I AM Happy

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.


  1. Cindy

    This post and issue at large definitely hit a nerve with me! My husband asked me what I think is fun and I honestly couldn't answer him. I cannot remember the last time I had "fun." Of course I enjoy doing things with/for my kids, I love to read, play board games, and do crosswords/sudoku, but those don't really qualify as "fun" to me. They make me content. Overall I am grateful to have as much as I do in my life, but am I happy? No, not really. Can I make myself happier? I'm not sure right now. Can I have fun? As I look back on my life, I suspect that I haven't truly had fun since I was a kid and now have no ability to do so. I think I have some reading to do…!

  2. Shelly

    I asked my husband the other day when was his last happiest day? Then I asked myself. Once identified I recalled all the ingredients of that day. For sure it is outside, in adventure, with people that are dear to me and usually spontaneous or I am learning something new. I also am happiest when I am in appreciation even for small subtleties like watching a caterpillar cross over a sidewalk … those are the best moments and days. Another key is to let go fast. Let go of the person that just cut me off or something a naysayer says. And, most important … awareness of my deep connection and ever evolving connection to Spirit (higher power, etc)

  3. Chris

    Ditto to what Meg and Stef said! : )

    In those moments when everything BUT happiness is showing up, Gratitude is my 'go to' practice that helps shift my perspective. That and remembering I always have choice how I want to feel. Sometimes it's not easily accessible, but it does eventually help bring me around.

  4. Stefanie Frank

    I like what Meg said — I could use a happiness amp up. Not sure I need another book to read right now though.

    I'm enjoying a book I recently rediscovered (in a drawer) from my Terror and the Supernatural class in college. Pure fiction. Pure fun.

    Oh yeah for me lately happiness equates with FUN. Fun can be simply sitting down with my book or going to a matinee. It could be dinner at a high end steak house with a good friend. It could be a 20 mile ride with another good friend where I'm not obsessed with my bike nutrition. It could be a vacation in the Seychelles (this one is on my bucket list — only one of these listed that hasn't happened yet).

    I like what Meg said about it being a matter of perspective and habit. Great post, great comment!

  5. Meg Manderson

    I suppose I have a slightly unusual take on this happiness thing. As I told my ex as he was leaving and complaining that I did not make him happy, no one can MAKE you happy, but yourself. Happiness is, I think, mostly a matter of perspective and habit – having the perspective to see how much there is that is good in our lives, enjoying the small things that bless each day. And doing this can become a habit just like always putting your keys in the same place when you come in the door. Does this result in 24/7 joy? Heck no! There is plenty out there to make us anxious, frustrated, annoyed, even furious. And we should be. But then you can stop, take a deep breath, watch a covey of cardinals at the birdfeeder and remember that life still beats the alternative.