Feature: The U-Shape of Happiness

Feature: The U-Shape of Happiness

Feature: The U-Shape of Happiness

There’s a theory making the rounds among scholars these days that happiness is a U-shaped experience. It peaks in our youth and old age and virtually disappears during the middle years. One study, which analyzed data on 2 million people in 80 countries, found that this long trough of unhappiness occurs in both men and women, single and married people, the rich and poor and those raising children and those who aren’t. In short, according to a pretty significant body of empirical data, if you’re over the age of 20 and under the age of 70, you might as well pack it in-you’re going to be sad whether you like it or not.

The problem I have with this theory-and at this point, it’s nothing more than that, despite all the data-is its underlying assumption. The evidence suggests that adults are naturally unhappy. However, we have no definitive explanation as to why that might be so or even if we are interpreting the evidence correctly. The emerging view is that middle age confronts (most of) us with an unpleasant reality: our dreams haven’t been realized and aren’t going to be. That undeniable fact causes us to slip into a deep funk … until we get so old we don’t care any more. There’s a certain logic to this notion, I suppose, but I don’t buy it. It assumes that, by middle age, our minds have shut down, our bodies have grown decrepit, and we have so many obligations and responsibilities that we can no longer chase our dreams. To me, that’s the equivalent of saying the U.S. Declaration of Independence is age delimited. In other words, you are guaranteed Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, but only if you are not a middle-aged adult.

So what’s my explanation? I think a lot of people are reporting a middle age of unhappiness because they refuse to change or don’t think they can. The central feature of their life outside their family-the activity to which they devote a third or more of their day-is their work. And, sadly, for many of us, our work is enervating, dispiriting and demeaning. We are bullied by bad employers that:

  • describe us their key to success and then lay us off to get a bump in their share price;
  • argue they can’t afford a 50 cent increase in the minimum wage, yet routinely pay their CEOs millions of dollars a year;
  • beat their chests about the importance of healthy living, but promote supervisors who make us work on weekends, holidays and vacations; and
  • promise to respect our careers and treat us as cognitive beings only to recruit and manage us as carbon-based cogs.
  • We face all of these depressing aspects of our work and are convinced we can’t or simply won’t do anything about it. And, I believe we can and should.

  • First, we can because the dynamic of the workplace has changed. Today, employers are desperate to hire two kinds of talent: those who have hard to find skills (e.g., Web programmers, certain kinds of sales reps, engineers, nurses and pharmacists) and those who are peak performers (e.g., they not only excel in their own field, but they raise the performance of those around them). The organizations that have an unfair share of such employees will outperform their competitors, so if you have one or both of these characteristics, you can write your own ticket. There will be lots of employers trying to recruit you and, once hired, those employers will pay you better and do whatever they can to support your best work. Unlike in previous generations of workers, you will control the direction and content of your career, not the organizations that employ you.
  • Second, we should because doing so will change the dynamic of our life. Taking control of the direction and content of your career is the single best way to achieve happiness on-the-job. When you are working in a field that promotes your best work and for an employer that respects and supports your talent, you are engaged in one of humankind’s unique and most important challenges: the emancipation and expression of the champion within you. Each of us has the capacity to excel at work that is meaningful and satisfying to us. If we exercise that capacity, we give ourselves the opportunity to explore the unlimited dimensions of our gifted self, the naturally able person we are. That experience of continuously reaching for and achieving more of the excellence within us transforms the pursuit of Happiness from a promise to an outcome we can actually accomplish.
  • The middle years of life are undeniably filled with imposing challenges and heavy responsibilities. They become a wasteland of unhappiness, however, only if we let them. Our work is one of the central features of adulthood. If we direct our careers toward work that engages and fulfills us, therefore, we will infuse those years with a happiness that is every bit as great as that which we enjoy in our youth and old age. In effect, we will change happiness from a U-shaped to an o-shaped experience or one that continues on and on and on.

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the WEDDLE’s newsletter. As you know, we don’t follow the herd or the latest fad here. Instead, we deliver sound research, reliable information and savvy analysis. For free. And right to your e-mailbox. So please … share the experience.

    P.S.S. Don’t forget to send us your new e-mail address if you move. Lots of people are changing jobs these days and if you’re one of them, we want to be sure you still have the information in WEDDLE’s to help you perform at your peak. All you have to do to keep your WEDDLE’s newsletter coming is send your change of address to pwj@weddles.com.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: Gilbert Resumes

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Gilbert Resumes, one of the nation’s premier resume services.

    Directed by Marty Weitzman, NCRW, CPRW, JCTC, CPBC, and founder of the National Resume Writers’ Association, Gilbert Resumes creates documents that generate the interviews you deserve. Acknowledged as one of the leading career service providers in the United States, Marty has provided exceptional resume writing and job search support for more than 25 years.

    A respected author, presenter, trainer, and writer, Marty offers his personal, hands-on service in crafting documents that match your personal brand and highlight the value you bring to the workplace. His resumes, cover letters, and executive bios are impactful, targeted, and accomplishment-based, convincing employers and recruiters to pick up the phone and call you. Your Marty Weitzman resume is written with his valuable insight, years of polish, and a strategy that packages and positions you for the best jobs and the soundest career moves.

    When you hire Marty, you get a specialist – a Certified Personal Branding Strategist who reveals and publishes the remarkable in you. Your resume is never farmed out to a mediocre or unproven writer! Marty was recently honored by the Career Management Alliance with the Career Mastery Award and is widely recognized for his leadership in the Career Service Industry.

