Just How Happy Am I Going To Be?


In the early part of life my pre-occupation was around figuring out “What am I going to do and how is that going to take care of me?” And of course there was the nagging doubt as to whether I could get it together enough to be an entrepreneur. At that time I don’t think happiness ever entered that equation. It was more of an imagined by-product of things going well. Of course the “Pursuit of happiness” was considered so important that it became a guiding principle for the Founding Fathers of America. But who is really going to be happy…..?

There is some very good news  for virtually everyone. The December 18th Economist ran an article called the U-Bend of Life.It is a graph which matches age on one axis with happiness on the other axis.  It goes like this: as people begin adult life they are pretty sanguine then there is the long down hill of happiness until they reach the midlife crisis. But then something surprising happens: people begin to lose vitaility, mental acuity and looks; but they seem to gain what they have been pursuing all their life-happiness.  If you ask a group of 30 year olds and a group of  70 year olds to rate their happiness it seems the 70 year olds are the happier bunch.

Things seem to get better and better

Much  of this of course can attributed to the fact that the 30 year olds are facing life, testing themselves, seeing if they can accomplish life’s challenges. The 70 year olds are looking back and realizing that whatever they did or did not do it doesn’t matter so much now.

I would like to propose that this paradigm should and can change. It is possible to be happy all the way through no matter what the challenges. But how do you do this?

Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, in an observation years ago noted that the younger generations saw that the idea of the golden years their parents had so sought did not necessarily deliver. Yes, they might be into acceptance about their stage in life, but the idea that retirement would be an estatic state of perpetual play and joy simply did not occur for many. Just how much golf or fishing or road trips could one take before it got boring?  Instead Dychtwald predicted that the younger generation would not stand for lousy working conditions and would go where they were happiest. They would perhaps have seven or eight careers in their life separated by periods of education, travel, and reinvention. This process might simply be a continuous journey until one expired. This indeed has happened to the corporate world as people come and go and the idea of life time employment at one company becomes a thing of the past.

If one pursues the passions of one’s dreams this might straighten out the U-Bend curve to perhaps more of a straight line, which might dip at times in one’s life, but be more of an upward slope as happiness forms a feedback mechanism.I believe we will see more and more of the articles such as Roger Fransecky’s  Goal for 2011, Don’t Postpone Your Life.

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