The Happiness Curve and the Transition to Green Jobs

The Happiness Curve

So far over in the Suggested Reading section there have been two key book recommendations. The first recommendation is about motivation: The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer by Steven Kotler. The second recommendation is about career change: Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success by Dawn Graham.

This third recommendation focuses on the Ecotopian Careers theme of midlife transition, and it explores the malaise that can often accompany it. If you have experienced no midlife malaise, that’s great and you can skip right over this recommendation, but the rest of you might benefit from exploring this subject in greater detail.

The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 by Jonathan Rauch explores an insightful cross-cultural observation about the ebb and flow of happiness in our lives. Look at the U-shaped graph on the book cover above. The vertical axis represents happiness and the horizontal axis represents age.

Let’s start the horizontal axis around the age of 20. We can see that the happiness level is high (if you’re reading this around the age of 20 and are hoping things are going to get better, you’re about to read some bad news). We can see that happiness drops off with age, and hits the bottom of the U-shape around the age of 46. This is when people are typically saddled with multiple family and financial responsibilities, and are disillusioned with their careers. Numerous Ecotopian Careers readers will find this resonates strongly with their experience. This is a very sticky time for many people.

But, look again at the graph! This period of midlife malaise is typically finite: indeed, the level of happiness slowly begins to rise again until the mid-sixties where, assuming good health, people are often as happy as they’ve ever been, maybe more so. This is fabulous news if you’re currently experiencing midlife malaise, as it suggests there is a strong statistical likelihood that you’re in for an unexpected good surprise (and apparently, this upward trajectory to Happiness 2.0 really does take a lot of people by surprise).

This is particularly important from the perspective of a transition to a green job. Not only is this transition necessary in order to help course-correct the environmental crisis, it will also coincide with a whole new chapter of your life that is often characterized by a greater sense of wellbeing. By combining the values-driven decision to help the environment with Happiness 2.0, there is a decent chance that this new chapter will be the best chapter of your life. If that’s not something to look forward to, what is?

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