Everyone wants to have a good life, it is part of the reason why, as young people, we all obsess over our options. Will university offer us the best chance of a good life, or is an apprenticeship the way to kick-start your dreams? However, there is also a marked difference between what we believe as young people and what we’re often told by people who are nearing the end of their lives. While a recent study saw an amazing 80% of young people say that they want to be rich, and 50% saw fame as an important life goal, often older people say that they wish they had different priorities – such as seeing their families more and working less. Of course, life is no fun if you are impoverished, so your career must be important too – but ultimately it seems that we are getting conflicting messages about how to live a happy life. Perhaps it is time to get some advice from an expert?
Of course, if you need some career advice we can help with that, but this is about more than choosing a job…
Psychiatrist, Robert Waldinger may just have the answer. He is the latest director of a unique 75-year study of adult development which has offered some interesting insights into what makes a good life. The study began with 724 men, but over the years has changed as some dropped out or died, while the children and partners of others also took part.
Of the original sample 60 are still alive and continue to offer their information to the study. Rather than rely on hindsight, the study checked in frequently, of course, unaware of where each person’s life would take them. Interestingly the study didn’t just take those from privileged backgrounds, but also sought to examine those who began life in poverty.
So, what can all of these years of data tell us about how we should prioritise our own lives?
Ultimately, the study has shown that the key to having a long, healthy and happy life is all down to the strength of our relationships. To put it bluntly, loneliness is not good for us and those who had consistently lonely lives were shown to be less happy and have poorer health than those with good connections to friends and family.
It is not just a matter of the number of relationships either, as they need to be good quality too. The study showed that those who had a bad relationship with their spouses had worse lives than those with no significant other!
On the other hand, a good relationship with those around you was proven to lead to better health in later life – including better brain function and the ability to hold onto memories longer. Waldinger also made it clear that those couples who were able to truly count on one-another were the most likely to live happy lives – regardless of any minor quarrels or bickering.
So, perhaps where you work (and therefore the friends you may make there) could be more important in the long run than how much money you earn – and it certainly seems to be more important than whether you become famous or not!
But what can this information tell you when it comes to deciding what to do with your life?
Perhaps it should tell us all not to worry too much about the money or material things and to pay a little more attention to those around us. If you need some inspiration for your future you can find it right here, but at the same time remember, you can always change your mind later!