know that I also want the best for you too.

Make friends with people who want the best for you.