Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse

Here is a quote that might cause you to be interested in reading all of this post…

Men who had ‘warm’ childhood relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more per year than men whose mothers were uncaring

This post is a part of a series…


When I first read about this study… not the quote above… it really rocked me. It made such sense of my life. I have shared in the past that I had attachment disorder. This study even made sense of the way that God has healed me! (More about that at the end).

It also explained what I already knew… why many of our formulaic, ritual, orderly “churches” are a miserable failure in changing lives.

I know this study is not “biblical”… meaning… it doesn’t have Christianese in it, it may not have been done by professing Christians… but the results are SO CHRISTIAN!  🙂

In 1938 Harvard University … kicked off the longest-running longitudinal study … the goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing. – Source: 75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life


Since 1937, the study has followed 237 students at Harvard University and 332 socially disadvantaged youths from inner-city Boston through health, disease, and death.

Vaillant also has researched predictors of successful aging in women, and found no difference. – Source: How to be happy and well rather than sad and sick

So… a 75 year long study of men costing $20 million concludes… the #1 most important finding is this: Happiness is love. Full stop.

Incredible. The central message of the bible… love… is found to be the key thing. Who woulda thunk it?

The Harvard Study appear to confirm what social science has long posited—that a warm and stable childhood environment is a crucial ingredient of success; or that alcoholism is a strong predictor of divorce.

There it is… a warm childhood is vital.

That and other things mentioned in the results of this study explained to me why I have had so many struggles as a teen and then as an adult.

Vaillant concludes that a loving childhood is one of the best predictors of mid and late-life riches: “We found … it was significantly associated with was warmth of childhood environment, and it was very significantly associated with a man’s closeness to his father.”


Unfortunately I had few of those things and now I can see how it cost me so dearly.

WSJ: Which of the participants in the study tend to have regrets in later life?

DR. VAILLANT: The men with regrets were those who never really matured. They never gained contentment from their work and never sustained intimacy with a partner. When they looked back they would think: I should have gotten married, or I should have gotten a job or career I liked better.

WSJ: How did that compare with those people who tend to be more content?

DR. VAILLANT: The latter had learned not to cry about spilled milk. They had learned how to savor the things that had gone right.

IQ above a certain level made no difference…

Above a certain level, intelligence doesn’t matter. There was no significant difference in maximum income earned by men with IQs in the 110–115 range and men with IQs higher than 150.

This study confirms so many of my suspicions… for example that the bible is extremely mentally healthy. The bible gives us superb advice to live a happy life!

  • The bible gives advice to parents about how to love children and not frustrate them.
  • The bible gives advice to men to love woman and to women to admire their husbands… and if they do that for each other, their children will feel that warmth!
  • The bible gives advice for individual people to “guard your heart for from it flow all the issues of life”

Guarding your heart really does determine your life as this study confirms. In this study many men had a terrible childhood but made a full recovery and lived happy and successful lives. How? Love.

As Vaillant puts it, there are two pillars of happiness. “One is love,” he writes. “The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

Vaillant has said that the study’s most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy

(“Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.”). – Source: The 75-Year Study That Found The Secrets To A Fulfilling Life

Dr. Vaillaint says. “Probably the greatest human skill you can have is the ability to take love in and metabolize it.” Those who were able to accept love were the ones who were able to grow – even well into old age.

Regardless of How We Begin Life, We Can All Become Happier

A man named Godfrey Minot Camille went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction: He had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”

Connection Is Crucial

“Joy is connection,” Vaillant says. “The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better.”

The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction.

I find this very insightful and it matches my experience too…

The journey from immaturity to maturity, says Vaillant, is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection, and a big part of this shift has to do with the way we deal with challenges.

Coping mechanisms — “the capacity to make gold out of shit,” as Vaillant puts it — have a significant effect on social support and overall well-being. The secret is replacing narcissism, a single-minded focus on one’s own emotional oscillations and perceived problems, with mature coping defenses, Vaillant explains, citing Mother Teresa and Beethoven as examples.

“Mother Teresa had a perfectly terrible childhood, and her inner spiritual life was very painful,” says Vaillant. “But she had a highly successful life by caring about other people.- Source: The 75-Year Study That Found The Secrets To A Fulfilling Life

I like this truth…

“Lives change and things can get better,” writes Vaillant. “But the people who don’t learn to love early pay a high price.”


In the other post which comes with this one I will describe my own experiences as God led me into healing. I find this study truly validates what God has done with me and it also validates the hope that God has placed within me and the visions He has given me for the future.

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