Thursday, January 18, 2020

The Road Least Taken to Happiness at Work

“Living From the Inside Out” is the Best Path to Happiness and Success

Most people make decisions about their life and work based on what is generally considered “right” and “good.” This is living from the outside in: letting others people’s expectations rule your life. You do what you do because that’s what you have been told to do. It’s a good recipe for frustration and stress. Living from the inside out means finding your own innermost values and basing all choices on those. That’s the best way to increase your happiness with whatever you do for a living.
In writing about careers, especially in the professions, management, or leadership, it’s not unusual to find the advice that you should “follow your bliss” or “seek out your calling in life.” That’s all well and good, if you know clearly what your calling is and you feel it strongly. What if you don’t? What if you’re quite unsure about the kind of work or life that would be best for you?

Many people—perhaps the majority even—don’t have much, if any, sense of having a “calling” to their particular work, but they do the job just the same. They want the money, or the status, or the sense of achievement. Trouble is, they aren’t very happy doing it, so they get frustrated and sometimes take it out on the people who work for them.

Can you find a calling, even if you aren’t aware of having any such thing? Would it help you feel more satisfied with your life?

I believe the answer to both of these questions is “yes.”

The root of the problem is living from the outside in: letting the world and its expectations set your values and choices for you, instead of doing it for yourself. When that happens, you do things because that’s what’s expected, even if it makes you cringe. You make yourself unhappy and the unhappiness spills over onto others.

There’s more than enough unhappiness in the world. How about increasing the store of happiness instead? Here’s what to do about it.
  1. First of all, slow down and give yourself time to think. It’s tempting to give in to all the pressure simply to get on with life, without wasting time asking yourself awkward questions about what you might prefer to do instead. This is a mistake. You can suppress your inner doubts for a while, and substitute all the supposed certainties given to you from conventional thinking, but they won’t go away. They’ll lurk inside you, making you unhappy and increasing your stress.

  2. Next, make yourself a list of what you enjoy most. Think about whatever matters to you most. Ask some friends what they see about you that you might have missed for yourself. Think back to the things that you enjoyed most in the past and put them on the list. What you’re looking for are the values that are most important to you.

  3. Never show your list to anyone else. If you do, they’ll suggest things you have missed off and ones that you should drop. If that happens, it will become their list, not yours and you’re back with living from the outside in: basing your choices on what others think. Besides, if you know others will see your list, you’ll likely censor it to be more “respectable” and conventional.

  4. Take your list as a work in progress. People change. What matters to you today, may be less important in a few years time. Still, it’s a good start. Now it’s time for action.

  5. Then try living from the inside out. Start with your deepest values. Focus on what feels most important to you and ignore what others say. It’s your life, isn’t it? If you’re called to be a manager, that’s a great calling. But so is the calling to be a musician, or a baker, or a candlestick maker. Whatever your values point you towards, that’s what you should do. You’ll do it better, enjoy life more and have more satisfaction.
Your life’s true story and direction are written in the “language” called values. It’s there, right in front of you, so learning to read it should be your top priority if you want a life that’s true to who you are. Following other people’s values and expectations isn’t a recipe for happiness. Following your own is.

Oh . . . and along the way, you’ll be spreading some of your newfound happiness to others instead of adding to life’s little miseries. Wouldn’t that be worthwhile?

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peter vajda said...

Greetings Carmine,

I'm enjoying this series. And, thanks for taking the time to write it.

I'll share an overview of a process I use in my coaching work to support others to discover one's calling or purpose ("discover" as it's always been inside us..just to be co-opted and short-circuited by our parents or primary caregivers, extended family, teachers, clergy, friends, media, etc).

1. Think of times (from as early as you can remember up until yesterday) you felt on top of the world, a real sense of excitement, when time stood still, when you felt deeply satisfied and fulfilled. Describe what was happening with the focus on you even though others were involved. What were you doing?
2. What value did you take from the experience? What was in it for you?
3. Why do you think this experience was in your life?
4. How did this leave you feeling? What was your experience? What emotion(s) did you feel?

Going though the various events, what threads seem to weave through? do-ings and be-ings, actions, activities and feelings? Reflection on these questions, in a state of focus and presence, not from "ego", can begin to point to the consistent threads, i.e., actions and activities that relate to life purpose...and when done with the support of a coach or trusted associate or friend can begin to point to activites, do-ings and be-ings that then relate to various tasks, jobs, positions, or careers and is the start of a journey of exploration as to how one can move toward one's calling and life purpose vis-a-vis a job, or career or calling.

It's all there "inside" as you suggest. Purpose and calling come from the heart; it's not a mental ("i.e., figuring it out logically) process. It's important to do this exploration and inquiry almost as a meditative a place or presence and quietude with foscus, self-love and patience.

11:56 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Peter.

I'm sure many people will find this extremely helpful.

Keep reading, my friend.

3:19 PM  
Pete Aldin said...

Carmine, you have a gift and I congratulate you for using it.

About this post: I used to keep a picture I created on the back of my office door. It carried the head of a donkey, and (referring back to that ancient story of the man the boy and the donkey) it carried a single question:

"Are you walking, riding or carrying the donkey today?"

3:52 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Pete.

I love the picture!

Keep reading, my friend.

4:57 PM  
Theo Tonca said...

Great post! You got it, the only way you will ever be truly happy is by doing what you love :)

2:12 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Theo.

Here's the essence for me. If you do something and it doesn't feel right—if it's really hard work and every day seems like an effort—that doesn't mean whatever it is is wrong in itself. It may be a great job or a truly worthwhile way of making a living. But it isn't your great job. It isn't a good way for you to spend your time at work.

No one should be lead by others into something that isn't right for them—at least, not if they want to feel happy and fulfilled.

I'm glad you like the post.

Keep reading, my friend.

3:45 PM  

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