Aug 7, 2020 | The Only Justice in the World

In general, this world is not just. Some people are born more wealthy than others. Some people are born prettier than others. Some people naturally have more energy than others. Some people learn faster than others. Some people receive more recognition and appreciation for their work than others. But, there is one thing just for all. That one just thing is that, none of the factors mentioned above substantially influences how happy you are or how long you live.

How To Be Happy in Professional Life?

In general, this world is not just. Some people are born wealthier than others. Others are born prettier than others. Some people naturally have more energy than others. Others learn faster than others. Some people receive more recognition and appreciation for their work than others. But, there is one thing just for all. That one just thing is that, none of the factors mentioned above substantially influences how happy you are or for how long you will live. So, how to be happy – for in professional life and beyond?

There was a lot of research dedicated to what makes people happy, and what makes them live long and in good health. This article lists a few key findings from the last few decades and sums them up to arrive at just one common conclusion.

Meaningful Relationships With People

The Harvard Study of Adult Development was running for over 75 years. In this study, 724 men enrolled at the point when they were reaching adulthood (hence, “adult development“). They were then tracked for decades with respect to their health, relationships, and overall life satisfaction. According to Robert Waldinger, the chief researcher in the study, it turns out that it is not fame, wealth, or cholesterol level at age 50 that best predicts health at age 80. It is the quality of relationships with family and friends.

The study by Hilbrand et al. (Evolution and Human Behavior, 2016) also referred to this point. Namely, according to the Hilbrand’s study, elderly people who are casual caregivers — both within and beyond their family  live longer than the counterparts who don’t carry out similar activities. It’s hard to disagree with this finding — people met on the way often become the only capital that you gain from your projects (as also reviewed in the blog post entitled “People Is the Answer“). 

The Purpose

Recent research study by Alimujiang et al. (JAMA Network Open, 2019) showed that elderly people who believe that their life has a purpose, live longer than those who don’t hold such a belief. “Community, achievement, reputation, relationships, spirituality, kindness — all these can feed into any one person’s life purpose. So, there is not one specific definition for any one person.” — says the study’s lead author, Leigh Pearce. This might also explain the results of the studies mentioned in point (1). Namely, building meaningful relationships with other people is just one of many possible ways to develop the sense of purpose.

Active Reinterpretation Of the Situation

According to Dan Gilbert, the author of the book “Stumbling on Happiness,” humans, as the only species in the world, have the ability to synthesize happiness. Namely, if we don’t have something we want, we can reinterpret the situation so that we can feel better anyways. And, we should actively use this ability to feel happier in life. It’s an interesting concept hard to disagree with. As research clearly shows, even after extremely lucky or unlucky events, the level of happiness always relaxes to the same baseline.

E.g., a famous study conducted at NYU by Brickman et al. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1978) has shown that as soon as a year after winning a lottery, the lottery winners typically feel the same or less happy than before their lucky day. On the contrary, paraplegics don’t seem to experience a long-term decrease in happiness despite their tragic health condition. Happiness is like a thermostat and single events only pull you out of your homeostasis for a little while. Thus, you need to work on leveraging your homeostatic happiness level than chasing after lucky, joyful events.

Self-Discipline

The famous Dunedin study is yet another study worth mentioning here. The study started in New Zealand in 1971. In the study, unlike in the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the subjects were tracked from the very day they were born. The major purpose of the study was to find early life predictors and determinants of the overall life success. We are now talking about “life success” in the broad sense — from health, through relationships, to financial wealth. So, what came out of this huge, 50-year-long research initiative? As it turned out, the best predictor of life success is self-discipline in children (Moffitt et al., PNAS, 2011). As it appears from this study, self-discipline matters much more than your IQ, the social status of the family in which you were raised, or even your emotional intelligence.

Summary: So, How To Be Happy in Professional Life?

When looking at the list above, one thing comes out as a striking common factor. Namely, all these things depend on us rather than on external factors! No one will choose the life purpose for us. No one will build relationships for us. We need to reinterpret our misfortunes to our advantage by ourselves. No one will push us to wake up in the morning and go through our morning routine. No one will choose things good to us in the long term over quick gratifications for us. These are all our own decisions.

We tend to be so occupied with everyday struggles that we often forget about the most important things in life. And sometimes, it’s good to get back to the basics and think about these simple truths. After all, happiness — both at work and in life — is the ultimate goal of us all yet we often make it harder for ourselves.

Can you think of anything else in this world that is just? If so, please drop your comment below! 

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Please cite as: Bielczyk, N. (2020, August 7th). The Only Justice in the World. Retrieved from http://ontologyofvalue.com/all-posts/self-care-in-career-development/how-to-be-happy-the-only-justice-in-the-world/ 

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