A Harvard professor had the perfect response when asked about what really matters in life

Matt Might didn’t set out to tell strangers on the internet how to lead a good life, just as he didn’t set out to father a son with an ultra-rare disability.

But when his son Bertrand was diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation that delays physical and mental development, it forced him to re-examine his priorities.

In a recent Quora thread that posed the question “How can I minimise my chances of having a disabled child?”, Might unpacked how Bertrand has helped to put his life in perspective.

It’s a lesson for just about anybody trying to figure out what truly matters most.

Here’s his answer:

My son forced me to systematically examine what matters in life — what really matters — and in the end, I came to appreciate a quote from his namesake, Bertrand Russell, more than I could have ever imagined:

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

Wright describes himself as previously being a young professor hungry for tenure. He says that pursuit was “an abject failure.” He tried his best to raise funding to publish papers, all in the hopes of securing tenure, but the research was no good.

“I remember huddling on the porch at the end of that year with my wife,” he wrote, “telling her, ‘Well, I’ll at least have a job for six more years.'”

Then he looked at Bertrand, his newborn son who suffered an extremely rare brain disease. Suddenly, the relentless pursuit of tenure seemed insignificant.

Might says he was reminded that becoming a professor was never about the legacy. “I became a professor to make the world better through science,” he explained. He made a vow: “From this day forward, I will spend my time on problems and solutions that will matter. I will make a difference.”

The research on well-being confirms Might’s epiphany.

A 2010 review of 148 studies found people can reduce their risk for premature death by up to 50% just by keeping their social relationships strong. Another study conducted in 2003 found college students with more friends were less vulnerable to the common cold.

And if you thought money can buy happiness, consider friendships instead: Doubling how many friends you have has been linked to the same boost in well-being as a 50% increase in income.

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