Sarah Hampson from The Globe & Mail wrote an interesting column last week. Her recent series of columns has delved into happiness research. This latest column talks about how we might have to redefine our standards without giving up our values, so that we don’t end up miserable or worse, depressed. Usually, that only happens with a significant life change – i.e. the loss of a life partner, a job loss, health issues, serious financial woes, etc.
We are too obsessed with making sure we have “the best”, whatever that means. And isn’t that effectively the problem? We don’t know what “the best” means, because others keep telling us the bar has been set higher. Just look at technology: who can keep up with the pace of change? The minute I buy a cell phone, it’s outdated technology. I’m embarrassed to pull out my flip-phone when it rings in public. But I’ve accepted that while I would look quite smart with a Smart phone, I really don’t need it.
It’s that same realization that brought me to where I am now: jobless and happy. I was given career pathing opportunities with my corporate employer, but I made it clear that I was not interested in working late every night and on weekends, and I did not want to be reachable 24/7 on a cell phone or Blackberry . I was punished for wanting this, by getting a title de-motion.
They still valued me greatly as a highly effective and productive employee, but they could never justify moving me up the ladder because I was not interested in “working harder”. I was continuously given added responsibilities but never a corresponding title upgrade. And I was really ok with that: as long as work did not interfere with my home life and the work was interesting and challenging, I was happy.
But then it did slowly creep into my home life, and it also started affecting my health. So I decided I didn’t need the cushy salary and benefits, and opted for a new formula for life: more time with my daughter and husband + better health + better balance = much higher happiness quotient. I am much prouder of this accomplishment than I would have been fast-tracking up a career ladder that would have given me no time for my family and for myself. My life today might be considered “good enough” for some, but to me, it’s perfect. I didn’t have to lower the bar on achievement, I just had to take a different journey to get there. And as Hampson points out, that is the same lesson we should be teaching our children.