What Makes A Good Life? Lessons From The Longest Study On Happiness

“What if we could watch entire lives as they unfold through time? What if we could study people from the time that they were teenagers all the way into old age?”

That’s the question that Robert Waldinger wanted to answer when he became the director of the The Harvard Study of Adult Development. For seventy-five years this study has tracked every aspect of the lives of seven hundred and twenty-four men in painstaking detail. Their work, their home lives, their health, everything, all in the hopes of better understanding what are the components of a life well lived.

Maybe it will surprise you and maybe it won’t, but the lessons learned from all of these years, from the tens of thousands of pages of notes and hours of interviews, aren’t about wealth or fame. They aren’t about working harder and harder. They’re about the people we have in our lives:

The clearest message that we get from this seventy-five year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

Most of us hope for some degree of wealth and success throughout our lives. Maybe we dream about being famous or influential. There’s nothing wrong with these goals of course, the tragedy is that so many of us pursue them at the expense of the one thing that is most likely to bring us true happiness.