I love saying that I’ve reached “my better half.” While I have been married for 23 years, “my better half” is not a reference to my husband but rather to my place in life. I turned 50 last December. And I couldn’t be happier than I am now, finally living in my better half!

Prior to becoming a life coach for women and an author, I was a stay-at-home mom for several years with my two children who are now both attending college on opposite coasts. Although close in age, my children are very different learners – attending two different schools throughout most of their K-12 education, which meant that the decade between my late 30s and late 40s was spent in a car. Their schools were never close in proximity nor their hours of attendance complimentary to allow for smooth transitions from one school to the next – which meant my children and I spent hours waiting in the car at one school or the other. When I look back at that time, I realize that while I managed to exercise, enjoy a moms’ nights out each month and managed a date night with my husband every once in a while, I wasn’t living with intention throughout my 30s and 40s, I was simply going through the motions. Living now, in my better half of life, I’ve made the conscious decision to live each day with intention.

When you’ve lived so many years absent a practice of intention, you’ll find the irony that it takes intention to get to intention. A lot of people spend countless hours trying to figure out what they want out of life when designing their intentional life. I’m going to save you some time and tell you what your ultimate goal in life is so that you can start living with intention today. Your ultimate goal in life is what everyone is seeking: Happiness.

How can you achieve happiness?

The simple answer is through the relationships that you cultivate. In the ground-breaking work by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulani outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology which grew into the concept identified in the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People who’ve Lived the Longest readers can find many insights. In these studies, family relationships and relationships to the community are proven to be very strong indicators of happiness. Both well-being and happiness correlates with longevity of life. There are social foundations to happiness. High family satisfaction levels and regular social interaction provides for more daily positive moments. The recognition of the importance of happiness is now found in college classes. I recently completed a certification course in happiness, which was taught by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught two of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history, Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership. He also taught Happiness Studies at Columbia University. In the certification course that I completed, most of the studies on happiness that were shared throughout the course circled back to the importance of human connection and the importance of relationships.

I took the lessons that I learned from my Happiness Studies to heart. At age 49, heading towards my better half of life, I began to reflect upon and recognize the vast importance of the relationships in my life. I made it my mission to not allow another year to go by where I did not take the time to sit down one-on-one with each of my girlfriends to share the meaning that she brought to my life. I proceeded to make a list of 50 women and met with each of them over the course of one year. Some women on the list were longtime friends. Others were relatively new acquaintances. I was intentional with whom I chose — purposeful with both the questions I asked and the dialogue that I hoped to have. I listened carefully to the words shared with me, and I spoke to each woman from my heart. I let go of my own ego. I was there to be both the teacher and the student. This project of mine has become so powerful that it has evolved into not just a personal endeavor, but also a movement — the #5050friendshipflowchallenge.

During my 50/50 Friendship Flow Challenge journey, I discovered that the gift of each meeting — often brought my girlfriends to tears of gratitude and a deeper human connection than I could have ever imagined. I realized that while we talk to our friends, we never talk about our friendship. We fail to tell our friends how important they’ve been in our lives. These are words that are never shared with someone else and unfortunately seem to be only spoken about them after it is too late.

Through this practice, my relationships with my girlfriends did not just become stronger; the practice also strengthened my relationships with my family and community, as I began to focus on the gifts that each relationship brings.

I encourage you to take the challenge. You don’t have to meet with 50 people; you can choose to meet with 5, 10, or 20 friends – something manageable during the course of a year.

The 50/50 Friendship Flow Challenge has five steps:

  • Set a date. One on one – either in person, video chat, or on the phone.
  • Set your intention and let go of ego.
  • Share your admiration and your observations.
  • Ask questions.
  • Finally, write it down, take a photo, keep a journal, and capture the moment. #5050friendshipflowchallenge

The reflection piece, step 5, is the most important. As you record your meetings, it will be impossible not to feel gratitude for the people in your life as you begin to recognize that everyone who comes into your life is both your teacher and your student. And when you live in gratitude, and experience more positive interactions with people daily, you’ll find your daily life being filled with happiness – making your better half of life, the best half!

This article was contributed by Shari Leid,  author of The 50/50 Friendship Flow: Life Lessons From and For My Girlfriends. 

@ShariLeid