I was having a conversation with two friends over the past year about the relationship between happiness and living a purpose filled life.
At first, their position provided much food for thought, as I questioned my own theory on life. A few months later and with more life experiences, I had a change of heart.
During a strategic planning session in November 2016, my friend and former business coach Carissa Daniel of The Business Radical said to me,
“So Carolyn, if you didn’t have your accomplishments, your friends/support system and your writing, would you still be happy?”
I honestly could not answer, since this was a very difficult time in my life for many reasons.
“You mean I couldn’t write?!” I said to her.
Very resolutely, she replied, “No, nothing. All you had was a small room with no material things. No computer, no TV… no radio.”
I had this puzzled look on my face.
“No music?! But I love nature. Could I at least go outside and sit and commune in nature?!”
I can’t remember her exact response; but I seriously could not answer, because those three things made me who I am and contributed to my happiness.
Without nature, writing and music, I questioned the quality of my existence.
She gave me some homework and when she left, I reflected on everything we discussed. Over the next few months, the discussion continued sporadically with another friend who’d known me for several years.
Over a drink one night, he said to me with the same peculiar zen as my coach,
“Your former job did not make you unhappy Carolyn; you made yourself unhappy, because you can find happiness anywhere. A job does not constitute happiness.”
So after pretty much a year of soul searching during some very difficult periods, I readjusted my position on happiness and fulfillment.
Here are 3 questions you may ask yourself to guide the process if you are stuck:
1) How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?
I remember being asked the following question many years ago by one of the female recruiters at an interview. She said to me in this Dr. Phil tone,
“So, Carolyn (dramatic pause) tell me (pause) how do you feel (pause) when you wake up in the morning? (long pause) …
Do you jump out of bed (pause) ready to face your day?”
To make a long story longer, she was trained to see right through me and needless to say, I didn’t get the job that day.
Part of my issue was that I had acquired so much experience (which is relative) in my current field, which made it difficult to transition back to my previous field – which was now buried under the experience in the current field (hope I didn’t lose you!).
This may seem like a petty dilemma to some who have not experienced it, but many professionals [and young graduates] after studying or working for many years, end up stuck in a job/field that is not truly them.
The truth is, most times we spend more time at our jobs than with our families (who I’m sure mean more to us).
So if we are not truly happy doing what we love for the majority of our day, we simply cannot execute it with the same spring in our step and lightness in our heart, if the roles were reversed.
We may be able to fake it for a while, but sooner or later that’s exhausting because we are living a lie. At the end of the day; we were born to be masters at what we do – so as to enrich lives in some way, and not simply go through the motions and ‘exist’ only for a paycheck, status or recognition.
That is not living.
Even if you feel your main role is to be the best wife/husband, homemaker, parent, daughter/son, sibling etc. Do it in a manner to improve or inspire change in some way, shape or form in the lives of those around you.
You can only do that if you are truly at peace with all parts of yourself – which we all struggle with at some point.
Although that particular job afforded me a certain level of security and benefits and I had many friends at work; at the end of the day, I was not really happy.
I was suffering internally and it was slowly eroding my happiness, because I felt my purpose drifting further and further away and my creative nature and potential underutilized.
A few co-workers saw it too and pushed me to dream, which at that point in time I thought to be an impossible dream.
Flash forward to few years later, I returned to my field of choice; which made me uber happy for a minute, but some of the external conditions still just was not right.
Another year later, all these experiences paved the way for me to be my own boss and though challenges still exist, my dream has come to pass.
I am way happier because I know for certain that I am touching lives which brings me immense joy and fulfillment to know that my work has meaning and is appreciated by a diverse, global demographic.
It is because of my passion and genuine intentions, that I continue to attract and maintain many positive experiences and people to/in my life, in spite of my foibles.
The perceived negative experiences are inevitable in life and I allow myself the time to vent, heal and grow while learning the lessons.
I’m sure you can relate when someone expresses to you in a unique and genuine way that what you did made them feel alive or ‘whole’ again. Sometimes, you may never even know, until many years later.
This is true authenticity, or what I like to refer to as: ‘being/keeping it real’. It is the art of showing and not telling, with your humble and unassuming nature, which are the qualities of truly authentic and successful people who I strive to emulate more.
2) Do you think you have more to give?
Is there something you always wanted to do, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Do you feel as though you have something buried deep inside of you, bursting to get out?
A song, a poem, a love for gardening, cooking or sewing? What is your block? Could it be your fear of failure, other people’s opinions, hang-ups about age/experience/qualifications/previous failures?
Here’s a little secret: Most of these things are irrelevant if it is proven and tested that you have the talent, drive and fortitude to keep going and reinventing yourself.
If you know how to work smart, there’s nothing that can hold you back. Even if you hit what seems to be rock bottom and lose your mojo for a while; the important thing is that you get up and keep going.
There’s one way to know if your stuff is marketable. Try doing it in stages or in your spare time. On your lunch hour; early in the morning, or late at night depending on your schedule and energy levels during the day.
Test your product on a focus group. People who you know to be neutral and frank and would not feign support. Those who are plugged in and in a position to give you sound feedback based on their background and exposure.
I am not going to lie to you and paint a pretty picture.
Following your passion and making it viable can take literally years, depending on your strategy, consistency and the nature of your product/service.
However if you want anything worthwhile badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen and not give up until your race [with your former self] is won. Faith opens up pathways that no man can block.
3) Do all aspects of your life fill you up? Or do you feel a sense of lack?
In my books and speaking engagements; I mention that success and happiness are relative, since it holds significance for different people, depending on your stage in life.
Perhaps based on your value systems, upbringing and socialization, you may place emphasis on one or more aspects of your life whether it be career, education, financial status or family life.
For some people, their background and nucleus family may trigger their need to work twice as hard for something they did not have in the home e.g. two parents/kids/siblings, education, money/status etc.
What I have learnt is that once you possess an intimate knowledge of yourself; coupled with gratitude and acceptance for your current circumstance, while staying committed to your growth and goals – nothing or no one can make you feel a sense of lack or inferiority. Not your family, nor significant other, nor your peers, mainstream or social media. There’s not a soul that can ever break your stride [for very long].
Be patient and true to yourself – know your worth and therein you will find joy, peace, contentment and abundance in all forms. Our journey is a continuous work-in-progress towards evolution.
Carolyn Kristy Correia is the author of Thinking out Loud, How To Find Yourself and Claim What’s Yours and She missed the boat on love. She is also a communications consultant, freelance journalist, blogger and speaker. Learn more or sign up via www.carolyncorreia.com or connect on Facebook or Instagram.