Are you happy?

I believe happiness is something that we are all in search of, but often times it can seem so elusive.  

If you had asked me this question five years ago, I would have said I was happy at times, but the bigger question we should be asking is, are you fulfilled and content? Do you have joy? And if those questions would have been asked, I would have had to admit that I was not. In fact, despite the success I was having with my business, I was growing increasingly unfulfilled and could never find contentment in my personal or professional life. The more achievement I had, the more our business grew, the more brand recognition we received, the more restless I became, but why?

Before I go onto the why let me give some background to my story. In 2005, I left a promising career at a software company and co-founded my first business. The reality at the time was I started the business to be home more and have a slower pace to life, something that I did not have at the company I was working for at the time. 

The slow pace and the time at home lasted for a few years, but then things started to pick-up with our business. We began landing brand name clients, we began building a team, I was being asked to speak and my personal brand in our industry was growing. In 2015, I published my first book and we were listed in the Inc. 5000. 

As time went by I became consumed by my business, I wanted more growth, more clients and to grow more and more. This obsession came at a cost and that cost was the relationship with my wife and children. All the time I was putting into the business, even when I was home, was keeping me from nurturing those relationships and my neglect took its toll.

At the end of 2015, it all came crashing down. I was on the doorstep of a divorce, I was disconnected from my kids and despite the success, I was having in my business, I was miserable. I did make a few changes such as reducing my travel, attempting to be more present when home, but it still was not enough and toward the end of 2016, I called my business partners and told them I was leaving the company I helped start eleven years earlier.

In early 2017, I put a post on LinkedIn about my departure and the reasons why. I received many encouraging replies and well wishes, but what I did not expect was the phone calls and emails from colleagues who told me they were in a similar situation.  They were worn out, their relationships were frayed and they wanted to find a way out. I realized then that my story was not all that unique. 

Beyond the many conversations I had after my departure, I have also come to learn that as Americans many of us are where I used to be, burned out, exhausted, and void of any kind of work-life balance. In the research I have done, I have discovered the following:

The statistics show that we have a serious problem. Americans work more than any other people in the world and it is having an incredibly negative impact.

Over the last number of years I have spoken to many who relate to these statistics and what I have found is that just like I used to do, many are looking to our jobs and professions to find our worth and identity. As one researcher put it, “we are afraid that we will not be viewed as the scarce resource.” If this is the case, no wonder we are exhausted as nothing we do professionally will make us any more or less worthy. As the author and psychologist Kelly Flanagan states, “ we are worthy simply because we all have a spark of the divine within us.” 

So how do we overcome this challenge? How do we find success, fulfillment, and joy and not do it by looking to our jobs as the source? I have found a few things that have been useful.

  1. We need to change the way we work. At our best we are human, which means we need rest, we need time to play, to take care of ourselves, to sleep (something that average American does not get enough of). We need to work hard, but also do the same in our relationships and find meaning in knowing and being known, which can be the source of true joy.
  2. We need to embrace vulnerability. As the great Bob Marley states, “being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.” Vulnerability can be a scary thing, but I have learned in doing so, that Marley is indeed right and we all need at least one person in our lives with whom we can be vulnerable.
  3. We need to choose happiness and contentment. This does not mean that our lives will be full of bliss, but even in the face of negative circumstances or struggles in our business, we can choose to be content and to be happy
  4. We need to discover our purpose or as the aforementioned Flanagan states, our “one-note”, that one thing that we have been put on this earth for. I found mine in that I went back to what brought me the most joy when I was a child and that was helping people. Now that I have found that, I am able to apply it in my life and get back to who I was created to be

We all have challenges in our business and in our jobs. We will and should always want to work hard, but if you were like me and are struggling with contentment, happiness, and fulfillment, know that you can overcome it, you can be a success in your personal and professional life, but changes will have to be made.

What’s holding you back from facing these challenges? Take one small step today and then take the next as most challenges can be overcome!