New findings from the Robert Half survey of 2000 workers show that employees aged 35 – 54 are the least happy in the Australian workplace, closely followed by employees aged 18 – 34.
Workers over the age of 55 are the happiest employees. Robert Half found that not only are the over 55’s the happiest, but they are also the most fulfilled, less stressed and find their work more interesting than ever before. (www.roberthalf.com.au/press/australian-workers-are-happier-and-less-stressed-older-they-get-survey)
When I was diagnosed with MND/ALS, I was 54 years old. According to this survey, I was about to enter the happiest, most fulfilling, less stressful and interesting time of my life.
I felt I had entered this so-called “happiest” place at age 51. I had found my groove and was really enjoying my life. I was realising and living my dreams, fulfilling my potential and operating in my God-given gift.
All of that changed upon receiving my diagnosis.
Within months, I had lost it all. Really within seconds, emotionally and physiologically, but it took months for the consequences to play out.
My dreams had been shattered into a million pieces, my stress was heading north, and I was feeling anything but happy or fulfilled.
Imagine yourself in my shoes, maybe you have been there yourself, where your whole life changes in a moment.
It’s been almost five years since my diagnosis and I’m not dead (hence another blog). Yes, I still have MND/ALS, and yes, according to the experts, I’m going to die sooner, rather than later.
But my life only took a detour and I’ve discovered it was not a dead-end.
Today I’m happy, fulfilled, less stressed and I would go so far as to say, I am “living the dream.”
This is not because I’ve received a miracle or have been cured from my disease. Both of which I stay very much in hope for, not just for me, but also for others.
Nor am I suggesting that removal of your pain or my disease is the only answer to rediscovering what it means to be happy, fulfilled and less stressed.
Here is what I have learned on the detour that may help you if you’re struggling to find the road back to happiness and fulfilment.
1. FACE IT
I’ve had to realise that this is my life. I have this one life and it’s mine.
You can too easily go through life wishing for another life, you can fantasise that you’re someone else, and you can pretend all you want, but this only stops you from being you, being present and being alive.
You and I don’t get to do this life again, not ever! Not this year, not this month, not this day, not this hour. You live it and it’s lived, behind you.
You are the owner and as owner you have freewill to decide what responses and attitudes you will have in this journey that is yours.
You’re the “ONE” in “everyONE who believes in Me will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
You’re the “WHO” in “WHOever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25)
You’re the “I” in “the life I now live…I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20)
So own it. Face it.
A man came up to me just the other day and said “you are a realist”. I guess I am, to a degree. I face up to the reality as a first step to bringing change for the better. With my terminal diagnosis, I had to face the reality before I could move beyond my fear.
The usual human habit of allowing thoughts of death to remain in the background was now impossible for me.
These days, I use a wheelchair more often than not. I use it because I have faced the reality that my legs are not as strong as they used to be. My wheelchair is not a symbol of disability but a means to accessibility.
You have to face your giant if you are to overcome your giant.
There’s a story in the Bible about a young boy, David, defeating a so-called unbeatable giant, Goliath.
If David pretended there was no giant, he would never have picked up five stones.
He would never have experienced victory.
You have to face the reality that one day, you will die, it is at that moment you are empowered to live.
In a very real way, death is the secret to life.
Nothing will make you live more fully today than the realisation that tomorrow is never a guarantee.
So face it. And then:
2. CREATE IT
I have within my own breath the power to create what frames my world and how I live it. And so do you!
I don’t mean this in a magical or even mystical way. I mean that the way you frame the words you use has a very real effect on the way you will think and the way you feel. As you think, so you will be.
The words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart and soul create peace, or they don’t.
When you have lost your happiness, dreams and sense of fulfilment, you have to create them again. How do you do this? By the words you speak and the meditations of your soul.
If I kept talking about how good the past was and what my dreams were, I would never speak new dreams into existence.
Only by letting go of past dreams are you able to dream again.
In this way, letting go is the secret to holding on.
I am learning that my thoughts and words must align for them to frame the world I want to live in. Some of my dreams are short-term, others are longer-term. Like seeing my grandson start school or seeing my granddaughter get married. You have to dream.
So face it, create it, and then:
3. LIVE IT
What are you breathing for?
I have an Apple watch and there is an alert that periodically reminds me to breathe. It also tells me when to stand (this always gets me smiling).
Anyway, when I am reminded to stop and breathe deeply, I imagine every slow, deep, prolonged, breath I take is filled with the life-giving breath of God.
This not only creates a sense of peace, but also works at reducing stress, which in turn reduces the effect and speed of disease in my body (or “dis-ease” as I like to call it).
Breathing is important. But oxygen isn’t my only source of life.
As a Christian, for me, it is being connected to God through prayer, the Bible and His church. It’s allowing the life, love and light of His presence to inspire faith, hope and love.
Other ways are by being thankful, turning opposition into opportunity, by not getting offended, and by living with an eternal perspective, all of which I’ve touched on before.
I encourage you today, no matter the dead-end looming ahead of you: face up to the reality of it, create a new future, and live it out savouring each breath.
My prayer for you today is that you too could say without a word of a lie, that in every season, you are “living the dream” on your own detour to happiness.