I usually avoid TED talks because they smack too much of motivational speech: like the advice of Matt Foley, who lives in a van down by the river and eats government cheese. But this one popped up when I was watching YouTube, and, listening to the introduction, I was drawn into it.
The speaker, Robert Waldinger, is director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a project that’s been going on for 75 years. The researchers studied 724 men over that period, asking them how they were doing and what they were doing every two years until the men died. They also did personal interviews, got medical records, and even drew the subjects’ blood.
There were two groups in the original study that’s ongoing since the 1930s: Harvard sophomores and the “control” group of boys who came from troubled and disadvantaged families in poor parts of Boston.
60 of the original 724 men are still alive, and now their children are being studied as well: 2000 more. Women have been added at last. This represents an unparalleled study of what factors make for a happy and healthy life.
The answer, which may seem anodyne to you, nevertheless contradicts the Millennial answer Waldinger describes, which is the view that having fame and money make for a good life. (“A good life” is one in which the person lives it is both healthy and happy and lives a long time.) I’ll let you listen to the video for yourself.
I think this 13-minute talk is worth hearing, both for your own well being and, perhaps, to help other people. But maybe you’ll see it as obvious and trite.
By the way, Waldinger is a psychiatrist and (disappointingly to me) a psychoanalyst and is also a Zen priest.