In my previous article, I drew attention to data suggesting that women's happiness is declining,
both relative to 40 years ago and relative to men. This data could—and probably will, in someone else's hands—lead to a book on ideas for changes in governmental and corporate policy.
For example, Norway recently introduced a law mandating all publicly traded companies have 40 percent of their board comprised of women, and that any company failing to comply by January 1, 2009, would be shut down. All complied.
"Should we do the same in the U.S.?" would, at the very least, make for an interesting debate.
In the same vein, recent research reveals that many of the programs companies use to accommodate modern families' work/life schedules, such as irregular hours, paid leave, telecommuting and flexible work options, all show a negative correlation to women's daily levels of happiness.
"Why, if you use these programs, don't you feel happier with your life, and, if not these programs, what would make you happier at work?" would fuel an equally rich discussion.
I chose not to write such a book. Find Your Strongest Life
focuses on the individual. It investigates not generalized prescriptions for policy change, but rather personal prescriptions for psychological change. It is a self-help book.
To provide the raw material for the book, we interviewed women who had bucked the "happiness decline" and who were living lives in which they looked forward to the day ahead—women who frequently got so caught up in what they were doing that they lost track of time, and felt invigorated even at the end of a long, busy day. In this respect they were exceptions to the rule, "outliers," extremes. But we should pay attention to them simply because the normal is always a subset of the extreme, while the reverse is never true. We can all learn from the extreme.
In this post, I want to tell you the story of one "extreme" interviewee. I had resolved to just tell you the story as I heard it from her—unedited—and let you, without judgment, draw your own conclusions. But I couldn't help myself. Mea culpa, here are the five conclusions I drew from Anna's re-telling of her life.