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The happiest man in the world


Written by Nick Freedman, Founder of Retire on Purpose. 

Late in 2017 I realised a dream of mine. To fly with eagles. I have always had an affinity with the power and grace of the eagle, and for many years wanted to experience life at their altitude. I achieved my dream with the help of a wonderful Frenchman called Freddy Sutra. Freddy runs a paragliding business in the picturesque town of Luchon, nestled deep in the Pyrenees mountain ranges in France. And although I only spent a brief amount of time getting to know Freddy (before placing my life in his hands), the whole experience is something I'll never forget.

Rather than try to capture the emotion of the experience through written words, you can watch the gopro movie (above) I shot after we launched off from 1800m above sea level. I didn't know before we met that Freddy is the happiest man in the world. It was only after he had shared his passion of paragliding with me, that he revealed his secret. After the flight, I spent time reflecting on the pursuit of this highly desirable and sometimes illusive feeling we call happiness. Here's what I uncovered. 


1. Living with purpose increases happiness.

Seeing how happy Freddy was acted as a great reminder that following your heart is great place to start. Whilst everyone’s pursuit of happiness takes different forms, living with purpose is a sure-fire way to amplify your happiness quotient. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote much on the subject of purpose. He proposed that when you do something which gives life meaning or purpose, the mind and body are pursuing things which naturally result in more joy.

It's simple wisdom really, but not something everyone has the chance to explore during their career. Many people work in jobs they don't enjoy for years simply to pay the bills. The concept of purpose doesn't get a look in. And if it does, the effort involved to shift careers half way through life is often too great for many people to seriously pursue their purpose.  

One of the things I love about working with people close to retirement age is that life conditions are different. As you near the end of your career, kids are older (if you have them) and mortgage debts are small or non-existent. These dynamics give you the freedom to begin exploring what you really want for yourself and your next phase of life. It's an exciting time and for those who still have some fuel left in the tank, My Game Plan helps you figure out your new purpose.


2. Sharing your talent creates joy.

Freddy loves what he does. He's been paragliding in the area for 30 years and if you're ever in Southern France and want an adventure, you should look him up. But what makes his happiness really expand, is when he shares his talents with others.

We are social beings and gain a lot from sharing what we know with others. It can change their feelings and help them grow on their own life journey. When you near the tail end of your career, it can be a beautiful thing to take sometime out from doing work, to train and mentor a successor. This process not only brings you happiness knowing you've left behind a legacy, but it acts to ensure your mature wisdom is not lost once you've moved on. Our program called My Legacy, helps you plan and map this out when you are close to retirement. 


3. Happiness is impermanent. 

We live in a world were time influences our movements, but sadly our feelings don't always align with the desired timing of our plans. I had booked the flight for my 2nd day in Luchon. I got a text from Freddy saying we could not fly that day because the cloud cover was too thick. The same text came on the 3rd day, and the 4th day. It seemed like perhaps my goal to fly with the eagles was not going to happen. When we try to control when, where or how we experience happiness, it can push the feeling of it away. Instead, if we can learn to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder with the world around us, we’ll feel more gratitude about the abundance in our lives. And this approach, rather than trying to force happiness to happen, seems to have a more natural flow to it. I was overjoyed on the 5th day because the sun returned and up the mountain we went. The experience of waiting patiently for something I’d wanted to do for years, reminded me of the Buddhist concept called impermanence. This simple profound wisdom teaches us that our feeling states are never permanent. They change frequently. We and the world around us are in a constant state of change. Day turns into night. Hot things become cold. Sadness turns into joy, and heavy cloud, will eventually turn into glorious blue skies (if we wait long enough). 


Thinking about your retirement?

If you are nearing the end of your career and have more questions than answers about your retirement, it helps to find a space of like minded people in the same boat. Signing up to one of our programs, will help you begin exploring. Through our education and community, we help you transition from the end of your career into a retirement fuelled by purpose, peace of mind and that lovely feeling of happiness which, deep down, we all crave.  


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