I've written often about George Vaillant, the Harvard professor who directed the Harvard Grant Study from 1972-2004 and later wrote several books summarizing the study, but it's always good to revisit the lessons learned.
Love Is Really All That Matters. It may seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Love is key to a happy and fulfilling life. As Vaillant puts it, there are two pillars of happiness. "One is love," he writes. "The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away." Vaillant has said that the study's most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn't be happy.Posted by Jill Fallon at October 4, 2013 8:19 PM | Permalink
It’s About More than Money and Power. The Grant Study's findings echoed those of other studies -- that acquiring more money and power doesn't correlate to greater happiness. That’s not to say money or traditional career success don’t matter. But they’re small parts of a much larger picture -- and while they may loom large for us in the moment, they diminish in importance when viewed in the context of a full life.
Regardless of How We Begin Life, We Can All Become Happier. A man named Godfrey Minot Camille went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction: He had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”
Connection Is Crucial "Joy is connection,” Vaillant says. "The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better."
The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. And in terms of career satisfaction, too, feeling connected to one's work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.
"The conclusion of the study, not in a medical but in a psychological sense, is that connection is the whole shooting match," says Vaillant.
Challenges –- and the Perspective They Give You -- Can Make You Happier The journey from immaturity to maturity, says Vaillant, is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection, and a big part of this shift has to do with the way we deal with challenges.
Coping mechanisms -- “the capacity to make gold out of shit,” as Vaillant puts it -- have a significant effect on social support and overall well-being. The secret is replacing narcissism, a single-minded focus on one's own emotional oscillations and perceived problems, with mature coping defenses, Vaillant explains, citing Mother Teresa and Beethoven as examples.