Several months ago, a former client called asking my advice about a potential next career step. She described a specific opportunity that surprised me, as it was far away from the beloved city she had finally returned home to only two years ago. “It sounds like an amazing company, and you’d be great there, but are you sure you want to move so far from home again?” I asked. It took her some thinking out loud before she could finally answer in the affirmative.
I answered her other questions. Then she turned the tables.
“What about you? Are you happy these days?” Whoa. That’s a big one. I considered steering the conversation back to something easier like her salary negotiation strategy. She lovingly persisted until I answered, “I’m grateful for so much that’s good in my life now – my work, my kids, my health, my family’s health. I’m content. But am I happy? No, I don’t think so. I still want more for my life.”
Then she told me about Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, written by her Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar. She told me his positive psychology class changed her life. That was an inspiring call to read if ever I heard one.
By the next day I was reading it. Here are some quotes from the beginning that I found particularly powerful. These feel especially relevant for you Brilliance-Based Businesswomen – smart, sensitive professionals who deliver services based on your knowledge and know-how (leaders, experts, educators, consultants, and other creative professionals).
“For those living in a conflict area, under political oppression, or in extreme poverty… [or] following the loss of someone dear, it is exceedingly hard to concern oneself with the question of questions. Even in less severe situations–a disappointment, a difficult spell at work or within a relationship–it may be unhelpful to ask a person to focus on the pursuit of happiness. The best we may be able to do under some circumstances is to experience the negative emotions and allow them to take their natural course. [Beyond this,] we need to recognize that happiness is an unlimited resource and then focus on ways in which we can attain more of it.” (p. 7-8)
Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak. (p. 27)
Once I understood happiness in this way, I wanted to change my answer. I AM happy – to some degree fulfilled AND striving for even more fulfillment in my future. And I am grateful to Ben-Shahar for this reframing.
P.S. After coaching with me throughout her negotiation, my client more than doubled her salary. Now she’s loving her new job.
Wondering how to amp up your own happiness? Soon I’ll have big news on a no-cost, high-value special event in early December to help you explore this very topic. In the meantime, if you need a Quick Clarity Consult on any aspect of your job search, just email to set one up.