The Pillars of Well-Being, Part Four: Relating

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I am really happy to offer my new experiential online program, The Foundations of Well-Being. This yearlong journey uses the power of positive neuroplasticity to hardwire more happiness, resilience, self-worth, love, and peace into your brain and your life. Thousands of studies show that you really can change your brain – and your life – for the better.

Each month we’ll focus on one of the 12 Pillars of Well-Being – key inner strengths for greater happiness, love, and wisdom. Every Pillar maps to one of the four primary factors of well-being: Recognizing, Resourcing, Regulating, and Relating.

Even if you’re not planning on participating in the program, understanding these Pillars and how they work in daily life can be a great way to further your well-being.

In my previous article I covered the three Pillars related to Regulating: Calm, Motivation, and Intimacy. Now let’s take a quick look at the final group of Pillars focusing on Relating.


Pillar #10 – Courage

When we feel hurt or threatened by others, anger is a natural response. But in a traditional metaphor, blasting others with anger is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.

So, in this Pillar, we’ll explore how to establish a foundational sense of safety in your relationships through grounding yourself increasingly in the sweet spot of being both assertive and kind: strength with heart.

You’ll learn to recognize the signals that things are awry in your relationships. And to keep in mind the bigger picture so you take things less personally. The actions of others are usually the result of many, many causes, most if not all of which have nothing to do with you.

We’ll cover how to:

  • Build a framework of understanding and agreement in your relationships
  • Improve communication skills
  • Acknowledge your faults, repair upsets, and move on
  • Engage life, including its challenges, on the basis of an increasingly unconditional sense of peace


Pillar #11 – Aspiration

It’s important to identify, honor, and support your wholesome desires. But much suffering comes from getting too attached to the results. It is said that liking without wanting is Heaven, but wanting without liking is Hell.

In this Pillar, we will explore how to live with passion, purpose, and pleasure – dreaming big dreams and pursuing them with a whole heart – without tipping into the drivenness and stress that comes from getting hijacked by wanting.

So many of us have amazing dreams when we’re young, or even when we’re still just children. Let’s explore those dreams and focus on the possibilities even amidst the risks.

We will explore the intersection of three circles: what you love doing, what you are talented at, and what you value. We’ll also focus on:

  • Clarifying your priorities, and creating a realistic vision for your life to come
  • Releasing fears about being seen or successful
  • Finding the inner peace and freedom in offering your own contributions without getting caught up in the reactions of others
  • Engaging life, including its challenges, on the basis of an increasingly unconditional sense of contentment


Pillar #12 – Service

We evolved needs and desires to be generous and helpful to others, and supporting those needs and desires also improves our own life. In this way service to others is worth doing in its own right, but also becomes a service to yourself.

There are many sorrows in the world, and a true sense of service sometimes requires that we open ourselves to those sorrows. Growing inner strengths through the previous Pillars enables you to feel open and compassionate about those sorrows without being overwhelmed by them.

Sustainable well-being requires doing what you can, and accepting what you can’t. During the final Pillar we’ll focus on:

  • The felt realization that everything is connected to everything else, so that harming others harms you, and helping others helps you
  • Receiving the good heartedness of others
  • Sustaining compassion without getting burnt out
  • Engaging life, including its challenges, on the basis of an increasingly unconditional sense of love

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this series of articles. I hope that understanding these Pillars has helped you develop the twelve strengths, allowing you to repeatedly weave experiences of safety, satisfaction, and connection into your brain – and build up an increasingly unconditional sense of peace, contentment, and love.

If you found this series of articles interesting, or want to hardwire more happiness, resilience, self-worth, love, and peace into your brain and your life, I hope you’ll consider joining me for the Foundations of Well-Being!

About the Author

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and a New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. He has several audio programs and his free Just One Thing newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers.

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