Why Your Boss Will Live Longer Than You...Unless, of course, you take my advice
I just bought a new shoe rack from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and got so excited at the thought of seeing my heels all in a row...so much so that I began to laugh at just how much this meant to me. But then I hearkened back to what I learned in grad school and realized how this tidy endeavor signfies much more than my Ms.-wanna-be-anally-organized-ness. It's actually representative of a life-threatening problem that faces everyone who has a boss. What we're talking about here people has been the root of wars, of struggle, of heart-ache (physical and emotional) and of pre-mature death for as long as we can remember...or at least since the famous 1967 Whitehall Study proved it so...what we're talking about here people is the desire for CONTROL.
According to the two very famous studies, Whitehall I and Whitehall II, one's rank in class, status, or heirarchy at work or in life have a dramatic influence on lifespan. Who do you think lives longer? A busy CEO or her secretary? (I guess my post title gives it away...but keep reading). According to the Whitehall studies which examined 18,000 male civil servants in 1967 and then over 10,000 men and women 20 years later in a longitudinal study, it turns out that those in a lower rank have a morbidity rate of almost twice those who occupy higher-level positions. The higher your position, the longer you're more likely to live. Why? Wouldn't the responsibilities of a CEO cause more stress, which leads to spiked cortisol levels, which leads to cardiovascular issues? Uhhh, you would think . But actually, the study found that the less control you feel you have over your lot in life, the higher your level of stress. Capiche? Other studies following this theorize that perhaps it's not so much control, but maybe the anticipation of not knowing what's next. Same difference to me.
So how do you live longer (or just as long) as your boss?
1. OUTSMART YOURSELF: Accept that you don't have control over the events in your life. Because you really don't. And that the only thing you can control is your reaction and thought in regards to events that you can't control. That actually gives you lots of control! (In fact, it's determines about 40% of your happiness). Outsmart the power struggle. Choose your response to things that come up.
2. CREATE PRETEND POCKETS: So maybe you can't control the fact that your company's biggest competitor just came up with the next best thing to sliced bread, that your baby cries at night, or that the train is late...but you can create pretend pockets of control. Pretend pockets of control are little things you do for yourself to make you feel like you do actually have control in life. This could be making sure you get to the gym no matter what every morning, or it can be eating healthy, or it can be organizing your shoe closet!
3. ACCEPT IT ALL BUT CREATE WITH INTENTION. This means accept whatever comes your way as information and an opportunity to create something new and better if what you got wasn't exactly what you wanted. For example, you thought he was the one, but getting dumped over lunch might mean he's not. Accept that. Learn from the information you gathered during the relationship. And continue to intend on finding love, but the kind that actually does X, Y, Z. This also means forgiving yourself. Like if your pretend pocket is going to the gym every morning and you don't make it this week - accept that other things got in the way, and continue to intend on a healthy lifestyle, start going again tomorrow.
Now that we're all worked up - or at least I am...I'll have to write next about just how POSITIVE it is to be out of control sometimes. Will save for later.
P.S. On a very serious note. The Whitehall Studies have been transformative and powerfully indicative of how dangerous social and economic injustice is to well-being. While I'm keeping this light, everyone from parents, to employers, to political leaders should consider how to empower those with less power. Everyone will benefit. In this post I'm assuming civic rights and beyond. This is not available to all and that's a whole other post.
Want to learn more? Resource:
Marmot, Michael. Status Syndrome. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2004.