My grandparents’ secrets to happiness

The Grandfather clock chimes in the corridor and there’s a lasagne in the oven. A stressful week has brought me back to my Grandparent’s North London kitchen table and we’re having a good old chat. The debate of the day; are people more anxious these days, or did people just keep it all in before?

My grandparents know a thing or two about anxiety. Nonna grew up one of fourteen siblings in the rural poverty of 1940s Southern Italy. We’re talking tuberculosis, fetching water on your head and the occasional roaming Nazi. Grandad is a thoroughbred Eastender, who as a young child found himself separated from parents and caring for a little sister at the height of the Blitz. So it’s safe to say they’ve learnt some life lessons.

Occasionally (approx. every 5 minutes) they have a pearl of advice to give and funnily enough, the advice passed over the dinner table that night chimed perfectly with the insights and tools we’ve been using in our communications here at GOOD agency to inspire new supporters for our clients. Perhaps there’s no such thing as a new idea after all.

Self Esteem

“Peter, we pray, please God, you will never know those days when you don’t know when the next meal will come. But you youngsters have your own trouble. You don’t know what makes you happy.”

“All you need to do is look after yourself and look after others. When we married we earned £6 a week. That paid for the rent, food and the bus fare – and if we had enough to go out for a drink at the end, we were so happy. You youngsters have credit, you can afford whatever you like. You even have the computer on your telephone showing all the nice things everyone else is buying, all the time. But at the end of it, are you any happier?”

Personal Development

“You know when I came to this country I worked in the hospital kitchen. We never had school so I could only write my name. But I knew that was more even than the other girls – so I could teach them. And I knew nobody would change my life but me. We worked so hard to better ourselves. I learnt to thread beads. Grandad learnt to fix watches. That’s how we made our lives better.”

Sense of Belonging

The conversation turns to their friends now. In their 80s, some seem to have dramatically lost quality of life, while others seem busier than ever. My grandparents have just launched a new Italian conversation class that they teach from their sun lounge, walk 2 miles every day and attend a weekly lunch for the elderly (they are the chefs not the guests). So what’s their secret?

“You have to belong somewhere” – they absolutely love their local parish church. The church magazine sits on their kitchen table with notices of an upcoming film club, flower arranging night, notices of recent deaths and photos from a recent community lunch. My grandparents have a faith, yes, but for them the local church is also their support network, social calendar and output for social justice.

Emotional Capital

I think, albeit it in a very different age of peak stuff and social media anxiety, the timeless truths my grandparents learnt still remain.

At GOOD we call it “emotional capital”. The subconscious motivations that inspire people to live a life of purpose, whatever purpose might mean for them. We are building this into all the work we do, based around these three principles:

  1. People are short of self esteem à affirm their identity
  2. People seek personal development à help them grow as a person
  3. People crave a sense of belonging à provide human connections

In spite of hardship, or perhaps because of it, my grandparents have learnt more about how to lead a life worth living than anyone I know. If we use our communications to inspire people to make the world a better place, feel better in themselves and give life more meaning – I know we’ll make them very proud.