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The longest study ever done on happiness.

This TED talk touched me today in so, so many ways. I’ll share my highlights within. If you just want to watch the full talk, though, just click on the play icon below.

So, before you read these thoughts, I hope you had the time to watch the talk. As I first listened to it, I immediately whipped out my iPhone and started taking notes. So, basically, this is a deeper elaboration on the random notes I took whilst enjoying Mr. Waldinger’s talk earlier this morning.

  • This TED talk carries an incredible story but what immediately jumped out to me is that the sole gender of the research subjects was male. I understand times were different back in the 1960s(?) when you picked your subjects, but really – you couldn’t have studied any females? That would give this study much more legitimacy from where I sit.
  • They also studied the sum-odd 200 children of the research subjects. Wow. That takes some dedication!
  • About 60 of the 724 me are still alive…
  • I would almost describe their research approach as an ecosystem of interviews – they interviewed the subjects, but also their parents…and then, like I mentioned, their kids, too. Wow.

Alright, let us snap out of the note-taking approach. Here’s of the quotes that made me really, really think…

“The lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or about working harder and harder…good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

The speaker goes on to elaborate about how social connections are really good for us and that the adverse is also true…that loneliness can kill. But one part of the talk that I truly zeroed in on is that Mr. Waldinger referenced that “loneliness” is best described as “people being more isolated than they WANTED to be.

My question would, then, be how do extrinsic expectations play into that? He claimed that people who are more socially connected to a community or a family tend to live longer, are happier, and exist more healthily, but what if they don’t WANT to feel that human connection? If they are satisfied with that, what kind of affect may that have?

For me, meeting 1 new person everyday comes from a very intrinsic place. I get my energy from others. I love to help others. I love learning from and about others. This talk implies that this may just be my secret to a long, healthy, prosperous life. And it also implies, I guess, that if a person was completely content with being alone then they would, too, be able to live a long, healthy, prosperous life by never meeting a new person, ever. I’m just musing here, but this is what I consistently stress to friends and acquaintances who say, “your goal is pretty great, but I could never do something like that.”

My biggest piece of advice that I give, usually after large speaking events, is that I don’t want you to feel like you have to adopt this kind of goal for your own or that it would make you as happy as it makes me. I encourage them to make their own goal but to only do one thing: be consistent. And it’s consistency that I value most in any human being. You know, maybe it’s meeting 1 new person every week or every month instead of everyday.

For new college students, for example, I’d strongly suggest they make a goal of waking up at 8:00 a.m. every single Wednesday, even if they don’t have anything to actually do until 3:00 p.m. That habit, and being consistent about it, will help you increase that from 1 day per week, to 2, to 3…and you can see the pattern here.

Just being consistent in your goal setting and in your relationships is what is profoundly important. Consistency, too, builds strong relationships. And to that end, most importantly, the speaker ends with what many of us hopefully already know: “it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters [most]”.