“There is no happiness if the things you believe are different than the things you do.” — James Arthur Ray
Can a career or job make you happy? Nope. Even the perfect “right fit” career can never make you happy. Happiness can only come from inside of you. On the flip side, even if you are happy as a clam with who you are, the wrong job can make you miserable and drag you down unless you do something about it. That’s why it is critical to understand where you are on the happiness scale before you start jumping jobs or embarking on new career paths.
I wrote quite a bit about the topic “Can a Job Make You Happy?” on my Coaching4Lesbians blog. Bottom line is chasing happiness through the pursuit of a job (or anything external for that matter) is akin to a dog chasing its tail. A lot of action and energy spent but no progress made. Why is that?
As I see it, happiness is a state of being; a being-ness about who you are at the core: how you feel about yourself and your life; how you show up in the world. It is right up there with a connection to a higher power and spiritual life. You can’t put your finger on it, but you feel it and it can make all the difference when it comes to living a meaningful and fulfilling life. On the other hand, a job is all about doing; a doing-ness where it is all about what you do, who you do it with, and the environment you do it in, etc. It is about the roles and responsibilities you assume when you take on a particular job. Since it isn’t connected directly to who you are (who are be-ing) it can neither make you happy nor unhappy.
This is the good and bad news. The good news is that there is no perfect job out there and finding it isn’t going to suddenly be the answer to all your prayers and make you happy. That should bring you some relief and take the job hunt pressure off. Yet, if your chosen path to earn a living is eating away at you daily and making you miserable, being told a different job isn’t the answer to happiness may push you over the edge ready to leap from a tall building. Don’t do it! Here’s why…
While the happiness you feel or don’t feel can only come from inside you, there is an element of happiness to be found on the job. As I see it, happiness in employment or business ownership comes more from WHO you get to BE while you are engaged in your professional life than from the activities themselves. This “who you get to be” thing encompasses all sorts of workplace intangibles, for example:
- Ability to be out of the closet in your professional life
- A physical environment that nurtures you (for most, cubicles cause brain damage)
- Colleagues and customers that respect you as a person
- Reasonable and flexible expectations so your life can be as important as your job
- Ample time off for you to disconnect and enjoy your life
- Freedom from hierarchy, red tape, and dis-empowering situations
- Flexibility to create a working arrangement that allows your strengths to shine
- An attitude of play, creativity, and experimentation devoid of man made crisis and attitudes of constant emergencies
- Being treated as a capable and whole adult human being knowing you are trusted and not micromanaged like a robot
Having been in both situations that worked and didn’t work for me, I can honestly say that even if you don’t love the task that you’re doing, if you get to bring your whole self and unique personality to the job and do it in a style that meets your work preferences, you will be far happier than if you get to do some interesting task in a hell hole worse than the Dilbert cartoon.
How can you cultivate more happiness in your life right now regardless of your job? Consider the following as a to-do list for feeling good:
- Engage in regular acts of gratitude
- Take time to be quiet and listen to what your heart has to say
- Stop and smell the roses (clichÃ© but VERY true)
- Cultivate and cherish rich relationships with other people and a larger community
- Connect with a power and purpose greater than yourself. (Any organized or unorganized spiritual practice that fits your philosophy and beliefs will do)
- Learn how to be comfortable in your own skin
- Be present and enjoy what is in front of you right now
- Play more
- Don’t live on a “deferred life” plan counting on doing what you really want to do “someday”
- Know when to persevere and when to quit
If you find you are relatively happy except for your career which you dread and despise daily, it is time to make a change. Don’t make up excuses for decades and stay miserable, change something! The key to a successful change is to get to know yourself well (as I suggest in Part 9, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series) and then make a change with the WHO in mind. Chasing money or titles and change for change sake is a sure path away from lasting and authentic happiness.
So, give up the chase and settle into the happiness that can already be yours right now. Then, design a job or business that supports the “who of being you” in a way that rewards you with great wealth and prosperity of the financial and non-financial kind.