What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

DeRose Method Happiness


There isn't time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heart burnings, calling to account. There is only time for loving and but an instance so to speak, for that, the good life is built with good relationships.

Mark Twain


An important DeRose Method ideal is to be sincerely joyful. If you've spent even just a month studying at one of our schools you'll know what I'm talking about. In the video below Robert Waldinger shares the latest results from 75 years of research about happiness. I'm mostly happy I didn't need to wait that long for a study from Harvard to confirm what I learned from an insight while practicing the DeRose Method, but it's nice when Academia does catch up so I can share these excellent videos.

"What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.Excerpt from

Happiness is awesome, and understanding how to cultivate it in different and difficult situations makes it all the more fascinating. When you are faced with a difficult situation it is important to have a basic understanding of yourself, how to stay on your path, and avoid making poor decisions based on shortsighted emotions.

An immense factor in happiness is the quality of relationships, with yourself, with others, and with the world you exist in (basically everything that is not human). We have evolved in groups and I we will don´t foresee that changing at anytime. Good relationships are the supporting structures for a harmonious life. By creating and fostering good relationships we are reinforcing the longevity of our organism and improving the overall experience. The foundation of a long and fulfilling life, a good life, are your good relationships.

Professor DeRose's explanation of karma provides an excellent analogy to understand how each of us are in control of our own destiny up until a certain point, after which we must accept what comes to be as a result of our choices up until that moment:

"To exemplify the flexibility of the concept of Karma in India, we can cite a parable that compares karma to an archer with his arrows. Karma has three stages: First, comparable to the moment in which the archer has his bow resting and his arrows resting in his back. Second, you have the stage in which the archer puts an arrow in the bow, pulls it back and points it at a target. Third, there is the stage where the archer releases the arrow.

According to this comparison, as much in the first state as the second, the archer has absolute control over karma. Even until the last second, he can direct the arrow at a different target, pull the bow back more or less to give the arrow more or less potential, and can even decide not to shoot. This corresponds to the dominion of two-thirds of karma, which is very reasonable when compared to our concept of inflexible destiny over which we have not control.

Beyond this, whatever might our karma be, the liberty that we have over the ways of fulfilling it are very elastic. The sensation of restriction or being impeded comes much more from our own reticence to change and from the inertia of people, rather than from the law of cause and effect itself."

It is as if the fulfillment of karma were a transatlantic journey. You are inevitably steering yourself to your destiny, however, you can take advantage of the journey in many ways. You can complete its course relating poorly or well with the companions of your journey. On board, you will have the right to sunbathe, swim, read, dance, practice sports and date. Or, you can complain about life, the monotony, the smell of the ocean, the rocking of the boat, the cabin service, the size of the cabin, the seasickness … All will arrive at their destination, one way or another. The only difference is that some will have a great time during the trajectory while others will suffer. This depends entirely on the temperament of each person, not on karma. This is the true concept of karma. The rest is a guilt complex.

On this snowy morning in Greenwich Village, New York,  our existence reminds me of the water cycle. Imagine that we, like water molecules, are a transport medium. Everything we experience is imprinted into our cells and carried along for the ride until until life expires, like when a water molecule falls to the earth and begins makes contact with the hard igneous rock and absorbing some of its chemical properties before moving on to the soil or river or lake or aquifer or ocean or your cities water pipes to your faucet to your tooth brush or cooking pot of beans.

The possibilities are numerous, perhaps infinite in a mathematical sense. Water is a collection of its experiences, and that collection of experiences influence how it responds to the next experience, an ever changing identity until eventually, somehow-some way, evaporating and leaving behind most if not all of the qualities it absorbed to return to its purest form possible via evaporation. My interpretation is that this is not reincarnation, rather a pure form of energy or consciousness.

During a lifespan, somewhere between 65-55% of our body is water. Many of the phenomena that occur to water occur to us. To see another interesting study on water and how it changes in ways you've never imagined possible, check out Masaru Emoto's research on water crystals

Similar to water molecules, you will be faced with many difficult obstacles in life. Everything you think, feel, say and do, everything that happens to you will leave it´s mark, so choose wisely.