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Happiness Insights from 2000 Seniors!

happyI really love writing for FLYODI.  Since FLYODI often focuses on happiness and how to achieve it, I constantly get to read, think, talk and write about happiness. And of course, thinking and talking about something, like happiness, tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I discussed in my recent post entitled, The Mechanism of a Dream Life

Over the course of the next several paragraphs.I’d like to share an amazing story with you.  It’s a story about two thousand remarkable senior citizens, and it’s about happiness.

In one of my most enjoyable past business ventures, I had the good fortune of working with pillara very large number of senior citizens.  In fact, I taught well over two thousand of them how to use computers and the Internet, in conjunction with an innovative life-long learning program called the PILLAR Institute.  I taught them hundreds of classes, with titles ranging from Computer Basics, to Advanced Word Processing, to Database Design. One of the things that always struck me about my students — all of them retired – is that an astounding percentage of them seemed to live very happy, rewarding lives.

Recently, I began trying to isolate the probable causes of their happiness. How is it that these people — ranging in age from their their sixties to their nineties — were so much happier than most of the people I encounter on a day-to-day basis? What led to their contentment?  I believe the answers to these questions are nothing short of life-altering revelations!

My good friend Earlene, who at 80 years of age, took my computer classes in order to add an online component to her very successful business.

My good friend Earlene, who at 80 years of age, took my computer classes in order to add an online component to her very successful business.

It soon occurred to me that there was something very different about these people — there was a marked distinction between them and most others.  Despite being retired, these intrepid individuals were still aggressively seeking out learning opportunities. They had each found, and registered for, one or more extensive computer classes.  They did so, despite being a bit nervous about computers, and despite the fact that many of them had never used a computer before in their lives. The vast majority of them sought the training, not to get a job or a promotion, but rather simply for the joy of learning.  Well okay, I admit it; some of them did it so they could bombard others with photos of their grandchildren via email!  🙂

Whatever their motivation, the fact that they were actively seeking learning opportunities at 70, 80 or 90 years of age represents a HUGE insight into their mindset and their happiness.  How many of us will be actively challenging our minds and seeking new experiences in late retirement?

Spending time with my good friend Reo (now 94) who served as a pilot for General Eisenhower and General Patton.  Reo exemplifies the FLYODI approach to life!

Spending time with my good friend Reo (now 94) who served as a pilot for General Eisenhower and General Patton. Reo exemplifies the FLYODI approach to life!

I had the extremely good fortune to become friends with many of these senior students from my classes.  I became very close friends with twelve of them who, coincidently, were among the happiest of the entire group of 2000 students.  As I thought about these friends, something else suddenly became clear to me — they ALL lived the FLYODI philosophy. They didn’t, of course, refer to it as such, but they lived passionate, positive lives, they were very open to learning and new experiences, they focused on the grandeur of life, they managed their lives well, and they helped others.

The details of their lives vary.  Some had children, some didn’t, some were religious, some not, and so forth.  Without exception, however, my twelve friends all did (and still do) the following five things:

1) They lived life passionately:  It’s amazing to hear tales of the lives they led and continue to lead. They traveled extensively, they made music, they ran innovative businesses, they skied, they flew, they hiked and …. well, the list just goes on and on.  In short, pursuing life in all its astounding variety became second nature for them!

2) They pursued work they believed in and loved:   The groups includes pilots, teachers, economists, musicians, forest rangers, designers, and medical professionals — just to name a few of their callings.  The almost universally common theme is that they pursued work that spoke to their hearts.

3) They served something larger than themselves:  Many of them served their country as soldiers, sailors, airmen, or in other government service. Others were active in their church, while still others served for many years as key members of civic organizations, such as SERTOMA or PEO.  Those with children, viewed making their childrens’ lives better than their own as a primary goal.  They often made great sacrifices to make sure that became a reality.

4) They remained open to learning:  As I’ve mentioned, I met each of these people because they were aggressively pursuing life-long learning in their retirement.  This alone speaks volumes about them.  Beyond this, they earned graduate degrees, learned to run Internet businesses, mastered foreign languages, and a thousand other things.  In my view, this not only makes them interesting people, it’s a key factor in their success, their happiness and their continuing sense of wonder.

5) They made sound financial moves, which allowed them to enjoy some of life’s great opportunities:  This may seem like a strange characteristic to include on this list. Nevertheless, I found it to be a common trait.  And frankly; it’s important.  While I wouldn’t characterize any of my friends as wealthy, saving, careful spending, and an eye on the future allowed them not only to provide for themselves and their families (without relying on others) it also gave them the chance to periodically pursue life-enhancing experiences, such as travel, or world class entertainment.

I don’t think I have to point out that there are invaluable lessons to be learned from these amazing people.  Frankly, this is all very strong evidence in support of the FLYODI way of life.  It’s gratifying to me to discover this — even exhilarating.  It gives me confidence that the things we advocate here at FLYODI — lifelong learning, self growth, a passion for life, and compassion — are indeed the true path to happiness and, ultimately, to a fulfilled life.

Since all of those passionate students from my computer classes are living long and healthy lives (some of them VERY long) it leads me to another very valuable insight; perhaps lifelong learning and a passion for life are key factors in longevity.  But that’s a topic of a whole other blog post.

We’ll, talk more about this amazing group of people, and about the FLYODI approach to life in subsequent posts  So please stop back by FLYODI.

Finally, all seriousness aside, if there are retirees in your life, no matter how inspired their lives, please see to it that they aren’t out doing things like this:  🙂

As always, we’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts about this blog post.

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