Have you ever asked a client what they would like to do after they retire, and had them say something like, “I don’t know, but I won’t be working at this darn place. I can’t wait to get out of here”?
Surveys show that over half of Americans don’t like their jobs and want to leave. It’s very common for people to work 30 or 40 years at a job they don’t like with the sole goal of retiring. Then, when they retire, they don’t have any idea of what they want to do.
Without a clear vision of what they do want, they can only move away from what they don’t want. This can have serious consequences, because the lack of a new purpose for living may even shorten their lifespan.
Emotions urge us to action, and we only have two types of emotions. Negative emotions repel us from threats, while positive emotions attract us to new opportunities.
Our natural behavior urges us to avoid threats and pain. The problem is that this natural behavior turns people into old fogies. If you touch a stove and get burned, you probably won’t touch that stove again. If you fall in love with somebody and they leave you, you’ll be reluctant to get romantically involved again. The older you are, the more experiences you’ve had. But if you allow your life to be directed only by your negative experiences, you’ll become fearful and withdraw from life. By following your natural tendencies, you’ll become an old fogy.
I have a little dog named Kiwi who loves to go for walks. She only weighs about 12 pounds, and when we explore different streets, sometimes larger dogs scare her. When this happens, she won’t go down that street anymore, and as she gets older, there are more and more streets that she won’t go down. Now she seems to be walking less and eating more. Do you have any clients who are be-coming old fogies like Kiwi?
If you or your clients make decisions based on what you don’t want, then your past becomes a database of painful memories. It reminds you of all the things that you want to avoid. Your present existence becomes focused on trying to avoid things that cause pain, and your future is clouded by worries about the possibility of those things happening to you again. This natural behavior creates anger about the past, negative emotions in the present, and pessimism for the future. It is guaranteed to turn you into an old fogy.
But if you have a clear vision of a positive future, then that positive future becomes your “emotional lighthouse.” Every time you think about that positive future, you are inspired by it and drawn toward it. With this scenario, your actions in the present are guided by your future vision. Your past becomes full of wisdom and insights. Your past is now full of those things that will help you to achieve your vision for the future.
The key is that this way of thinking is not natural. Rather, it must be learned. It may require a coach and a formal process to help people create a positive vision of the future. But if you do this, it will turn you into a “wise happy” instead of an old fogy. This way of relating to life creates positive emotions, which have been shown to enhance the immune system and increase health, optimism, and longevity.
So, how do you help your clients determine what will make them happier, now and in the future? Well, since 1998, scientists all around the world have been studying positive emotions. Based on my research into the science of positive emotions and my decade of coaching financial advisors, I have identified six “happiness factors.” If you help your clients identify each of these happiness factors for themselves, and then encourage them to live in alignment with their happiness factors, you will turn them into “wise happies” instead of letting them become old fogies.
Your Inner Happiness Factors
The first happiness factor encompasses your strengths. Each one of us has unique strengths, which come from our genetic makeup. We also have learned skills. When we understand what our unique strengths are and use them in our daily activities, we experience a deep engagement with those activities, whether they involve work or play. When we perform activities that utilize our unique strengths, we are intrinsically rewarded. That means we would continue to perform these activities even if we weren’t getting paid to do so.
The scientific term for this is deep engagement is “flow.” One of the founders of the Positive Psychology Network is Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. He has spent 30 years researching this deep and highly rewarding positive emotion that athletes call “the zone.”
The second happiness factor comprises your passions. Everyone has specific areas that we are deeply passionate about, that make us feel excited. When you are clear about what you are passionate about and are able to do those things on a daily basis, you experience a deep sense of pleasure and enthusiasm. Understanding what creates passion in your life and arranging your life to get more of it creates positive emotions.