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[Excerpt] You have a steady job that pays the bills and puts your abilities to good use. You have loving relationships with your spouse, your children, extended family, and close friends. Your house provides enough space and security. Your golf league gives you a chance to unwind. Your volunteer work improves your community.

The specific details might vary, but most people would consider this scenario the basis for a pretty good life. Yet many of us who do check these boxes often feel like there’s something missing.

A fascinating new study published by Affective Science asked nearly 4,000 people from 9 countries (including the U.S.) what kind of life they wanted. The results suggest that there’s an important dimension to improving Return on Life that many of us may be overlooking.

1. A happy life

Researchers began by asking participants to write down a simple statement that described their vision of an ideal life. Then, participants were instructed to rank 15 terms according to how closely they applied to that ideal vision.

The first five terms characterized happiness:

  • Stable
  • Comfortable
  • Simple
  • Happy
  • Pleasant

If these words describe your life, it sounds like your basic emotional and physical needs are met. You feel good about where you are, and you most likely have the tools and long-term perspective necessary to make plans for where you want to go.

And, perhaps most importantly, with this groundwork in place, you can start building out other aspects of your life that will be more rewarding.

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