The Secret to Life - A 75 Year Study from Harvard University

This Saturday will be the first Men of Faith (men's group) of the year 2015 and I will have the pleasure to lead this group.  There are times in life when I like to look at secular viewpoints so I Googled the "Secret to Life" and was overjoyed when I find this article from the Huffington Post written back in 2013, The 75-Year Study that found the Secrets to a fulfilling life.  To put it simply, there was a Harvard University Grant that followed 268 male Harvard undergrads from the classes of 1938 to 1940 who are well into their 90's at present day.  George Vaillant, the Harvard Psychiatrist, who conducted this study from 1972 to 2004 wrote a book about it, in order to revisit the findings.  Below were 5 lessons from the Grant Study to apply to your own pursuit of a happier and more meaningful life (I will add scripture context to see if this hold true): 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."  (Scripture test:  Click Here).

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."  (Scripture test:  Click Here)

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.” (Scripture Test:  Click Here)

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.  As life goes on, connections become even more important. The Grant Study provides strong support for the growing body of research that has linked social ties withlongevitylower stress levels and improved overall well-being.  (Scripture Test:  Click Here)

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 s*@t,” 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. “Mother Teresa had a perfectly terrible childhood, and her inner spiritual life was very painful," says Vaillant. "But she had a highly successful life by caring about other people. Creative expression is another way to productively deal with challenges and achieve meaning and well-being. "The secret of Beethoven being able to cope with misery through his art was when he wrote 'Ode to Joy,'" says Vaillant. "Beethoven was able to make connection with his music."  (Scripture test:  Click Here)

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Some questions that I would have asked these men in this Grant Study:

  • Do you know the Lord as Savior?
  • How did you come to find these answers (through the Word of God)?
  • Why is Love so important to you?

Harvard Laws of 1642:

Harvard College Lawes of 1642  (from New England's First Fruits)

1. When any Schollar is able to Read Tully or such like classicall Latine Author ex tempore, and make and speake true Latin in verse and prose suo (ut aiunt) Marte, and decline perfectly the paradigmes of Nounes and verbes in the Greeke tongue, then may hee bee admitted into the  College, nor shall any claime admission before such qualifications. 2. Every one shall consider the mayne End of his life and studyes, to know God and Jesus Christ which is Eternall life. Joh. 17.3. 3. Seeing the Lord giveth wisdome, every one shall seriously by prayer in secret, seeke wisdome of him. prov. 2.2,3 etc. 4. Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day that they bee ready to give an account of their proficiency therein, both in theoreticall observations of Language and Logicke, and in practicall and spirituall truthes as their tutor shall require according to their severall abilities respectively, seeing the Entrance of the word giveth light etc. psal. 119, 130. 5. In the publicke Church assembly they shall carefully shunne all gestures that shew any contempt or neglect of Gods ordinances and bee ready to give an account to their tutors of their profiting and to use the helpes of Storing themselves with knowledge, as their tutours shall direct them, and all Sophisters and Bachellors (until themselves make common place) shall publiquely repeate Sermons in the Hall whenver they are called forth. 6. they shall eschew all prophanation of Gods holy name, attributes, word, ordinances, and times of worship, and study with Reverence and love carefully to reteine God and his truth in their minds. 7. they shall honour as their parents, Magistrates, Elders, tutours and aged persons, by beeing silent in their presence (except they bee called on to answer) not gainesaying shewing all those laudable expressions of honour and Reverence in their presence, that are in uses as bowing before them standing uncovered or the like. 8. they shall be slow to speake, and eschew not onely oathes, Lies, and uncertaine Rumours, but likewise all idle, foolish, bitter scoffing, frothy wanton words and offensive gestures.