Beyond the Build

Continuing Education

The Key to Happiness

To me, our society often values notoriety and success, and over the years I have seen folks drive harder and harder to achieve more without corresponding happiness. This begs the question, is success what really what sustains us along the trail? Not hardly.

Harvard University conducted a study, tracking two sets of individuals over 75 years. Some were affluent Harvard grads, while others came from a much tougher part of Boston. These men were interviewed regularly to see what kept them healthy and happy, or the opposite. There are thousands of pages of data, but according to this TED talk from the study director, the major findings have been this:

  • People who are more socially connected are both happier and healthier.
  • It’s the quality of close relationships, rather than the quantity, that matters.
  • Good relationships protect the brain. People who are confident in their relationships stay sharp longer.

Conversely, lonely people start to decline earlier and don’t live as long.

In this new year, I’d encourage us all to make a commitment to our future selves, carefully considering where to put our time and energy. Taking time to commit to people and genuine, deep relationships will push you further toward goals of notoriety than burning the oil alone…and you’ll be a lot happier in the meantime.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.