In our current scheme of things, some say 60 is the new 50 or even 40. Verily so, at 61, I’m just starting the second half of my life.
Do I expect my second half of life to be happier than my first half?
Admittedly, my life’s first half had been riddled with flamed-out pursuits, painful failures, crushing defeats, and shattered dreams. After getting out of the seminary and eventually getting married, I wanted to be a lawyer but I only finished one year of law studies as I have to prioritize my family’s upkeep. Getting married early and unprepared, I thought I could also attain stability – financial or otherwise – early on. But I was wrong. Instead, I kept on hopping from one job to another trying to find not just money but also passion and fulfillment.
On hindsight, my career or professional engagement focused mainly on three areas: college teaching, writing, and on training and development.
After some 16 years of teaching and even once becoming a college Dean of Student Affairs, I wistfully decided to quit the teaching job for some reasons. Saddled with campus or work politics, I was disillusioned about the teaching profession. I became “burned out” in teaching, routinely checking papers and computing grades, not finding meaning but simply repeating the same lessons to different batches of students. Also, having reached the more-or-less apex of the academic ladder which is Deanship, I felt I wanted to explore more – not in terms of position but something out of passion.
Thereafter, thus, I shifted to the writing career. I first started as a writer for a Catholic magazine. Then I later concentrated on speech writing – and now, being this paper’s columnist.
Alongside my writing career, I happened to partner with somebody who’s a virtuoso – no doubt about it – in training and development, conducting or implementing training programs to various organizations and clientele.
So, am I happier now than in my life’s first half? My answer is obviously in the affirmative. Yes, I may have unflinchingly kept on quitting a lot of other jobs, but I have found purpose and significance in what I’m doing now. Yes, I may not have become rich until now, but I have found passion and fulfillment in my present endeavors.
Arthur C. Brooks, American social scientist and professor at Harvard Kennedy and Business Schools, in his recently published book, “From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life”, provides some insights on how to be happier in the second of life.
1. Happiness is not just up to chance. Happiness is a set of elements; it’s made up of enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. As you age, you can control all those things – not perfectly, but a lot more than we typically think.
2. Our natural strengths change – and we need to get from one success curve to the second. As you get to the later part of life, you shift from “fluid intelligence” to “crystallized intelligence”. It’s not all about working hard and focusing, not just about getting but giving – it’s about wisdom and passing on of knowledge.
3. Don’t add without subtracting. One thing that happy older people have in common is that they don’t just know how to add things to their lives; they also know how to subtract things from their lives – the “possessions and positions”, the attachments, the beliefs, or even the opinions.
4. Happiness is based on love. Love is the nuclear fuel of happiness, and if you don’t have a lot of love in your life, you can’t be happier as you get older. You need to cultivate your relationships, whether they’re friendships, family relationships, or marriage.
Now, having entered the second half of my life, I have realized that it is the best of time to be GRATEFUL. Because the more we are grateful, the more we will find things to be grateful for, especially in our senior life.