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What Really Makes Men Happy

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When it comes to men and happiness, many factors contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing. But there is one common thread that all men who report a high level of life satisfaction. And this common denominator isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we talk men and happiness (I’m looking at you, ladies!).

Research on the issue has elucidated where men get their zest for living, and when it really kicks in. It surrounds the workplace and high levels of job satisfaction. And, like many fine wines, we men take time to reach our peaks. Those of us who have celebrated our 50th birthday – whether a year or twenty years ago – are much happier than our younger counterparts.

Says who? Says current research courtesy of a partnership between Harry’s Ltd and Dr. John Barry, Honorary Lecturer at University College London. Barry is also the co-founder of the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. So, some would say he’s a bit of an expert on the topic of what makes men tick.

The study was titled “The Harry’s Masculinity Report 2018.” This project now stands as the most comprehensive academic study of American masculinity to date.

A survey of 5,000 male respondents aged 18 to 95 across the US asked these men to gauge their happiness. They were specifically asked, too, about their confidence, sense of being in control, emotional stability, motivation, and optimism. And, the subjects were asked how satisfied they were with key areas of their lives, such as their careers, relationships, money and physicality.

What Barry and his colleagues found was indisputable evidence that men derive the most joy from life in their professional endeavors. In short, the happiest men are those who derive pleasure from their work.

This point is spot on across all aspects of wellbeing, such as emotional, physical and mental satisfaction. And, it doesn’t all come down to dollars and cents. Instead, men who have high levels of job satisfaction have the highest reported levels of happiness.

Barry described a “dignity of labor” that American men share. This sense is particularly rewarding when men have an impact on a company’s success. Men with gainful employment who feel they are creating a positive impact in their professional lives were the most positive of the pack. Men enjoy being part of “the bigger picture” in their profession, adding value to the workplace and earning a good wage.

And they are not the lone wolves. Men who have a “work buddy” are far happier than those who operate alone. Socializing with their colleagues ranked high on the list of what makes for high job satisfaction, too.

What’s especially interesting about this point is that it’s in complete alignment with what Dan Buettner, author, and researcher of “Blue Zones,” has also observed. I’m a tremendous fan of Dan and his work, so this point particularly resonated with me. According to Dan, the most significant determinant of whether you like your job or not is if you have a work “best friend.” He backs up this assertion with a survey of two million people by Gallup.

Moving on to age, men don’t want to be “put out to pasture.” Instead, their vibrancy for life revs up as they round the corner to age 50. The research found that there is a direct correlation between age and wellbeing and that men in their 50s had reached “peak positivity.”

Now you all know that I’m a huge proponent of early retirements if that’s your dream. So, while this study touts the importance of work in happiness for men, it also points to something I’ve long talked about – core pursuits. What’s vital is that you have core pursuits – or hobbies that you have a real passion for – and that you engage in them regularly.

Core pursuits are essential during all stages of life. But this point is especially true during retirement because core pursuits can provide the same sense of satisfaction that your career provided while you were still working.

Once we’re retired (or semi-retired, even), we want to replace that sense of being a part of something bigger with another activity, position or cause that we feel strongly about. Whether consulting, volunteering or teaching classes at a local college, if we are engaged in the greater world, we’ll be all the happier for it.

It’s not about building the perfect body (although healthy habits did make the list of happiness-inducing traits). It’s about building the ideal lifestyle for you. Whether you choose to retire at 45, 65 or 75 (or not at all), making sure that you have the “right fit” of core pursuits for your life is crucial to long-term satisfaction and joy.

Keeping up with these “passion pieces” and remaining plugged into your community are surefire ways for men to stay happy. You may keep up with your work buddies, and you’ll surely make new friends along the way while engaging in your core pursuits. And when you do, sit down with these folks and relax over a glass of well-aged wine. After all, you’ve worked for it.

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