Do you want the secret to a happy life? Of course you do.
Many different people have many different ways to enjoy this happy life. The monks of Tibet use meditation, the Hawaiians use Ho’oponopono, and the British use going down the boozer on a Friday night! However, there is one study from Harvard University in the United States of America that has been conducted for seventy-five long years to state how to make your life as happy as possible.
This study, one of the longest ever undertaken, commenced in 1938 and it followed 268 undergraduate men from every walk of life. It chronicled all aspects of their lives, from income to alcohol consumption. Correct to 2nd February 2012, only sixty-eight of the original number remained alive. The man who headed it from 1974 to 2004 is Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, who obtained the findings from the Harvard Grant Study. Some facets of the study are still emerging and are unknown in the public domain at this moment in time. However, we will share with you what we can about the findings.
Here are some of the pearls of wisdom from the study:
1. “Happiness is love. Full stop.”
These are the five words Vaillant wrote in conclusion to a study that has cost seventy-five years and US$20 million. He explains that there are two pillars of happiness: love and “finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.” That means that you can be Richie Rich inside a mansion with your own butler and McDonald’s but money and power have little influence on happiness, as “in terms of achievement, the only thing that matters is that you be content at your work,” adds Vaillant. All relationships matter, even your earliest ones as a child. They serve not only as an indicator of happiness in life as a whole, but also of career satisfaction. Connections matter and, as H L Hunt succinctly put it, “Money is just a way of keeping score.”
2. Intelligence is not the be all and end all of happiness.
Naturally, it has some effect on how we feel, not that we are saying that people with a lower IQ are unable to be happy. Just to clarify, the average IQ in the USA is ninety-eight. However, according to the Harvard Grant Study, men with an IQ slightly above average are generally just as happy as someone considered a genius.
3. You CAN be happy after pain.
There was one a tall red-haired participant named Godfrey Minot Camille, who attempted suicide after graduation from medical school and was a narcissistic hypochondriac before the age of thirty. By the time he was fifty, he was an empathetic altruist and used a pragmatic stoicism for going about life. He recollected how love changed his life over time. Let us hear Godfrey in his own words when he was seventy-five: “Before there were dysfunctional families, I came from one. My professional life hasn’t been disappointing – far from it – but the truly gratifying unfolding has been into the person I’ve slowly become: comfortable, joyful, connected, and effective.” When he died while mountain climbing in the Alps at the ripe old age of eighty-two, he was a dearly loved husband and father to two doting children and the church where he frequented was full to the rafters at his memorial service. The Bishop who spoke in his eulogy said, “He lived a very simple life, but it was very rich in relationships.”
You can buy George Vaillant’s 480-page book “Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study” on Amazon or the Harvard University Press.