So I’m going to be self-indulgent for a moment.
Below is a poem that I wrote after a lovely day with my new beau. I have a point – so if you react to poetry the way my friend Brian does, please just skip the poem (Brian this means you) and move down to where the words are in paragraph form again. You will be happier and so will I.Ever had one of those moments? A moment of sheer uncomplicated happiness? Where somehow all sorts of pedestrian things line up and become magical? I had one of those moments today. Just a day. A Fall day in Oregon. Rain and cloud breaks… driving I-5… an adventure… and a man. There was nothing exceptional about it except for the confluence of events and the company. I don’t want to over state it – I don’t know where this is going. All I can say is today was perfect in its own way and that I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It isn’t like I have expectations – I don’t. I have lived long enough to know how fleeting things can be. But I thank the universe for today because if I had the choice of how my life would go it would be filled with this.
So my point – I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. Nine months ago I’m not sure I could have had a day like the one described above. As my doctor pointed out, corporate life was killing me. My friends put up with me and the broken record of my observations of all the things that were wrong and that I wanted to fix – but only because often they were in a similar space. Trapped on the treadmill of too much work, too little time, poor direction, and blurred lines of responsibility. All the things that makes Dilbert so comical and corporate life so unbearable.
But I wasn’t going to talk about my ex-job – except to say that even with the great people I worked with and the good product we had most days I felt like a failure. I was Sisyphus. Working every day without making any progress – trapped in my own personal Hell.
I don’t mind hard work, if it goes somewhere.
Recently a friend sent a link to an article about how uncertainty in your work life is an indicator of health. It made me think of all the uncertainty out there – the rounds of layoffs my friends have been through (both as survivors and those cut). I’ve been both. I was so grateful to be cut this time rather than be one of the survivors with the extra workload and the increased hours and the uncertainty. Once I survived three rounds of layoffs in eighteen months – everything got harder, everyone more unhappy and resentful.
Now just so that everyone doesn’t think I’m anti-corporate life – my best friend loves her job! She works for a global company and has found a niche. Other friends have too – so it is out there. But how do we get there?
Dr. Daniel Gilbert – in his work on happiness – found that our “future selves” did not always agree with our assessment that being “richer/slimmer/married/divorced/employed/retired” would make us happier. His studies suggest that most of us trip over it – but we don’t make it.
Four years ago, when I started reimagining my life, I didn’t think of happiness. I started with trying to figure out what I valued and how to stay true to those values. Since then, every decision I’ve made (with the exception of a brief stint that I someday hope to get enough distance on so I can write about it) is based on those values. It has taken me four years and some help from the economy to find this place. Amazing that you can imagine something, plan it, and achieve it.
I have to take a moment and thank the three people who inadvertently gave me the tools to start on this path four years ago. Funny enough – they were teaching project management classes Tonia McConnell, Jeff Crow, and Paul Spindel.
I’ve found a place I like – work I like – a pattern of ebb and flow to my life that I like and that I’m desperate to keep.
Gilbert also defined four rules of happiness, and after rereading them for this post I’m amazed at the ongoing truth I find in them 😉
- Bingeing is bad, except when it isn’t.
- Happiness often comes from what you don’t know.
- Keeping your options open won’t necessarily make you happier.
- The things you fear are not as bad as you think.
Bingeing! Well nothing could be more of a binge than writing a novel in three days! It still leaves me breathless. I don’t know who that person was or where she came from but I keep hoping she will visit again soon.
What you don’t know! Who would have thought that I would like doing a blog? I wouldn’t have… every day I get to research things I don’t know, write things I’m thinking and learning about, and explore the world of the internet as it continues to impact us.
Keeping options open. This is one of my greatest problems. I like to keep my options open. My mind is usually brimming with ideas and possibilities. But I’m finding that constraints can actually increase creativity and narrowing your focus can bring delight.
The things you fear! Well for all my planning and work on my exit strategy I was unable to make myself leave my job because of its security. The economy went bad and pushed me out – like a chick leaving the nest. It was fortuitous. And then the job market was so limited that I had to find things to fill my days with – since there just aren’t many jobs out there – so I continued my plan. Because what I had feared – leaving – happened.
I wasn’t looking for happiness – I was looking for solvency, autonomy, and creativity.
What I’ve found is bliss.