Every new year is filled with promise. And some of you may be looking forward to it more than others.
Maybe you had a great year however you measure it (family time, professional milestones, a happy home, etc.) and you’re looking forward to even better times ahead.
Or maybe this was a tough year in which you suffered a setback, lost a loved one or just didn’t feel like it was "your year" for whatever reason. And the ball dropping on Times Square represents a chance to hit the "reset" button.
Whatever your situation, I hope 2016 brings you ever closer to the goals you’ve set to make the most of it.
I imagine for most people who are making resolutions for the new year, they want the end result to be a heightened sense of happiness. That got me to thinking about an article I sent you earlier this year — one that hands-down brought in the biggest flood of e-mails from Uncommon Wisdom Daily readers.
And so, I’d like to leave you with this classic note on the serious problem of happiness … and what science has to say about it.
Happiness: All You Need is Love
75-year-long Harvard study reveals simple truths
Publication date: Friday, May 29, 2015
Happiness is a serious problem.
What makes us happy? How can we become happier? Is it money … success … or a highly developed intellect? What about our childhoods?
According to the findings of a 75-year-long Harvard University study, the “secret” to happiness can be found in the simple lyrics penned by John Lennon and Paul McCartney nearly five decades ago.
Sing along with me: “All You Need Is Love.”
Although the results of the Harvard study were published a couple of years ago, I just came across the findings this week.
I was so intrigued by what I read that I immediately felt the need to share them with you.
In 1938, Dr. Arlie Bock of Harvard University, along with sponsorship from philanthropist W.T. Grant, began the Harvard Study of Adult Development.
This project, called the Grant Study, followed 268 male undergrads for nearly eight decades.
In the process, it became the longest-running longitudinal study of human development.
And it provided some intriguing insights about our well-being and even our wealth.
One main objective of the Grant study was to determine, as best as possible, what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing.
In other words, what makes us happy.
According to Dr. George Vaillant, a psychiatrist who directed the study for more than three decades …
The single-most-important finding from the research can be summed up in five words:
“The 75 years and $20 million expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love. Full stop.”
Dr. Vaillant’s conclusions, along with the fascinating findings culled from the study, can be found in his 2012 book, Triumphs of Experience.
The following excerpt from the book’s synopsis should give you a great sense of what you’ll discover from the Grant study:
George Vaillant follows the men into their 90s, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement. Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects), ‘Triumphs of Experience’ shares a number of surprising findings.
For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength.
Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.
The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.
What was interesting to me in the Grant study was its inability to link income and IQ.
Dr. Vaillant found no appreciable difference in maximum income earned by men with IQs in the 110-115 range vs. men with “genius” IQs above 150.
I’ve always been suspicious of the link between IQ and any other real-world measures of success. It just doesn’t align with what I see in the world.
To me, being able to score high on an IQ test simply means you are able to score well on an IQ test.
So for me, these findings confirmed my general suspicions.
Here’s another income-related finding that gets visited often in Triumphs of Experience.
It’s the powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness.
According to Vaillant, the 58 men in the study who scored highest on various measurements indicating “warm relationships” (WR) earned an average of $141,000 a year more during their peak salaries (between ages 55-60) than the 31 men who scored the lowest in WR.
The high WR scorers also were about three times likelier to have enough professional success to have landed them a placing in the reference book, Who’s Who.
When I was in college, I remember taking classes in psychology. One of the most prominent thinkers we studied in the field was Dr. Sigmund Freud. He was renowned (among other things) for his theories on childhood parental relationships.
According to the Grant study, Dr. Freud may have been very close to getting it right.
Dr. Vaillant reports on the significance of men’s relationships with their mothers, and the big role that plays in determining their well-being in life.
The data suggests that men who had warm childhood relationships with their mothers earned an average of $87,000 per annum more than men whose mothers were deemed uncaring.
The study also found that men who had poor relations with their mothers had higher rates of dementia as they aged.
The men’s relationships with their mothers also were associated with being effective at their jobs, especially later in their careers.
As for relationships with their fathers, those who had warm childhood relations were found to have lower rates of adult anxiety, as well as increased “life satisfaction” by age 75.
Interestingly, the warm nature of childhood relationships with mothers had no measurable effect on life satisfaction at age 75.
For Dr. Vaillant, the big takeaway from the decades of data boiled down to the simple premise …
“Happiness is love.”
So, what do you think? Is happiness really all about our childhood relationships and the levels of love we have for our parents?
Or, is there much more to the complex, beautiful — and very serious problem that is achieving happiness?
And before I go, please accept my wishes for a truly happy, prosperous and memorable New Year. Thank you for being such an important part of the Uncommon Wisdom Daily family. It gives me great joy to be able to be able to continue our friendship in 2016, and for a long time to come.
Good Luck and Happy Investing,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily