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Find Your Dream Job to Understand What Happiness Means

Dreams for the Future

College graduates dream of the future when they will be at the top of their game. They dream of money and all the things money can buy –  the big house, the beautiful designer clothes, nice cars – maybe even a limousine. They believe that will make them happy. But, what about personal happiness? Are there two facets to happiness?

For many the idea of working at a regular job with a low or average salary is not part of the dream. Living, under those circumstances, would be a clear mark of failure and offer nothing but a miserable life.

What do you think? Is their dream realistic? Are fame and fortune the magic formula for success and happiness?

What Is the Source of Happiness?

That is one of life’s most important questions.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology researcher, stated in her book, The How of Happiness  that “[Happiness is] the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

Do you agree with Ms. Lyubomirsky? Are you happy? If so, why? It not, what is missing?

I think most people would say they know when they are happy because they can feel it.  I agree with them and with Ms. Lyubomirsky. You either feel happy or you don’t, but the reasons behind those feelings are different for everyone.

Happiness Is at Least Dual-Faceted

We often speak about happiness as being a state of mind that encompasses your entire life. I don’t believe that is true. Happiness is at least dual-faceted – personal happiness and professional happiness. You may be very happy in one, but not-so-happy in the other.

The American Dream is that you will be happy when you are professionally successful with a six-digit salary. You chase that dream with great energy. You work hard to become a leader in your chosen field and finally make it. But, what about the cost – the long hours, the necessity of being available 24/7, the inability to “switch off” your brain?

Maybe you have found success and happiness in your professional life, which is wonderful; but at what cost? Are you also happy in your personal life?

Everyone Is Unique

We are individuals with different interests, passions, and needs personally and professionally. All of which determine the existence of happiness in a person’s life.

You must also factor in differences in personalities, personal life goals, physical and mental health challenges, and choices made. The criteria for happiness is as varied as individuals.

I was blessed with four amazing children. Like most parents, all I wanted was for them to be happy. That is a big “want” but I didn’t realize it at the time. You can’t make anyone be happy, even your own children. Everyone must find his/her own way.

Did their choices make my dream for them to be happy become a reality? It is impossible to answer that question with certainty since I cannot get inside their heads. I will share with you what I have observed about two of my children.

Two Stories

Driven by Ambition

My oldest child, a daughter, has reached an amazing level of success in her professional life. Her career began as a secretary on Wall Street, where she climbed the corporate ladder to make her mark as a highly-ranked analyst for nine years. When she hit the ‘glass ceiling,’ she chose to leave and follow a different entrepreneurial path.

Two facets of happiness - One high ambiton; big salary
Image by VictorCap@istock

Since then, she has authored several books and has become a well-known speaker on the national business circuit. Within the last year, she has begun to speak internationally. She travels extensively and is away from home a lot. She has built a huge network filled with other highly successful people. Many of them she has interviewed for her weekly podcast as a way of inspiring others. She has created an impressive business with an ever-growing staff.

She is also a wife and mother of two wonderful children. Her husband has been extremely supportive of her work over the years and has been an integral part of her success.

I am in awe of her accomplishments. She seems to be in her element and my guess is that she is happy professionally because she is living her dream; but, has her ambition taken a toll on her personal happiness?  Only she would be able to answer that.

Loves Being a Librarian

My second child, another daughter, is very different. She, too, has also worked her entire adult life; but not by choice. She has three children and would have preferred to be a ‘stay-at-home-mom.’ That was not possible because she married a man who was not supportive in any sense of the word.

Since she has an MBA, she has been able to find good jobs that allowed her to support her family, but professional fulfillment did not seem to be in the cards. The source of her happiness came from rearing her three children, two daughters (both in college) and a teenage boy. Loving and supporting them brought her the contentment and satisfaction that were not part of her marriage or professional life.

For the last few years, she has held a position in city government. Even though it was stressful, she stayed with the organization because it pays most of the bills.

Two-facets of Happiness - Libraian brings contentment
Raysonho@Open Grid Scheduler

About a year ago, financial needs forced her to look for a second job. That is when the Heavens seemed to smile on her. She found her dream job as a librarian in the city library only a few miles from home.

By some people’s standards, being a librarian would not be considered a ‘successful job,’ but for her it is perfect. The relief I hear in her voice when I talk to her and the contentment she expresses when she talks about her work is amazing. Professionally, she has never been happier and is working on her degree in library science.

Two examples of individuals living very different dreams and loving what they do. One “job” pays extremely well, the other not so much. But, money is not the point. The important component is that the work each one does touches her in ways that make her feel successful, content . . . and happy.

Professional Happiness Comes in Many Forms

As I was writing, I realized that I know several people who have chosen ‘regular jobs’ –  and seem to be happy with their choices.

  • The man who painted the exterior of my house is one of the best painters in the area and loves his work. He was extremely pleasant and fun.
  • A man and his wife who did work on the interior of my house have formed a partnership ‘handy-man’ business which lets them work happily together.
  • My Edward Jones financial advisor goes into his one-man office every day 9 to 5 and helps people manage their money. He is very good at it.
  • The two women who clean my house sing as they work and send me sweet messages on Facebook.
  • My daughter’s husband, who I mentioned earlier, is a college professor at a small rural college in the South. Teaching is his passion.

None of those would be considered “big” jobs by very ambitious people; but, they are perfect for the individuals. They go to work, love what they do, and have time to spend with family and friends.

Back to my point about the duel facets of happiness. My focus for this article has been on happiness in your professional life. The other facet – personal happiness – is more complex.

Can you be fully happy in one area if the other area is a complete mess? In order to be completely happy, must you be experiencing happiness in both areas?

Those are questions for another day – hope you will join us.

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