“What kind of a question is that? And what’s that got to do with my career plans? Don’t try to get all spiritual now. That space is already overcrowded with Swamis & Babas. Just stick to your regular career guidance fundas and tell me how I can get a better job, better salaries, international placements.”
If that was your initial reaction, you are justified in thinking that way. Everyone and their dog knows that unwavering focus and keeping your eye on the target is very important. The same is true for career planning too.
But it’s equally important to take a step back once in a while to evaluate if you’ve chosen the target well and all that furious running you’ve been doing so far is in the right direction.
Don’t worry. There’s no spiritual angle to this, if that’s what you were suspecting. But there sure is an introspective flavour.
Are you really happy?
Simple question. But it might be the most important one that you ask yourself. And this might be the single most important post you read on this blog.
So disconnect yourself from whatever you are doing, my child, and close your eyes…er, on second thoughts keep them open as you need to complete reading this post.
Every single word in that question is relevant. Let’s take up each word and understand it better.
What you’ve done in the past might have made you happy. Maybe it happened long time back in school or college. Or maybe it was when you got your first job and the prospects of how you could change the world got you all excited. But that was your past.
Right now, the shiny next toy you want to play with is the MBA. Things might change after you get an MBA, the next promotion, a career change. But all that will be in the future, and no crystal ball (!) will tell you the state of mind you’ll be in at that point.
So the question isn’t ‘Were you really happy?’ or ‘Will you really be happy?’
We are talking about NOW. So ‘ARE you really happy?’
As a child you made your parents happy.
As a student you tried to make you teachers happy.
Since you’ve got your job, you’ve been trying to make your boss happy.
Over weekends, you throw parties, crack jokes and try to make your friends happy.
Guess who might be missing all the fun in that ‘Everyone around me is happy’ story. You!
Alright, let’s assume you aren’t as selfless and innocent as we assumed. Maybe you have been focussing on your interests too.
But the feeling that you get when you get that promotion or a pay hike, is that happiness? Or is it just a fleeting high that you get for a few minutes/days after the good news is delivered?
What if someone says you’ve won a lottery? Or you win an all expense paid trip to Switzerland?
Let’s not confuse euphoria with happiness. The former is a short-lived spike that’ll disappear soon. The latter is something that’ll persist for longer, even if there are small incremental changes on a daily or weekly basis to your life.
If you are a Facebook fan, you’d be able to better relate to this. According to statistics, if Facebook had been a country, it’ll be bigger than many real countries. Now let’s try to form a perception of how happy citizens of this country are.
A huge number people have happy pics and personal videos uploaded. They post pictures of their vacations, their new cars, the new house. Your friends post status updates about the MBA admit from a top business school, or current students posting images from the previous evening’s booze party. And you’d think, wow, such a wonderful world out there. Everyone else is having fun, and they are all happy.
There’s a huge difference between perception and reality. Not many post about their financial, health, personal and professional problems. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we assume they are all REALLY happy.
So there you have it. The relevance of each word in that question. Think about how you would like to interpret and answer the question.
That was one hell of a vague, confusing post, right? Or was it? Let me be the guinea pig and try to answer that question.
It’s been almost 2 years [edit: 5 years now] since I left my corporate job to focus full-time on MBA Crystal Ball (though I was managing it on a part-time basis before that).
That’s why the “Are you really happy?” question came up in my mind and I thought I should share it with you too.
For me, happiness (let’s focus on professional happiness for now to keep the discussion focussed) does include the regular ingredients – an interesting role, stimulating work culture, good money, scope for growth, top notch colleagues and clients.
But apart from these, it also has to do more with freedom. Not the patriotic flag-waving types, but rather about having better control over my career. About having a better work-life balance. Reducing my exposure to working environments where negativity (in the form of office politics, rivalry, stress) is rife.
I enjoy my current role as an MBA admissions consultant and career counsellor more than any other official corporate designation I’ve held. I get to work with some of the best & brightest folks (like you) who also help me grow as a professional by sharing their diverse experiences. There’s ample scope to expand the venture, but we’ve kept it small for now to retain the boutique & personalised feel.
Plus there’s tremendous freedom to do what I want, when I want, and if I want to do it. No bosses peering over the shoulder.
It allowed me to do crazy stuff (like this and this) that I might’ve shied away from if I still had to live up to society’s expectation and keep pulling the baggage that comes with a heavy corporate designation.
Who knows what the future might have in store. But yeah, I think I am happy right now.
Once you get the basic framework to address that question, you’d have a very powerful tool in your hands. Use it frequently to get a reality check to give your life the appropriate push it requires in the right direction.
I’ve tried to ask myself that question frequently and the answer has resulted in 4 career changes for me (more on that later).
I hope you don’t look at this post as a distraction from your aspirations of getting a better designation, a bigger salary etc. Think of it as a compass (or Google Maps if you prefer something more practical) in your hands that’ll keep showing you if you are taking the right path.
This time, instead of bombarding your Facebook and Twitter friends with the regular Happy New Year messages, use the social media buttons on the left and share this question with them. They might appreciate it more than the ritualistic posts that flood their Twitter feeds and Facebook walls each year.
Now, throwing the question back at you.
Are you really happy? Who’s willing to bare their soul in the comments below?