A 401K for Happiness
Recently a mentor introduced me to the work of happiness researcher Arthur C Brooks. Formerly the CEO of a major DC think tank, his research on happiness led him to change careers to become a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He teaches a class on “Leadership and Happiness” and writes for the Atlantic on “How to Build a Life.” He notes that since he trained as an economist, he could help people with their financial 401K’s, now as a happiness researcher he tries to share a 401K strategy for happiness.
It’s an important topic because Gallup research indicates that when people who were successful in their careers reach age 70, they either become even happier than were previously or become much less happier. So, how does one become a very happy person at 70? What investments should one make?
The first thing Brooks suggests is that successful achievers move from focusing on “fluid knowledge” to focusing on “crystalline knowledge.” Basically this means moving from trying to maintain your skills so as to stay on top to switching your focus to sharing your acquired wisdom and experience with others- hence his move from CEO to professor/educator.
Secondly, he suggests investing in real friendships. He recalls getting off of the phone once with a business contact. His 11 year old son asked him, “Was that a real friend or a deal friend”? Deal friends are relationships we have where we hope to gain something from the relationship. We need to develop friends who are not useful to our career but who we enjoy spending time with.
Thirdly, he suggests committing ourselves to a path, philosophy or spirituality. Brooks finds his path in Christianity.
Lastly, he recommends involving ourselves in serving others as a key part of our happiness investments.
Taken on the whole, I see that the church is the perfect place to develop our happiness 401K as it provides opportunities in all four areas of investment- sharing wisdom, developing relationships, following a path of faith and serving others. Thanks, MUMC, for allowing me to invest in happiness and for contributing so much to my happiness!