I am writing this blog from our cottage on a beautiful summer day. It seems ridiculous to even utter a phrase like “happy enough”, much less to question it. I should be perfectly content with life. But then why don’t I feel that way?
Before I continue, let me say that I am generally a “glass half full” kind of person. I don’t want to mislead anyone into believing that I am unhappy or depressed. Not at all! It’s just that, more and more, I find myself questioning whether it is possible to be a “glass three-quarters full” kind of person. Or, asked another way, is it possible to squeeze more happiness out of life?
I left my job just over a year ago. For five plus years, I worked as an executive recruiter. Before that, I spent years working as a management consultant. I was so insanely busy that I didn’t have the time to question whether I was happy. And even if I had, I’m not sure that I would have had any time left over to do anything about it. Sometimes I wonder if that might not have been a good thing. Too much navel gazing can be dangerous. Having said that, I have come to realize that I had been following a formula that had been ingrained in me from very early on: work hard – become successful – be happy. I enjoyed my roles, and derived great intellectual satisfaction from them. But was I happy? Truly happy? I’m not so sure…
One of the things that I have learned since leaving work is that happiness is a journey, not a destination. In theory, this makes complete sense to me. However, I am finding it much harder to put this into practice. Yes, there are many things that I want to accomplish. But all of the old guide posts that I used to rely on are missing – no boss to be accountable to, no colleagues to push me along, and no performance reviews to tell me how I’m doing. It’s just me trying to figure things out.
On days when I am not feeling quite as happy as I should, a wave of shame sometimes washes over me. My kids are happy, healthy and thriving. My family and I want for nothing. I have the freedom to pursue my passions. And I have a wonderful, caring husband who works hard at a job that he loves to make this fantastic life possible for us. So what is my problem? I fully acknowledge that it is ridiculous to question my happiness – and I certainly shouldn’t share this sentiment with others! I know that other people have real struggles that undermine their happiness. I sometimes worry that it will take a crisis for me to realize how good I once had it. Needless to say, this thought is both terrifying and sobering!
Like many women of my age, I was influenced by Oprah growing up (say what you will about her… but I love Oprah!). I well remember when she pivoted from being a regular – albeit hugely successful – talk show host to being a self-help guru with her “aha moments”. Happiness, and more specifically, how to achieve lasting happiness, was central to many of her episodes. This has definitely stuck with me.
After a lot of soul-searching and some false starts, I have finally landed on a plot for my fiction novel. It centres largely on the idea that people take different paths in their pursuit of happiness. And more often than not, the traditional path is not the one that wins out in the end.
I share all of this, because “happiness” is my new obsession. In the last few months, I have bought and devoured about a dozen books on the subject. It is interesting to understand both the science behind happiness and the ways in which people achieve it. As I renew my focus on writing, you will be hearing a lot more from me on this topic.
In the meantime, I wish you all a day filled with happiness!