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“If only I knew then what I know now …” my mother used to say.

Have you ever felt that way? It truly seems for most of us mortals that wisdom comes with age, but don’t you wish you had those “pearls” right now and could begin leading a happier life this instant?

One study conducted a 75-year comprehensive look at just that—what constitutes a happy life. Coined the Harvard Grant Study, it is by far the longest longitudinal study on human development ever conducted.  Selected participants were all males from the 1938-1940 Harvard graduating class, but the results are still indicative of what’s really important in life. George Vaillant who directed the study for three decades, also wrote about it in his book, Triumphs of Experience.

Here are some interpretations of what the study uncovered and how you can adopt them to change your life:

Love Is All that Matters:Not so obvious when you’ve just been dumped on Facebook and suffering a broken heart. But it seems that relationships far outweigh a successful career, wealth and fame. A supportive, loving relationship withstands the test of time. So, “love like you’ve never been hurt before,”—it’ll pay off in the long run. Does this ring true for you, too?

Money and Power: How many times have you heard the term, “money can’t buy you happiness?” Or, “material things don’t last forever.” In movies (as in life), we often heard those on their death bed proclaim they should have traded those long hours at work for time with family and friends. Participants felt this way, too, and the study found money and power didn’t correlate to greater happiness. What about you? What has been your experience with love and money matters?

Happiness is Attainable: No matter how bleak life is right now, things are often darker just before the dawn. The point is to never give up searching for happiness. One elderly man in the study “had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects (and had previously attempted suicide).” However, by the end of his life he was one of the happiest participants. Why? One expert claimed it’s because he kept “searching for love.”

So tell us, do you think the fact that the study was only conducted with males changed or skewed the results? Do you think these findings transcend gender? Share your thoughts, and join us next time to learn about the remaining secrets of a happy and fulfilled life.

A journalist by trade, Corinne has written for both the military and civilian populations. She has a Master's in Writing and Bachelor's in English. She is also a military spouse and her family is currently stationed at Fort Hood.

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