J.D. “Jim” Fox, Head Coach, Next Act Coaching
I’ve never thought of the Ivy League as the source of our culture’s knowledge and wisdom — especially after I spent six years doing PR at Columbia. I was charmed, though, by a recent NY Times article headlined: “Easier Taught Than Done? Yale’s Most Popular Class Tackles Happiness.”
Turns out happiness is the topic of the most popular course at Harvard, too. One student noted the irony of postponing happiness to get into Yale and Harvard, then trying to somehow acquire the emotional skill set once you’re there.
There’s more: Times reporter (and my former upstairs neighbor) John Leland has a new book out titled, “Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.” It’s a terrific read drawing from the Times series he did following Fred Jones, Ping Wong, John Sorensen, Ruth Willig, Jonas Mekas, Helen Moses & Howie Zeimer.
John’s book cites all the relevant social science research (age often confers a greater sense of well-being) in addition to his own interactions with these elders. His series subjects were, by and large, happy — even as they dealt with aging’s indignities (often without much money).
“Enough, already,” I thought. “I get it.” But, sometimes things really do come in threes…
One of my Mom’s good friends went into “assisted living with hospice care,” mercifully in her own home. A few days later, she was gone.
Mom’s response? Gratitude that they had a long talk after the hospice designation, relief her friend didn’t suffer, reflection that Rosalie would be missed (she was 89, and served as a nurse), and attention to funeral details — in Wisconsin right now, that means: “Will winter let up enough so that a 94-year-old can get to church without falling on the ice?”
Mom is my go-to example of what Yale teaches and John writes. Getting older — with grace; and getting happier — at any age — aren’t that complicated. For this coach, it starts with two questions: what do you have to be grateful for, and how can you give some back?