Helping leaders emerge


Your Aging Brain and A Happy, Successful Life

In this month’s e-newsletter, I share Arthur Brooks‘ happiness strategies. Brooks is a Harvard professor, PhD social scientist, best-selling author, and columnist at The Atlantic.

Brooks explains that our brains and mental capacities change or erode with age, shifting from one set of skills and abilities to another. He goes on to say that there is good news: even with the change in skills and abilities, you can make the second half of your life even better than the first!

Brooks also explains that while 50% of happiness is genetic, 25% is due to circumstances that constantly change, so there is always room for improvement. With knowledge, practice, and fixing barriers to happiness (for example, mental health and poverty), we can become happier. He emphasizes that happiness is a process and takes time. This reminds me of the phrase, “incremental success is better than ambitious failure,” so take your time and focus on progressing upward.


Themes that resonated from Brooks’ book and talks

  • The difference between fluid and crystallized intelligence and why it’s easier to be an innovator or poet in the first half of your life and a CEO or teacher in your second.
      • Fluid intelligence refers to your raw smarts and ability to solve problems, to be innovative, to improve what you do, and to think through things quickly. Fluid intelligence is strongest when you’re young and peaks at about fifty years of age.
      • Crystallized intelligence refers to your ability to teach, explain things, tell stories, see connections among ideas, and understand how things fit together. Crystallized intelligence develops in your forties and stays strong into your fifties, sixties, seventies, and even eighties.
  • What a success addict is and how to avoid the hedonistic treadmill trap by focusing on Your Why versus Your What. To find Your Why, Brooks recommends spending 15 minutes a day for three months reflecting on the nature of your own desire. Click here for another great resource Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
  • The happiness portfolio and the four most important habits of the happiest people. Brooks talks about focusing on having 1). Faith (an interest in something bigger than yourself), 2). Solid Family Relationships, 3). Supportive Network of Friends, 4). and Work Which Serves Others.
  • Why it’s better to listen to common sense and wisdom traditions versus messaging from advertising and social media. Our culture mistakenly tells us that in order to be happy we need to do three things: 1) Love Things, 2). Use People, and 3). Worship Yourself. If you want to be happy, Brook recommends keeping the general formula but switching the focus: 1). Use Things, 2). Love People, and 3). Worship the Divine (however you interpret this).
  • A three-step algorithm to become happier in life: 1). Understand what’s going on (enhance knowledge), 2) Practice it in life (wise action), and 3). Share it with others.


Monthly Favorites

  • Click here to purchase Arthur Brooks’ book From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.
  • Click here to listen to The Good News About Your Inevitable Decline on the Ten Percent Happier podcast with Arthur Brooks and Dan Harris (75 minutes).
  • Click here to listen to Dr. Ron Siegel talk The Science of Mindfulness at Talks at Google. One of the best overviews of what mindfulness is, what it’s not, and how to work with everyday problems, anxiety, and depression (65 minutes).
  • Click here to listen to the podcast Vulnerability and Redemption with Adrian Grenier on the podcast A Bit of Optimism with Simon Sinek. Grenier, the former star of Entourage who had fame, money and everything else, shares his story of how his girlfriend dumped him which led to a journey of reflection, growth, and farming (24 minutes).
  • Click here to listen to the podcast Equanimity: The Gifts of Non-Reactive Mindful Presence by Tara Brach. In her talk, Brach reminds us to pause and find an inner refuge when feeling angry and fearful; a resource many clients are relying on during these difficult times (42 minutes).