Note: Are you happy in
your life? Most people
must find some happiness in their work and in their lifestyle or
they will suffer the consequences.
Happiness isn’t just an option.
It’s mandatory for quality of life.
Nathanson’s personal example points out the necessity of finding
happiness and he gives some great insight on how to go about making
Happiness and Work: Your Life
Depends On It
Early one morning, Robert awoke,
made his wife of 41 years some banana bread, took out the garbage
and called to cancel a doctors appointment scheduled for the next
day. He wrote a note to remind his wife to pick up the dry cleaning.
All things considered, it seemed like a normal day.
Robert had “retired” four years
earlier after nearly 40 years doing what he loved in the banking
industry. After retirement, his life took a challenging turn.
While he remained friendly and
encouraging to others on the outside, on the inside he was suffering
a deepening depression. After retirement, Robert couldn’t find
anything to replace the meaning and fulfillment that work provided
him. And this void was slowly killing him.
So on that “normal” morning,
Robert cleaned up the kitchen after finishing baking his wife the
banana bread. Then he drove himself to the parking lot of the bank
where he had worked all those years. After carefully parking and
locking his car, he walked into a local store and handed a note to
the clerk behind the counter. Then he walked outside and shot
himself in the head. He ended his life with one bullet at 1pm on a
blazing sunny day.
Robert was my dad.
Your happiness is your
A few years back, when I decided to
leave corporate America after 25 years, I thought I had learned
enough about mid-life and work.
After all, I was in the middle of
my PhD research on what happens to mid-life adults when they leave
the security of the nest to follow their hearts and their life’s
calling. I had coined a new term, ‘’Vocational Passion,’’ to
describe this alignment of passions, abilities and interests. I had
started a new on-line community at www.thevocationalcoach.com,
and I wrote a book, ‘’P Is For Perfect: Your Perfect Vocational
Day’’ in an attempt to boil down this research in a practical 10
Yes, I had thought, with my
corporate background, various degrees, new clients, new office,
workshops, public speaking gigs and a burning desire to make a
difference in the world, I had learned enough. I was wrong. The
biggest challenges were still ahead.
So as I struggle to make sense of
his death, I also am finding new strength in my own work, helping
others to find meaning and fulfillment in their vocational lives.
This is especially so in mid-life, which can be the most threatening
period of all.
When my dad lost his purpose for
living, he also lost the will to live.
Fortunately, most people don’t
take this action to end their own life but many people shoot
themselves in the head emotionally, continuing to work at jobs which
no longer provide meaning or passion or fulfillment.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
With this article, I am hopeful, maybe one life can be saved as a
result of acknowledging that depression may be a symptom of not
living a life filled with purpose, meaning and fulfillment. As a
result, a call to action is a must.
As the psychologist Carl Jung said,
mid-life is a time to listen deeply to your heart. Whether we plan
for this or not, midlife can be a period of transition and
reappraisal. More inner questioning can occur. Career plateaus can
be reached during this period, which drives a need for internal
insight and reflection.
Those who don’t invest in time
for self-reflection in mid-life may experience increased stress and
other distress signals. The sense of crisis may vary from one person
to the next. For those who do experience stress, making changes in
mid-life is never easy or without challenges.
Can you make the difficult
Making work-related change in
mid-life to pursue a dream or passion generates a lot of issues. I
have observed in working with my own clients that these issues
generally fall into three categories: emotional, relationship and
Am I good enough? Can I can give
myself permission to follow my heart?
What will my loved one’s say? If
they don’t agree, do I dare test a relationship or rock the boat
at this point in my life?
Despite all the “sound”
financial advice to save for retirement, do I instead invest in
myself now, thus perhaps turning my financial world upside down?
Are my loved one’s willing to
make this sacrifice? What if they are not?
These questions will all come up.
One will feel selfish and may well be accused of being
self-indulgent of self-absorbed. Well, mid-life is a time to be
selfish. This isn’t about change for its own sake, but to position
oneself for the second half of life, to be authentic and to shred
external views and norms.
During this time, it doesn’t help
that society’s view is the general belief that work continues to
be something not necessarily to be enjoyed. As a result, most career
theory and research has supported this notion by largely ignoring
the enjoyment factor. Even counseling psychology has largely
followed the same path. The focus has been on matching skills and
available types of work. While this can be helpful for younger
adults, in mid-life internal needs, desires and passions beg for
While society expects those in
mid-life to simply roll over and prepare to die or retire (I am not
sure which is worse) many in mid-life actually begin to wonder how
they can start living. For many, it is a re-birth with new wisdom
and self-permission to follow your heart.
Economic conditions can force
people to ignore their inner needs and take jobs they don’t like
to pay the bills. This only helps to further ignore your inner
needs. Jung believed that ego was important for development in the
first half of life but in the second half, ego should step aside for
Achieving vocational passion
requires looking inward to understand what brings you the most
enjoyment in your work. As a result, you can begin to understand the
relationship between achieving greater meaning and the way you
choose to conduct your life.
It takes action to follow your
vocational passion. I am not convinced that money can buy happiness
at mid-life, but I am convinced that happiness can increase the
richness in your life. We each get to define what that means.
It all starts with a simple
re-examination of what you have done, are doing and might do
vocationally in the second half of life. In mid-life and later,
it’s critical not to ignore your heart. In mid-life, it may be the
most consistent thing in your life when everything else seems in
Sadly, Robert wasn’t able to do
My wonderful grandmother who lived
well into her mid-90’s used to always say to me, “Bagel
(that’s what she called me) just do what makes you happy.”
think now, I finally understand what she meant.
About The Author
Nathanson, The Vocational Coach, is the author of “P Is For
Perfect: Your Perfect Vocational Day,” by Book Coach Press. He
publishes the free monthly e-zine, “Vocational Passion in
Mid-life.” Craig believes the world works a little better when we
do the work we love. He helps those in mid-life carry this out.
Visit his online community at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com