Finding happiness and purpose in life’s second half

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Oddly enough, after writing my last post (https://rachaelhanel.me/2022/06/08/i-need-some-ideas/) , I read this great article by Arthur C. Brooks on happiness and satisfaction in The Atlantic. I consider myself very happy, something I’ve been working on in earnest since about 2017. I started yoga teacher training that year which was really transformative in how I viewed life. What truly was important to me? Family, true friends, my spiritual life.

But I am human, so I find myself chasing other things. For example, I will take on side jobs because I like the extra money. I fall into the trap of, if I buy this or that, that will bring me happiness.

Brooks’ article was a good reminder of what truly is important and what will bring satisfaction. I’ve been falling into the trap of thinking another book will be my ticket to satisfaction and I put pressure on myself to produce. That is a through line of my life: to be productive at all times. This summer so far I have not been productive, at least in how I define it. It’s an uncomfortable place to be. So it’s time to change the definition.

As soon as I finished the article I bought Brooks’ book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life. Basically he says that most everyone finds early success in their career paths (of course there are some exceptions). He takes a look at a few fields, including creative fields like writing. Studies show that the “half life” of writers is 20 years. That means they will peak 20 years following the start of their careers, and then start a decline in the 20 years following. Let’s say a writer starts a career in earnest at 25. They will hit their peak at 45 and then start a decline.

I did start my writing career in earnest around age 25. So I’m past my peak! Though in those first 20 years I’ve had only two book ideas. Realistically how many more books do I have in me?

Brooks would have me ask myself why I even want to write another book. What am I chasing? Accolades? Compliments? Being seen as a competent member of the creative writing faculty at MNSU? Being known as a “real” writer? Those are extrinsic and will not bring long-lasting happiness and satisfaction.

According to Brooks, I should do some reassessment and figure out where I want my trajectory to go. I’m only on Chapter 2, so I look forward to learning more! I will report back.