Pillars of a Good Life

Written by: Nick Ortner

Way back in 1938, a group of researchers from Harvard wanted to ask the question, “What makes a good life?” 

So, they began tracking a group of over 700 young men, and they continued to study these men for 80 years. While there were many different important takeaways from what is now called “The Harvard Study of Adult Development,” today I wanted to share one piece of this long-term study that I found really fascinating.

Dr. George Vaillant, longtime director of the Harvard study, spent 35 years exploring how people responded to the setbacks, trials, and challenges they faced in life. Through his research, he came up with a list of the healthiest and most mature adaptations that supported a long and happy life.

 Curious what was on the list? I was, too!

Here are the 5 adaptations that he found to be most important when coping with life’s challenges:

  1. Altruism – Committing to others’ wellbeing, and acting from a place of empathy.
  2. Anticipation – Looking ahead, and preparing for what is to come.
  3. Suppression – Patiently and consciously postponing impulses and decisions (basically, allowing space and taking a pause before immediately reacting).
  4. Sublimation – Finding outlets and ways to express feelings that are aligned with growth (channeling emotions into work, art, sports, music, or cooking, for example).
  5. Humor – Being able to laugh and find humor in life.

These 5 “adaptations,” as Dr. Vaillant called them, were what he considered to be the pillars of a long and happy life. They were the top things that helped the study participants adapt to challenges and make it through the many trials and tribulations of life.

Pretty interesting, right?

I encourage you to reflect on what these research findings could mean for you, and how you might apply the learnings to your own life. 

Ask yourself:

  • How do these five pillars show up in my own life?  
  • How can I show up in a way that considers others’ wellbeing?
  • How can I look ahead to prepare for and be excited about what is to come?
  • How can I allow myself space before I react or make a decision?
  • How can I express my emotions through healthy outlets?
  • How can I invite humor into my daily life?

Personally, I find Tapping to be helpful with every single one of the five pillars. It helps me slow down before I react. It helps me process my emotions in a healthy way. It helps me make space for more humor, more empathy, and more positive anticipation of what’s to come.

Learning about this research reinforces for me just how important Tapping is if I want to create a long and happy life for myself – no matter what challenges come my way!

I hope you enjoyed learning about this fascinating research as much as I did.

Until next time…

Keep Tapping!

Nick Ortner

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