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How to live a happier and longer life

October 29, 2022 People's Tonight 2005 views

Dr. Tony LeachonIN the era of the COVID pandemic and other major challenges globally and locally, I dare ask a bold question – how can you achieve a happy and fulfilling life ?

I have always considered myself a happy, positive, and relentless person, even though I may not always look it thanks to inheriting my father’s furrowed brow.

Are there times when I’m not happy? Of course.

Do I wish I could be happier more often? Who wouldn’t?

The Secret to Happiness

While it seems everyone is looking for the answer to the age-old question, “What’s the secret to happiness?” the better question may be, “Is it even possible to be happier?”

About half of our level of happiness according to research is based on genes. Some people are just predisposed to be happier and more upbeat than others. But that does not mean you cannot increase your level of happiness if it does not come naturally. In fact, research has suggested that 40% of people’s happiness comes from the choices they make

In one of the strategic planning workshops that I attended many years ago while working in the corporate world, we were asked to find clear answers to three different questions to ensure success in our family life and professional career.

First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my professional career?

Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my family become an enduring source of happiness?

Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail or out of legal and ethical problems? Though the last question sounds unthinkable, it’s not.

One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from management guru, Frederick Herzberg, who in his book in 1959 asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.

Family First but Invest Time

A theory that is also helpful in answering the second question—How can I ensure that my relationship with my family proves to be an enduring source of happiness?

To be successful in your career will need a good work life balance. It will need personal commitment and passion to achieve this goal.

Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent will ultimately shape your life’s strategy.The relationships you have with your family and close friends are going to be the most important sources of happiness in your life.

When people who have a high need for achievement have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that would yield the most tangible and material accomplishments.

I’m a great follower of Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen , one of the most influential thinkers of our time. Sadly , he died from complications of the leukemia on January 23, 2020, at age 67 – almost at the beginning of the pandemic.

He profoundly explained that :

“ You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy. In the end, a strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it’s effectively implemented.”

In your life,there are going to be constant demands for your time and attention especially during the early part of your career.

How are you going to decide which of those demands gets resources?

You might neglect your relationship with your family , and on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. No one would notice it.

Several years after – I have realized that people like us , who are driven to excel , have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their chosen careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

HAPPINESS and HEALTHY LIFE

What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life?

If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy?

There was a recent survey of millennials asking them what their most important life goals were, and over 80% said that a major life goal for them was to get rich. And another 50% of those same young adults said that another major life goal was to become famous.

And most of us we are constantly told to lean into work, to push harder , and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life.

Is it really money or wealth ?

So what really makes a good life ?

What are the great lessons from the research works on happiness , long life , and success ?

In the 75-year-old Harvard study on scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression, through periodic interviews and medical check ups , they hoped the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives.

What are the right choices for happiness? You may find inspiration from the participants in the Harvard Study of Adult Development , one of the longest-running studies on happiness.The project has followed 724 men since they were teenagers in 1938. (Approximately 60 men, now in their 90s, are still left.) The group consisted of men from various economic and social backgrounds, from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods to Harvard undergrads. (President John F. Kennedy was even part of the original group.) Over the years, the researchers have collected all kinds of health information, and every two years they ask members questions about their lives and their mental and emotional wellness. They even interview family members.

According to the main author of the study Prof. Robert Waldinger , a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School , the surprising finding in the study is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.

The main take aways from Prof. Waldinger ‘s analysis are the following :

loneliness kills ; it’s as powerful as smoking and alcohol

The people who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80

Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self care too.

But through a combination of luck and the persistence of several generations of researchers, this study has survived. About 60 of the original 724 men are still alive, still participating in the study, most of them in their 90s. And they are now beginning to study the more than 2,000 children of these men.

And, the clearest message that we get from this 75 year Harvard study on happiness is this = good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

He concluded that based on the 75 year study that “ we thought good relationships would make us happier , but we were surprised that relationships actually predicted who would live longer and who would grow old in a healthier way. “

The next director of the study , Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who joined the Harvard team as a researcher in 1966, led the study from 1972 until 2004.

