What the Longest Study on Happiness Reveals About Building a Fulfilling Life

Most of us have an idea about what would make us happier: more free time, more money, more popularity. Robert Waldinger, a Harvard researcher, reveals that the key to a happy life might be right in front of us.

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We’re constantly being fed images of things that are supposed to make us happier and our lives fuller. A recent survey of millennials asking them what their most important life goals were, shows that over 80 percent said that getting rich was a major life goal. And another 50 percent of those same young adults said that another major life goal was to become famous. This belief influences how we move through life; we push ourselves harder at work, pressure ourselves to achieve more, and continuously chase after things we believe will make us happy.

Most of what we know about shaping a happy life is from asking people to remember the past, however, hindsight is anything but 20/20. We forget some of life’s key lessons in the vast number of memories we might have acquired throughout the years. To combat this, Harvard University ran the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. The Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked the lives of 724 men for more than 75 years, asking about their work, their home lives, and their health. Here’s what they found out about what really keeps people happy and healthy.