The secret to a happy life: revealed!

I don’t want to brag, but while I was on sabbatical I discovered the secret to happiness.

The crazy thing is, it was lying right there in the open. It’s been revealed dozens, hundreds of times over the course of human history. It’s revealed every day in ordinary human affairs, if you’re paying attention.

What is it? Let’s ask George Vaillant.

Vaillant is a Harvard psychologist who has been working for over 40 years on theGrant Study, one of the longest-running longitudinal studies in scientific history. It began tracking a set of 268 (white, physically and mentally healthy) men when they were sophomores at Harvard in 1939 and has been tracking them ever since, for 75 years, with exhaustive regular physical and psychological tests. It has followed them as they’ve grown, gone to war, married, divorced, worked, been fired, gotten sick, found God, and so on. (The ups and downs of the study’s history are recounted in this classic Atlantic piece, one of my favorite magazine stories ever.)

Vaillant has spent most of his adult life analyzing the data from the study, attempting to determine which factors most reliably correlate with well-being. He’s probably studied happiness longer, and in greater depth, than any other single human being. So what is it, George Vaillant? What’s the secret to a happy life?

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