In a book called “Aging Well,” Prof. Vaillant wrote that six factors predicted healthy aging for the Harvard men: physical activity, absence of alcohol abuse and smoking, having mature mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs, and enjoying both a healthy weight and a stable marriage.

INTEGRITY

The third question on integrity is the hardest to answer.

It’s a bit tricky it might mislead you.

The boundary – your personal moral line – is powerful , because you don’t cross it ; if you have justified doing it once , there’s nothing to stop you doing it again.

Living with integrity means:

-Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships.

-Asking for what you want and need from others.

-Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. -Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. -Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.

HUMILITY

As you go up the ladder of success , aside from the core value of integrity , REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE and the LESSONS ABOUT HUMILITY !

I got this insight when I was asked to teach a group of college students . I asked all of them to describe the most humble person they knew.

One characteristic of these humble people stood out: They had a high level of self-esteem. They knew who they were, and they felt good about who they were. These young students stressed that humility was defined not by self-deprecating behavior or attitudes but by the esteem with which you regard others. Good behavior flows naturally from that kind of humility.

It’s crucial to take a sense of humility into the world. By the time you make it to a top medical school, or a hospital almost all your learning has come from people who are smarter and more experienced than you: parents, teachers, bosses.

But once you’ve finished your subspecialty at any academic institution, the vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be smarter than you.

And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too.

When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.

Later in life – you will meet challenges in your journey.

There will be failures along the way.

Failure is inevitable.

But never give up , because according to Albert Einstein , “Failure is success in progress. “

Don’t settle. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.

PASSION

If we talk about passion we will always remember , Steve Jobs , the APPLE founder and CEO succumbed at age 56 to pancreatic cancer in 2011. In his famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech , he inspired the graduates by saying :

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Not everything that we do has a reward too. Sometimes it’s a thankless job. When I was young, I used to think that doing your best means a “gold medal. “That when you do something right, you get something good in return or at least a ‘job well done’. But 60 years into the real world , I learned how that’s just a fantasy. How sometimes, going above and beyond your work doesn’t even give you a cookie, or a pat on the back.

So please don’t compare.

Truth is, I don’t know what the stars wrote for me and honestly I’m tired of comparing my life with others.

All I know is that I know better now to carry on without so much expectations.

Forget gold medals. My only hope is when the time is right, all my hardwork pays off and all the love I gave out to this universe will find their way back to me.

FRIENDSHIP and the value of nurturing relationships.

Thanks to that immense, unwarranted luck, I have lived long enough to be surrounded by the truest possible friends and family members. There are many dedicated unrecognized men and women who have sacrificed so much to save many lives during the pandemic. They have worked so hard because they care. They are not only our distinguished colleagues but they are our friends.

I have lived long enough to have learned, too, that what is beautiful and joyful is almost always fleeting and must never be squandered. That rejection rarely bears any relationship to worth. That whatever else might separate us, sharing a love for one another is enough common ground to start the harder conversations. That life is too short for negativity and pessimism.

Mark Twain once said , “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

PRAYER for the YOUNGER GENERATION OF FILIPINOS

I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing to other people

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Be brave. Be relentless . Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. Enjoy your journey. Finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for you is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

And I hope you will all come back here 30 years from now and reflect what you have done with your talent and your energy.I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone but also on how well you have addressed the deepest inequities of our country.

May I offer this short Jewish prayer to all of you out there :It goes:

“May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us *find the courage* to make our lives a blessing.”

FINAL REFLECTION

Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.And I just want to offer that as the final takeaway from at least what I am thinking about.

And that is really important, that you succeed what you’re succeeding at, but it doesn’t going to be the measure of your life.

God doesn’t count, He doesn’t aggregate , and that He’s just going to assess you on the basis of how well you helped other people to be better people. Well, God bless you, I hope that some of these ideas will be helpful to you and that you will be successful in the way that God will measure success. By Dr. Tony Leachon

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Anthony C. Leachon, M. D.

Independent Health Reform Advocate

Past President ,
Philippine College of Physicians

Chair , Kilusang Kontra Covid
( KILKOVID )

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