In the longest study of what led men to live happily and successfully to a ripe old age, guess what trait they were most likely to have in common? The lives of 268 men who entered Harvard College in 1937 were tracked for seventy-two years in The Harvard Study of Adult Development. Those who made it into middle and old age as “happy” and “healthy” shared seven traits: mental adaptability to changes in life, advanced education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, getting some exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Yet one factor was more important than any of these: Attention to relationships.
When the primary investigator on this study for over 40 years, psychiatrist, George Vaillant, was asked, “What have you learned?” he quickly answered, “that the only thing that really matters in life is your relationships with other people.” It was the social life of these men, he said, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class” that led to their living successfully to a ripe old age.
The creator of Wharton’s popular “Success Course,” G. Richard Shell offers an approach to finding successthat can lead to happiness, with others, in his new book, Springboard. Beyond cultivating close relationships, to feel happy, Shell cites the ineffable feeling one’s doing the right thing, described in two ways:
2. Simcha is a Hebrew word with many interpretations, Shell notes, “from simple joy and satisfaction, to the feeling of spiritual exultation” or what Rabbi Akiva Tatz calls “The experience of the soul that comes when you are doing what you should be doing.”
Double Up on Happiness And Meaning
What if we could behave in ways that enabled us to combine both the cultivation of close relationships and eudemonia /simcha experiences? Here are three possible ways – and I’d love to hear your ideas.
1. Use Best Talents With Others On What Matters Most
Forge activity-based relationships with individuals who are radically different than you in background, temperament, beliefs, expertise or other ways, yet share a strong sweet spot of mutual interest…. See the rest of the story at Forbes.