A recent article from The Economist, The U-bend of Life, reported that people worldwide experience increased happiness beyond middle age – 46 is the global average age turning point. Studies which controlled for wealth, children, and employment status found that it was internal, not external factors that contributed to the change.
“People, studies show, behave differently at different ages. Older people have fewer rows and come up with better solutions to conflict. They are better at controlling their emotions, better at accepting misfortune and less prone to anger. In one study, for instance, subjects were asked to listen to recordings of people supposedly saying disparaging things about them. Older and younger people were similarly saddened, but older people less angry and less inclined to pass judgment, taking the view, as one put it, that ‘you can’t please all the people all the time.’” The article also reported that, “happier people are more productive.”
I’ve observed older people commenting that younger people have more energy and more zest; that it’s good to refresh an organization by bringing in “new blood.” And to that, I agree. New people can mean new ideas, to approach existing problems that were accepted as status quo. Though in doing so, we should be sure not to dismiss what we can learn from those beyond the turning point. Navigating office politics is best done with a light touch. An ability to let go of meaningless quips and accept the things we cannot control does not imply apathy, but a maturity that will make us happier and more productive.