Monday, September 28, 2009

women & happiness: what we know for sure.

OK, so when I wrote I would post "tomorrow," I apparently meant I would post the next working day. Sue me.

*So,* continuing the "women-are-unhappier-than-they-were-forty-years-ago-and-get-sadder-as-they-get-older" thread, I promised to reveal what bestselling author and leading expert on personal strengths Marcus Buckingham knows to be true about women's happiness, or the lack thereof.

Fact #1: The unhappiness of women is a growing trend - and it's affecting us at younger and younger ages. According the the U.S. General Social Survey, women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, then become less satisfied with all aspects of their lives as they age. But today, women don't even reach adulthood before they're significantly unhappier than men.

Fact #2: Women are harder on themselves than men. We all know this anecdotally, but now there are statistics to prove it. Nationally representative polls of women and men ask the question, "Which do you think will help you be most successful in life - building on your strengths or fixing your weaknesses?" Men's answers split 50-50, while almost three of four women say they would focus on fixing their weaknesses.

Fact #3: Returning women to their 40-years-ago status as primary homemakers and caregivers won't make most women happier. Substantial research consistently reveals that women with no kids are essentially happier than women with kids. It's true - having children might give our lives meaning and purpose and trajectory, but the bottom line is, kids are stressful, and therefore not founts overflowing with happy juice.

Fact #4: Men are getting happier because of growing prosperity. Over the past four decades, the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. has risen 3.1% annually, and growth in GDP correlates to increases in national levels of happiness. But if the tide of prosperity raises everybody's spirits, then why are women's continuing to sink?

That remains the question.

Buckingham approaches it from another angle - finding the happiest women, the ones who have become more fulfilled as they age, who have somehow bucked this disheartening trend, and seeing what it is that they share. I'll post about his findings tomorrow [yes, really tomorrow].

And if you want to read Marcus Buckingham's blog, then click here to go to his page at the Huffington Post.

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