    For additional information or a free evaluation of your resume, call 800-967-3846 or send your resume to resumepro@gmail.com,

    Visit us at ExecutiveResumeWriter.com or ResumePro.com.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified the occupations that will offer the greatest employment opportunities between 2006 and 2016 as well as the training required to be employed in each field. The top 10 projected occupations are:

  • Registered nurse (Associate degree)
  • Retail salesperson (Short term on-the-job training)
  • Customer service rep (Moderate-term on-the-job training)
  • Food preparation/serving (Short term on-the-job training)
  • Office clerk (Short term on-the-job training)
  • Personal/home care aide (Short term on-the-job training)
  • Home health aide (Short term on-the-job training)
  • Postsecondary teacher (doctoral degree)
  • Janitor/cleaner (Short term on-the-job training)
  • Nursing aide/orderly (Post secondary vocational training).
  • MyBusiness published the following tidbit for those of us juggling business travel, client phone calls and teleconferences with the office. Recent research at the University of Utah found that motorists who talk on cell phones drive 2 mph more slowly than their non-talking fellow motorists. In addition, they pass other cars less frequently and take longer to complete their trips. Bottom line: talking on the cell phone while driving doesn’t improve your productivity; all that chatter behind the wheel actually hurts it. What’s the solution? The magazine suggests that you pull over, take or make your call, and then get back on the road and back to driving like the rest of us-15 mph over the speed limit.

    The National Federation of Independent Business concluded a study which found that 51% of business owners say that they spend a majority of their time on the job doing what they like to do best. That finding is in stark contrast to the job satisfaction ratings often reported among employees of large as well as small companies. Does that mean that everyone should immediately quit their job and go into business on their own? Absolutely not. Being an entrepreneur or sole proprietor is not for the faint of heart. Basically, you’re on our own. The only safety net you have is the one you create for yourself. Building a business can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be a seemingly endless litany of crises in which you have too little money and time to find an effective solution. So, what’s my advice? Consider self employment as you think about the next stage in your career, but do your homework before you make a commitment. Talk to those who have succeeded at starting and running their own operation (they are two different tasks) and to those who haven’t. Check out all of your options, including franchises, distributorships as well as setting up your own company. Then, talk to those who count on you-your spouse and family-to make sure you understand their perspective before heading off in one direction or another. And finally, remember that it is possible to have a meaningful career as a self-employed person, but it no less possible to do the same while working for a good employer that respects and values your talent. The key is to find the environment in which you can flourish.

    WEDDLE’s Guides and Directory are a great way to recession-proof your career and ready yourself for the recovery. These publications are your road map to the best of the 50,000+ job boards now operating on the Internet. WEDDLE’s books include:

  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Called the “Zagat of the online employment industry” by the American Staffing Association, it provides full-page profiles of 350 of the best job boards in a range of occupations, industries and locations;
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Directory of Employment Related Internet Sites. The “address book of the online employment industry,” it lists over 9,000 sites and organizes them by the career fields, industries and geographies on which they focus; and
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Association Web Sites. The key to the “hidden job market” online, it details the employment resources and capabilities that are provided at the Web-sites of over 1,900 associations and societies.
  • These books are a smart investment for the smart professional. They provide a real and important competitive advantage in your search for a great job, even during a difficult economy. So, don’t delay! Call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768 and place your order today.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    There are 50,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to a successful online job search, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the best sites for your specific employment objective. WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide identifies 350 of the top sites worldwide and provides the information you need to determine which job boards will deliver the best opportunities for you. For example:

    JobFetch.com

    http://www.jobfetch.com

    Participating newspapers: The Frederick News-Post, The Free Lance-Star, The Herald-Mail Company, The Capital

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes-All

    Distribution of jobs: Regional/USA: VA, MD, WDC

    Number of jobs: 745

    Salary levels of jobs: Not Reported

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: Indefinitely

    Restrictions on who can post: None

    Other services for job seekers: Career information, Links to other sites with job search/career resources

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Please Support Our Sponsor: Gilbert Resumes

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Gilbert Resumes, one of the nation’s premier resume services.

    Directed by Marty Weitzman, NCRW, CPRW, JCTC, CPBC, and founder of the National Resume Writers’ Association, Gilbert Resumes creates documents that generate the interviews you deserve. Acknowledged as one of the leading career service providers in the United States, Marty has provided exceptional resume writing and job search support for more than 25 years.

    A respected author, presenter, trainer, and writer, Marty offers his personal, hands-on service in crafting documents that match your personal brand and highlight the value you bring to the workplace. His resumes, cover letters, and executive bios are impactful, targeted, and accomplishment-based, convincing employers and recruiters to pick up the phone and call you. Your Marty Weitzman resume is written with his valuable insight, years of polish, and a strategy that packages and positions you for the best jobs and the soundest career moves.

    When you hire Marty, you get a specialist – a Certified Personal Branding Strategist who reveals and publishes the remarkable in you. Your resume is never farmed out to a mediocre or unproven writer! Marty was recently honored by the Career Management Alliance with the Career Mastery Award and is widely recognized for his leadership in the Career Service Industry.

    For additional information or a free evaluation of your resume, call 800-967-3846 or send your resume to resumepro@gmail.com,

    Visit us at ExecutiveResumeWriter.com or ResumePro.com.