Career Services: The Continuous Pursuit of Happiness

Written by Sonya Lavett, Career Services managerOrange Beach Waterfront Park

In the game of life, we often think that our lives begin once we have accomplished x, y, and z. Only then can we step back and bask in the glory of meeting our goals; at that time, we will have found true happiness. I think otherwise. I feel if we wait to be happy and fail to acknowledge all of the “little” things we have achieved along the road to success, then we are going to be waiting for a really long time to find true happiness.

What do you define as being successful? What does success look like and how do you know you have made it? More importantly, does success equal happiness?

It depends.

If we think of success as a series of smaller accomplishments or steps to realizing our big goals, shouldn’t we be taking the time to reflect and enjoy those times when we are able to move forward if even by a small margin? Think back to your time as a student. Maybe you completed a course with an “A” or maybe you just completed your next course. Certainly this was but one step closer to achieving your big goal of obtaining your degree. If you are like I once was, you might receive your grade, be happy for about a day, and then forget it and move on to the next task. I can tell you in behaving this way, I was not finding any real joy in accomplishing my steps. I was just hurrying along and hoping that one day I would be happy/successful. And yet, no matter what I accomplished, those things failed to bring me true, long-lasting happiness.

After some serious reflection and the creation of a list, it finally hit me like a train.

It’s a process. Success, life, happiness, whatever you want to call it, is a process. If you are focused like a laser on the end point, you will probably miss the entire party, and you won’t even realize it until you actually accomplish what you set out to do and then suddenly feel lackluster about the entire event. Then the depression sets in.

Whoa . . . what happened? Isn’t this what you had worked so hard to accomplish? Where is the joy in getting what you wanted?!?

It is the getting there that takes so much commitment, energy and focus. And yet, you forgot to have any fun with it along the way.

Believe me . . . I get it.

Like many of you, I am a parent, have a full-time job, enjoy playing outside and other fun activities, plus I am pursuing my master’s degree, while juggling everything simultaneously. Whoever stated that online schooling is easy clearly never completed a course on their own via an LMS. It takes discipline and a lot of time- time I would honestly rather be spending with my kids or out kayaking, as I am sure many of you can relate.

If you happen to be one of those graduates who worked your way through school as you held down a full-time job, kept the family going, and honored your military commitments while running the business of your life and serving your community, I applaud you. I would like to take this time to tell you to stop what you are doing and give yourself a huge WOO-HOO! If you haven’t done that yet, goodness gracious . . . you certainly deserve it!

There is an unspoken axiom from which many of us operate in thinking that we will work our tails off, earn our degree, and then voila . . . the job we were hoping for is waiting patiently for our arrival.

You may have felt this for all of about five minutes before the cold hard reality of life smacked you square in the jaw and reminded you that there is still more to do after graduation. It is a painful realization to figure out that with all of your hard work and dedication in furthering your education, you must then work even harder to locate a job and establish your career.

Does it ever stop?

I can tell you from working with hundreds of students and graduates, as well as from my own personal experience, it takes time. It takes patience. It takes persistence and some humility. No one has ever searched for a job and not walked away feeling a little humbled by the entire experience.

My 10 recommendations to you as you find yourself in the continuous pursuit of your goals and happiness:

1. Keep a gratitude list and add to it daily.

2. Don’t forget to celebrate those small achievements, no matter how small. All of those “little” accomplishments actually add up to quite a lot and have gotten you to where you are today, which is closer to success than you were yesterday. If you are stuck in a rut and can’t seem to recall your last accomplishment, you are probably not looking at it from the right angle. Ask a trusted loved one or friend what they think. Chances are, they see things differently.

3. When you screw up and drop the ball, turn it into a learning experience, rather than an opportunity to bash yourself. This way, you will not have wasted your time and damaged your self-esteem. Make your mistakes count for something. Learn from them.

4. Always keep moving. As part of your job search strategy, take the time to choose an organization you are passionate about and volunteer your skills. It will give you a boost because you will understand that you add intrinsic value to the world you live in, and you can also include it on your resume. Not to mention the fact that when you are out in the world, you are making connections- connections that can lead to an unexpected opportunity.

5. On the flip side, if you are feeling run down and spent, carve out a small chunk of time and do something for yourself that you love, even if that is to sit in your backyard and watch the birds fly by. Everyone needs a little time to themselves to re-energize so they can hit it hard the next day. Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s called self-care.

6. Don’t allow discouragement to drag you down. The job search process can be daunting, frustrating, lengthy, and time-consuming. The average job seeker looks for a job for 6-7 months before something happens. Don’t beat yourself up if you are not landing interviews or making it past the application status. Use your resources to tweak your strategy and don’t give up.

7. If you are feeling discouraged, it can be rather tempting to share your misery with the world via social networking. While we all experience bad days and frustration, it is a really bad idea to announce your contempt via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Your bad day can easily be misinterpreted and used against you, and you definitely don’t want to give potential employers, colleagues, and acquaintances a negative impression of you. Not to mention the fact that people have lost their livelihood over ugly rants that were really only temporary fits of aggravation. Unfortunately, your online behavior is a permanent record of whatever you decide to share with the online community, so please post with care.

8. Because I definitely am a believer in karma and the fact that you can feel better by paying it forward, while in the process of searching for your perfect career, don’t forget to take time to give something back while you are in hot pursuit. Engage in discussions through LinkedIn with those in your industry and when someone needs assistance, advice, or encouragement, give it. Don’t be so fixated on the fact that you need to find work that your tunnel vision causes you to miss out on opportunities that could have led you to your dream job. The old “scratch my back while I scratch yours” is a proven method of finding what you need. Also, please keep it in perspective . . . you are not the only one searching.

9. While many things can be taken from us in life (repossessed cars, lost relationships), there is one thing that can never be taken from you because once you attain this, it remains with you forever. I am talking about your education. Be proud of this not-so-small accomplishment. Only about 42 – 50% of online learners make it to the finish line and actually graduate. Congratulations on your educational achievements . . . you DID it!

10. Choose to be happy today whether you landed an interview, made a connection, or moved one step closer to where you want to be. If all you did was sit in your backyard and watch the birds, be happy for that as well because you have a backyard and birds to watch. Be happy because it is your right to be happy no matter what is going on in your life and what struggles you encounter.

We all feel and experience the stress of life, some of us more than others. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be truly happy. With each new day, we create our own realities. If you feel that you are constantly chasing happiness and never able to fully relish it, you could be looking at your life all wrong.

Author: Libby Reilly

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