9. Expect happiness—Jump for joy.
Let’s focus on that last work in section 8, “enjoy.” Do Boomers have the luxury of anticipating work they can enjoy when it seems difficult to create any kind of work at all? Let’s briefly look at some of the factors that researchers tell us are important in increasing positive emotions and happiness.
There is scientific evidence that positive emotions can help make your life longer and healthier. Boomers can start by focusing on the things that bring them happiness. This is a long-term effort, not a quick fix.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan chose three pathways to examine:
Feeling good. Seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations, from the hedonistic model of happiness put forth by Epicurus, which focused on reaching happiness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.
Engaging fully. Pursuing activities that engage you fully, from the influential research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For decades, Csikszentmihalyi explored peoples satisfaction in their everyday activities, finding that people report the greatest satisfaction when they are totally immersed in and concentrating on what they are doing. He dubbed this state of intense absorption “flow.”
Doing good. Searching for meaning outside yourself, tracing back to Aristotle’s notion of eudemonia, which emphasized knowing your true self and acting in accordance with your virtues.
They found that each of these pathways individually contributes to life satisfaction.
How do you know if you’re in flow?
• You lose awareness of time. You aren’t watching the clock, and hours can pass like minutes.
• You aren’t thinking about yourself. You aren’t focused on your comfort, and you aren’t wondering how you look or how your actions will be perceived by others.
• You are active. Flow activities aren’t passive, and you have some control over what you are doing.
• You work effortlessly. Although you may be working harder than usual, at flow moments everything is clicking and feels almost effortless.
People don’t always know what will make them happy. They often believe in myths or carry assumptions that actually get in the way. Here are some widely held myths about what will bring happiness:
• Money and material things
• Youth. Being young and physically attractive has little or no bearing on happiness
• Children. Children can be a tremendous source of joy and fulfillment, but their day-to-day care is quite demanding and can increase stress, financial pressures, and marital strife.
We conclude by sprinkling in some added Zest for Boomers. Zest is a positive trait reflecting a person’s approach to life with anticipation, energy, and excitement.
An excerpt from the article “Zest and Work” by Christopher Peterson, Nansook Park, Nicholas Hall, and Martin E.P . Seligman in the Journal of Organizational Behavior:
“Work regarded as a calling is the most rewarding. Those who regarded work in these terms described it as central in their lives and enjoyable. Not surprisingly, their satisfaction with work was high. They did not look forward to retirement, and they took fewer sick days than other research participants. Regarding work as a calling was more likely among older workers and those in higher status jobs, but it is interesting and important that this stance was evident among some workers of all ages and all job types.”
It is not an easy time for Boomers and their careers, but the components of successful strategies that will bring rewarding work well into old age (whatever that means) are certainly within reach. I am often asked about the work I do–by clients, students, colleagues, and business leaders–and I often find myself responding, “This is the best job I ever had.”Download Article 1K Club