July 15, 2020
Do your activities produce a sense of purpose? Can you name the most fulfilling aspects of your life? Are you certain about what makes you happy?
The clarity and conviction of your answers offers a measure of the motivators available to inspire healthy behavior or, perhaps, reveals a need to reassess. Life is a longterm proposition with change peppered throughout.
How well you recognize what is working and what is not, and adjust, has a direct connection to a man’s ability to live happy and healthy. Here’s what I mean.
I previously have argued that health and happiness are linked, presenting research from the likes of the Mayo Clinic and Harvard University to support my position. This same argument references a man’s relationships as the strongest source of happiness.
If a man strives to build relationships and pursue activities that provide a sense of purpose, fulfillment and, ultimately, happiness, then it is critical that his actions align with his internal definition of satisfaction and feelings of enjoyment.
When plotting out life’s roadmap, you want to be as accurate as possible on your destination. The problem, of course, is that the best laid plans can go south; don’t I know it.
I have navigated two divorces due to factors out of my control, managed single parenthood with two sons, had one career derailed by divorce and another by the recession in 2008. Today, there’s a new plan anchored by new relationships, goals and rituals that provide me with a trove of happiness.
Yes, it can happen and is still happening for me as I grapple, like all of us, with COVID-19.
When evaluating lifelong goals centered on family, or the daily rituals used to achieve those goals, alignment and continuous revision is essential.
In the contemporary context of COVID-19, when so many of the habits that sustain our lives have been disrupted, it becomes particularly necessary to rethink the feasibility of your priorities and adjust. For me, the pandemic adjustments include eating takeout dinners while watching movies on cable and replacing my gym routine with runs in the park.
Now, it would seem obvious that a man would pursue a social agenda and advance his relationships in lock-step consistency with his aspirations, but such cognitive positioning can be overlooked or, more likely, delegated to only occasional thought.
Of course, I know what makes me happy! I’m always doing things to build the important relationships in my life. Really?
How often do you devote time – quality time – to thinking about the people who are most important to you? The pathway to happiness is anchored in one’s ability to link your major aspirations within the drudgery of daily living. Not always an easy task but one with great upside potential.
Whether prompted by COVID-19 or not, a review of your personal goals and ambitions is a good practice, one that can strengthen relationships when developed together with loved ones. Personal planning is well-established as a pathway to happiness.
And as I will show, the good news is that happiness and well-being have the potential to grow with age. Further, the most meaningful experiences come from human interaction, not the collection of materials goods.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say that having a goal provides a sense of purpose, bolsters self-esteem and brings people together. Your specific goal doesn't matter as much as whether the process of working toward it is meaningful to you.
Research studies suggest that relationships provide the strongest meaning and purpose to your life. Consequently, they can make a big contribution to happiness.
According to Kaiser Permanente, as people age they generally have a greater sense of well-being than younger people have. Surveys of happiness conducted in developed countries consistently show a “U-shaped” pattern, with people on either end having the greatest satisfaction.
In one large study from the Brookings Institute, scientists found happiness was high for 18-to 21-year-olds and then dropped steadily until about age 40. But past middle age, the pattern began to reverse – gradually climbing back up to its highest point at age 98.
Studies have previously found that people generally appreciate experiences more than things, partially because our happy memories endure while our perceived value of material items plummets.
Researchers at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Austin ran two large studies tracking happiness via text message and found experiencers to be much happier than those purchasing any items, and also happier than those not consuming anything.
There is a strong argument for personal goal setting. It is a process that can facilitate happiness by adding clarity and supporting the creation of daily rituals so important to their achievement. Despite this argument, it is critical to recognize that goals, like life, are not stagnate propositions. Their creation is a product of the conditions, values and circumstances at the time.
When these or other factors change, so should the goals. In business, this is commonly known as repositioning – a change in strategy based on new information, past performance or a host of any number of other conditions. The point is to keep personal repositioning in mind whether it applies to retirement plans, an encore career, travel, the grandchildren or the impact of COVID-19.
Bottom line, change is inevitable, but what’s constant is our need for happiness. No matter your age, stay flexible and embrace change. It’s your pathway to happiness and health.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50."