Photo: OnInnovation via Flickr
About half an hour into a recent Reddit Q&A session, American business magnate Bill Gates was asked, “Through it all, what makes you happy?” Interestingly enough, despite saying he feels more happy now than he did in his twenties, Gates didn’t occasion his massive wealth as an explanation.
Ladders recently reported on an old archived interview of a young Gates from 1984 in which he spoke on one of the ways he intended to avoid being burnt-out before his thirties was by constantly updating his goals. An older Gates adheres to a similar philosophy, only these days his aspirations are decidedly less career driven.
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The new Gates versus the old
In the early years of Microsoft, Gates says he rarely vacationed or took weekends off, and he couldn’t possibly imagine being married. Some 30 years later, the investor is both married and a big proponent of taking some time to disconnect with civilization.
Together he and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is trying to obliterate malaria and other devastating diseases in third world countries. In 2018 they both were named the most generous philanthropists in the U.S. by the annual Chronicle of Philanthropy list. Collectively the couple has donated over $36 billion dollars to charity.
Before you chalk up Gates’ citing of generosity as the cause of his happiness to delusion, researchers confirm that we can benefit for a little more altruism. A study from 1999 that found that being generous can actually reduce cholesterol and another study found that generosity activates the area of the brain known as the striatum, which is a part of the brain that dictates things we find rewarding.
A team from the Universities of Oxford and Bournemouth reviewed over 400 pages of scientific literature to determine that being giving has a proven impact on subjective well being. According to lead author Dr. Oliver Scott Curry, “Humans are social animals. We are happy to help family, friends, colleagues, community members and even strangers under some conditions. This research suggests that people do indeed derive satisfaction from helping others. This is probably because we genuinely care about others.”
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