What makes us happy, over a lifetime?

Acceptance, humility, and compassion.

A researcher at Harvard named George Valliant, has overseen a longitudinal study of several young men over the course of their lives. This study has been going on for 72 years now. (see a fabulous but long Atlantic article on this at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/06/what-makes-us-happy/307439/?single_page=true)

My favorite quote from the article is in the conclusion:
“Only with patience and tenderness might a person surrender his barbed armor for a softer shield. Perhaps in this, I thought, lies the key to the good life—not rules to follow, nor problems to avoid, but an engaged humility, an earnest acceptance of life’s pains and promises.”
The basic conclusion is that negative adaptations, that protect you from emotional harm in the short term, rob you of happiness in the long term.  That opening yourself up to potential hurt, though compassion and being open, yields better results over the course of a life time.  It strikes me that the same is true of playing the stock market – play the long game – and you do better than if you play the short odds, which are way more stressful anyway.

What I like about this conclusion is that it fits nicely with the conclusions of Humanism.  Be compassionate with yourselves and others and be open to experience and be engaged with life in a humble way – accepting all it’s pain and promise. 

Sounds a lot like Humanism to me, but maybe I suffer from confirmation bias.

The other good news from this study is that if you're a miserable person without the life management skills to be authentically happy, or to sustain sincere and loving relationships, you probably don't have to stay that way.  You can learn how to approach life differently. Many of the study subjects did just that.

If you are miserable, seek help and be humble enough to learn how to respond to life differently. The effort is worth it.  (And check out my – Humanist Approach to Happiness course at: http://humanisthappiness.com/ - you’ll be glad you did.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...