What is a successful and satisfying life?
We all have our own opinions on what makes someone’s life look like a success from where we see it. But there is a simple definition of a successful life which I like to use, because many people who look like they have it all, are still not happy, not satisfied and do no feel good enough or successful on the inside ( in fact a lot of the time this inner sense of lack is what keeps driving some people to achieve more ). So let’s keep it simple:
- “A successful life is one which is ENJOYED by the person who lives it”
How do we get to ENJOY our lives?
Good question – this is something I work on all the time with clients, many of them extremely ‘successful’ yet deeply unhappy.
One of the UK’s foremost ‘happiness’ experts, Professor Richard Layard and his team, have been asking themselves the same question. What factors lead some people to a predisposition to feel happy, satisfied with their lot, and to enjoy an inner sense of success as an adult?
After investigating the factors in a person’s life that can best predict whether they will lead satisfied lives, a team headed by, has come up with an answer that may prove controversial. Any parents reading this may want to take note.
Layard and his colleagues at the Wellbeing research programme at the London School of Economics conclude that a child’s emotional health is far more important to their satisfaction levels as an adult than other factors, such as if they achieve academic success when young, or wealth when older. The authors explain that evaluating the quality of a child’s emotional health is based on analysing a range of internal factors in a person’s early life, including whether they endured unhappiness, sleeplessness, eating disorders, bedwetting, fearfulness or tiredness.
The academics claim that their study, What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life-course Model of Well-being, published in the latest edition of the Economic Journal, offers “a completely new perspective on which factors contribute most to a satisfying life”. The study claims to challenge “the basic assumption of educational policy in recent years – that academic achievement matters more than anything else”. This claim appears to be an implicit criticism of former education secretary Michael Gove, who instructed schools not to focus on “peripheral” issues such as children’s moral, social and cultural development in favour of academic excellence. Gove’s successor, Nicky Morgan, has pledged to reverse this approach.
Many people have assumed income is the most important factor in an adult’s life satisfaction. But the academics say their data makes clear this is far less important than emotional health – both in a child and in an adult. “Income only explains about 1% of the variation in life satisfaction among people in the UK – one sixth of the fraction explained by emotional health,” they note.
Money really can’t buy you happiness…
The findings might be controversial, giving some measurable evidence that education and income are among the least important determinants of adult success, as measured by life satisfaction!
It’s interesting and welcome ( in my opinion ) that the economics of happiness or wellbeing is now a growing and respected discipline within economics that is starting to influence politicians.
David Cameron has even reportedly stated: “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general well-being.”
Imagine the effect of a nation of much more content as satisfied people….I wonder how much less we would spend trying to make ourselves look better, feel better or escape our stresses?….
Neither can academic achievement!
The report boldly concludes:
- “We find that the intellectual performance of a child is the least important childhood predictor of life-satisfaction as an adult.”
Well the good news is, if your childhood has already happened, and if your adulthood has been plagued by feeling unhappy, fearful, dissatisfied or stuck – the brain is very good at re-wiring, with the right guidance, no matter what your background or childhood history. All is not lost!
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