It's become a lazy catchphrase of our generation: "You do you."
As the New York Times Magazine put it last month, "In a world where the selfie has become our dominant art form, tautological phrases like 'You do you' and its tribe provide a philosophical scaffolding for our ever-evolving, ever more complicated narcissism."
But what really leads to lifelong happiness isn't actually "doing you," by yourself. It's looking beyond yourself to your relationships with others. Nowhere was this better proven than the Grant Study, a 75-year longitudinal study of 268 men from Harvard University that found strong relationships to be by far the most accurate predictor of life satisfaction. As researcher George Vaillant summarized his key takeaway: "Happiness is love. Full stop."
We're inclined to work on ourselves by turning inward. But the happiest thing we can do for our own lives is to make a little outward turn — just ask these 12 smart women who've been around the block. When it comes to a great life, it's the other people around us who make it worth it.
Patti LaBelle: Actually work on your friendships.
Patti LaBelle warns against getting lazy in your friendships in her interview in Fifty on Fifty, a book that gathered advice from women who had reached their 50th birthdays. Take advantage of every chance to celebrate with the people you love, whether they're spouses or lifelong buddies. All our relationships deserve our attention.
Iris Apfel: Work to embrace other people's quirks.
Fashion icon Iris Apfel told Pret-a-Reporter that the key to her successful relationship is maintaining a sense of humor. If you can laugh off disagreements and remember all the reasons you're in the relationship to begin with, arguments are much less likely to escalate.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Be there for someone when shit gets tough.
Your relationship won't always be everything you want it to be. But as Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in a Yahoo interview with Katie Couric, the key is choosing a partner who will support you when things are tough. That, the Supreme Court justice has said, is what has allowed her to be so successful in every realm of life.
Whoopi Goldberg: Have the courage to commit to someone.
Knowing what a relationship takes is crucial when you're in one, but also when you're not. Whoopi Goldberg told CNN that she married to feel "normal" instead of because she wanted to — which, unsurprisingly, led her to divorce. A great relationship takes a full buy-in.
Betty White: Appreciate the value of solid friendships.
As much as you love being alone or with your spouse, friendship is worthy of your time and attention too, as Betty White wrote in If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't). Friendships can be hard to prioritize, given all the emphasis our society puts on romance. But cherishing those relationships is well worth the effort.
Sonia Sotomayor: Remember your success isn't yours alone.
Relationships aren't just a personal treat for the off hours. Your connections with coworkers, mentors and peers are just as crucial to your happiness and well-being, as Sonia Sotomayor reminded the young crowd at her 2012 NYU commencement address. We need each other for everything we do, including forging professional paths.
Shirley MacLaine: Make real, face-to-face human contact.
It's ironically difficult to establish a solid connection with someone in a world when we're constantly connected by devices. As Shirley MacLaine reminded us in an interview with Vanity Fair, making that physical human interaction is essential.
Toni Morrison: Empower others to feel amazing about themselves.
In her novel Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison dishes out some harsh, but necessary, advice. No person can fully belong to another, no matter how much you love them. We can be there for each other and support one another, but should always remember that we're self-governing individuals first and foremost. Celebrating that can only make us better friends and partners.
Yoko Ono: Keep in mind that someone you know might feel lonely.
Yoko Ono told Interview magazine that for a period of her life, she felt as though "no one else loved" her. By remaining confident in her identity and her hard work, she was able to appreciate herself even while no one else did. Self-love is the key to her survival.
Oprah: Celebrate the littlest things that make people happy.
As Oprah told readers in O Magazine, it's the small things that we don't even realize until later are making us happy. But we should keep them in mind and not take them for granted, for ourselves and for others.
Jessie Gallan: Embrace people who make you better — and don't waste time on those who don't.
Scotland's oldest woman, 109-year-old Jessie Gallan, told the Daily Mail her secret to living forever was not letting others bring her down or mess things up — namely, avoiding men. She might just be on to something.