What Are The Mile-markers On The Road To Happiness?

Having a map when you’re headed out on a trip or journey is usually the best way to ensure you’ll get where you want to go…..Ok, GPS is better but that’s just a high-tech map.  What if you’re on a journey for which a definitive map or GPS coordinates don’t exist?  That used to be pretty common not too long ago. For roads less travelled or even those frequently trafficked back in the day, “mile-markers” were what people followed to know their location and what to expect. What’s a mile marker!?

A mile-stone, now known as a mile-marker was originally constructed to provide reference points along a road and were used extensively for road travel back in the day. If you look closely, you can still see some of these today as they are relatively recent by historical standards. Every time I drive through Landa Park in New Braunfels, TX  I pass by the old historic Fredricksburg mile-marker, which is still standing.

Mile-markers are still useful for some journeys. They’re used exclusively along the Appalachian trail in order to get you where you want to go….even all the way to the top!  When you hit a certain mile-marker, you know the direction your headed and have a pretty good idea of what the surroundings are like. The journey to Happiness is similar: it’s an unconventional path with a lot of side-trails, easy to get lost, and there are a lot of healthy and unhealthy entrances and exits along the way. For those and many other reasons, having some mile markers is useful on that journey as well. And it’s a journey in life that everyone is on, even the those who decide to throw in the towel at some point.

Because the journey is different for everyone, a one-size-fits-all-map won’t do, even if such a thing existed. However, knowing what a few of the mile markers are can give you some idea if your heading in the right direction, what the happiness “environment” is like, and what you can likely expect.

List below are findings from various studies that can serve as happiness mile markers.  Recognizing these can help you know what to be aware of and the probability of what you may experience:

  • The trajectory of happiness is a U-shaped curve.
  • Women & men go from happiness highs in their 20’s
  • Unhappiness increases as one loses faith in the ability to achieve life goals (without an ability to adjust)
  • Happiness hits depressing lows in one’s 40’s and then rises again, for both men and women
  • Women hit a happiness low at 44 and men a few years later
  • Men are now happier than women later in life
  • Men and women both begin to feel happier as they get older

As you can see, there are some fairly predictable life mile-markers that appear for nearly all of us in our journey.  Being aware of these, recognizing them and preparing for them is a great way to maximize the control you exercise over your own happiness.

I wish I would have known about these when I entered my early to mid 40’s.  I don’t think being aware would have prevented the small bit of funk I experienced back then, but I do think it would have lessened my unpleasant surprise, consternation and helped me to be deal with it better. And no, I intentionally didn’t refer to this set of markers as pointing to the proverbial mid-life crisis….in fact, being aware of them may help you avoid or minimize the effects of one.

The good news is that now you are aware. If you’re young enough, you know what mile-markers are coming up and can prepare. If you older, hopefully you can look back and reminisce with satisfaction…..and if not perhaps at least enjoy an “aha” moment and share with someone who needs to hear.  Regardless, its reassuring to know that both men and women begin to feel happier as they get older.

What are some happiness mile-markers you’ve experienced? What are some you think may be missing from the list?

I’d love to know your answers to the questions above so please, leave a comment and share the wealth.