Nothing brings me happiness quite like stepping into sunshine. Most people can identify simple acts that bring us deep joy. We are less equipped, however, in identifying strategies that lead to long term fulfillment and even increased happiness over time. How can we diversify and invest now in lasting happiness, as an endeavor that will serve us well decades hence as we age?

In early 2021, I enrolled in an online certificate program through Cornell University focused on developing skills in Strategic Decision Making. As we later learned, 2021 ended up being a long year, and one that reinforced the notion that the only constant is change. Tethering to this professional development commitment set early in the year became a way for me to gain focus and stability amid constantly shifting news cycles. The impact was especially fulfilling for a plan-making perfectionist such as myself, and the lessons learned through this undertaking have implications well beyond the immediate term.

The benefits of lifelong learning are well researched, but in this most recent endeavor I found a shift in my motivation for staying the course and in the fulfillment I received. More than a strategy for career growth, the program also became a method to modulate the at-times-overwhelming inputs from the world around me. This commitment became a source of eudaimonic happiness, or happiness rooted in  meaning and purpose. (Hedonic happiness, on the other hand, stems from more fleeting pleasures, and is enjoyable in a different way).

This personal shift towards understanding eudaimonic happiness and its valuation in my life is supported by the research of Arthur Brooks, a social scientist, writer, and Harvard professor, whose research suggests that we not leave our happiness “up to chance,” but that it’s possible to “remarkably increase the odds by doing the work at 25 and 45 and 65 so that by the time you’re 75 and 85 and beyond, you’re happier than you’ve ever been.” Brooks encourages continuous learning as a strategic investment in our happiness when we retire.

Beyond the commitment to participate in continued education, we should also consider the content of what we study. Our “fluid intelligence” (think: learning new tricks) is strongest in our 20s and into our 30s, but starts to wane as we age. At this point, our “crystallized intelligence” can become our greatest asset. We become better mentors, teachers, and team-builders and our continued learning can focus on advancing those skills. Through my certificate program I was able to think about effective network building and evaluate my listening skills in a new way. I have challenged myself to begin applying those skills to my daily interactions.

The certificate program ended up being rich in ideas and activities to build strategies, but there was a lesson far beyond the course content that I gleaned from seeing this goal to completion. I was reminded of the importance of dedicating time to myself, in order to grow and develop beyond my very full roles professionally and personally. I was reminded that the process of learning itself is an investment in my future and continued happiness.

About Katie

Senior Associate Katie Walker-Mai serves as LS3P’s Healthcare Marketing Manager. In this integral role within the Healthcare team, she serves as a firmwide resource in strategically promoting and developing LS3P’s healthcare experience and expertise.

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture and a Master of Architecture from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and an MBA from GA Southern University, Katie blends her understanding of design with her passion for continuous improvement. She uses her critical problem-solving skills and a collaborative attitude to advance the firm and the Healthcare practice.