In his book, The Vanishing American Adult, Ben Sasse provides this insight about our need for living a fullfilled life. Senator Sasse writes:
Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, is an odd bird: He started career as a French horn player, later became probably the first professional wind musician to become a renowed economist, and is now making a third career as an expert in the science of happiness. Over the past decade Brooks culled thousands of studies on what makes for a happy life, distilling the findings into few basic precepts that can help us explain to our kids why consumptiom isn’t a road to happiness.
Everyone should read Brooks directly, but here’s the CliffsNotes version: It turns out that nearly half of our happiness is genetic, and another significant portion comes from having good fortune to be born away from a definable universe of horrific events – war, famine, and epidemic. Much is thus predetermined, but of the portion of happiness somewhat in our control, there are four key drives of what Brooks calls our “happiness portfolio.” Somewhat surprising, none of the four are related to material abundance. These are the central variables that emerge from Brook’s research:
- Faith:Do you have a framework to make sense of death and suffering?
- Family:Do you have a home life with mutual affection, where the good of others is as important to you as your own happiness?
- Community:Do you have at least two real friends who feel pain when you suffer and share joy when you thrive?
- Work:Perhaps most fundamentally, when you leave home on Monday morning, do you believe that there are other people genuinely benefit from the work you do? Is your calling meningful? Not: “Is it fun or well-compensated?” –but rather, “Does it matter”
The political scientist Charles Murry has studied “the kinds of accomplishments that … lead people to reach old age satisfied with who they have been and what they have done.” Murray writes, you will find “that accomplishments you have in mind have three things in common. First, the source of satisfaction involves something important… Second, the source of satisfaction has involved effort, probably over an extended period of time.” You need to have invested your energy, worry, and time in it. “Third, some level of personal responsibility for the outcome is essential.”
The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse (2017) (pp. 152-153)