When I was in school we explored many different studies that showed us students how human nature works.
However, I personally found the more I reviewed studies, the more confused and conflicted I became. As people, we truly are unique, yet there were certain studies that made me feel hopeful about why we are the way we are and others that left me feeling scared and concerned.
You may have heard about the 1971 study from Stanford on social situations, and that the experiment had to be shut down due to the power of one group over the other that got out of control.
The summary of this study is that social groups easily influence people.
We can see this easily in school systems where you get a group of children bullying others who are not as socially strong. These children would not have the courage to bully if they were by themselves.
Social groups not only can have a negative influence, but also a positive one. Who you spend your time with does have a large impact.
Another issue that I see in studies is that we are often not aware of what is right in front of us. The problem is that we internalize thousands of environmental stimuli but only a small percentage of these stimuli are actually present in our mind.
The main study that proved this point was performed at Harvard in 1998 and showed that we rely more heavily on what we already know rather than new information.
If we do not pay attention to our environment we will possibly affirm the negative rather than the positive in our lives.
Another study that makes it difficult for us as human beings is that we struggle with delaying gratification.
In the 1960s, Stanford did a study about how we would do whatever we wanted if we think we are not going to be caught.
This is why having someone we are accountable to can be of tremendous benefit and assists us in being more successful. This can be a coach, therapist, mentor or a partner.
One of my favorite studies from Harvard Medical School is the Study of Adult Development, a 75-year study of 268 Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939–1944.
The Beatles sang “All You Need is Love,” and they were right: the results of the Harvard study showed that life satisfaction and our happiness is in correlation to looking for and finding love.
The other conclusion from this study was that when life becomes difficult, we hold onto this love and it helps us cope with challenges.
Self-esteem is also an important part of doing well in life. Having a good sense of who you are, what is important to you, and holding your values, is essential for long-term happiness.
So why do we get stuck in the idea that happiness comes more externally? There is that part of us that is impulsive, that likes the shiny things. That dopamine kick of what feels good in the moment is a pretty strong drug.
We must look at the larger picture to get ahold of long-term joy rather than short-term happiness.
Even though we have all these studies, I believe we do know all of this instinctively, but often we do not want to own it because we have to take responsibility for our choices and the consequences.
A simple example of this is what we eat, and how it has an impact on our body. Who does not like chocolate or potato chips? They feel good in the moment, but the long-term result is not so great.
So choose carefully who and what you have in your life. Hold your self-esteem, and know that love is essential for a joyful life.