Happiness and Self Fulfilling Prophecy

I remember my very first performance review. I had sat nervously at my desk waiting to be called into my manager’s office, feeling very much like a student asked to meet with the principal. I watched as a colleague exited signaling that it was my turn. My boss slid a piece a paper toward me detailing his observations on my performance over the last few months. I ignored the positive comments and chose to focus instead on the weaknesses. Seeing them listed out in black and white (and there were more than a few) I suddenly wondered if I would still have a job after this meeting was over.

I am not a naturally quiet individual, but in this instance I held my tongue as I waited for my boss to get to the punch line. I could almost hear the dreaded words, ‘I’m sorry, but…” I tried to tell myself that it would be okay, at least I could say I now had experience, which was a quality lacking previously on my resume. Perhaps this time it wouldn’t take me quite so long to get a return phone call for an interview.

After several seconds of awkward silence, my boss asked me if something was the matter. My worries refused to remain silent a minute longer. I asked him if I was being let go. My boss sat back and laughed. “Of course not.” He then went over his positive comments again with me making sure I knew this time I actually read them, and that I understood that while I had room to grow, he definitely wanted that growth to be with the company. I have been lucky. He was a good boss.

I grew more confident and comfortable with my job and my performance reviews over the years. During one of these later one on ones, my boss asked me where I saw myself in five years. I believe I laughed and said something along the lines of “in your job.” I was only partially kidding.

Nearly five years to the day, I found myself seated on the other side of that desk with my own staff. I learned then that anyone can be an oracle, but before any prophecy can be fulfilled, it must first be either spoken (loudly) or shared (often) for the world to see.

I had unwittingly made a promise to myself that day. I said what I wanted and I did what I said I would. I declared I would be successful, and by most indicators I have been. I have experienced an upward career trajectory. I have a house on the edge of suburbia and cars in the garage. I even have the white picket fence.

But two years ago I realized that I had neglected one other truth. Success by other people’s standards does not necessarily equal happiness. I realized then that in order to achieve sustainable happiness, I had to treat it in the same fashion as one of my career goals. I had to issue a new prophecy. I had to declare I would be happy, and then say it over and over again. I had to make changes to my lifestyle and attitude in support of my goal. I had to pursue happiness just as hard or in some cases harder than I had ever pursued a promotion until my goal was transformed from raw belief to real possibility.

I may never become a household name, but I might. I may never become the CEO of a fortune 500 company, but I could. Those are prophecies for another day. Today, I am pursuing my dreams and not someone else’s. I still have work ahead, there are still things that send me into a rage or sorrow, but I am at peace with the choices I have made, and in this moment, I am content.



Or at least I am on my way.

Image courtesy of Florian Klauer and Unsplash

All I want for Christmas is…

At my office we have a whiteboard which I’ve been using to detail exactly how many working days are left in the year as means of motivating my staff to complete their goals. As I was updating it on Friday, one of them joked with me that all I was doing was reminding him of his impending mortality. He was actually rather poetic about it. I however was not swayed – we have only a handful of days left after all and we still have goals to make (or miles to go before we sleep) and the large red number seems to get that message across nicely.

As I returned to my desk I realized that the same countdown applied to my Christmas shopping. Cue the look of stricken panic. I’ve only scratched the surface of my gift buying. (This is the downside of my refusing to have anything to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving).

Once I was back at home, I scrolled through the saved wishlists of my family, almost all were filled with books, games, and toys for my nieces and nephews, and nearly nothing for their parents. I thought about my online wishlist. If anything, there was even less of me represented on that list than my sibling’s. (My kids claim to have been very, very good this year)

I am seriously beginning to wonder if my house is bugged because shortly after I made this realization I heard from both my stepmom and my sister-in-law. They both were pleading with me to add some additional items on there. My sister-in-law told me that if I didn’t, she would be getting me a zombie survival kit (little does she know that rather than being a threat, that if it wasn’t so expensive, that would sound awesome to me).

Ever since getting their notes, I have been thinking hard about what I want for Christmas, and I am no closer to adding things to the list than I was on Friday. The things I want don’t fit nicely in a box.

I want my husband’s business to grow with sustainability. I want my toddler to be potty trained over night and be willing to eat his vegetables (really is this so much to ask?). I want my kindergartener to continue to look at the world with the same joy next year as he does this year. I want my published book to sell and my unpublished book gain some buzz. I want to be able to take a vacation or work when and where I want to (at my same rate of pay of course). I want more of the things that add value to my life, moments that live on in memories. Above all I want us to be healthy and happy. I want a lot of things, but I don’t want many things.

So I apologize if I am now in the hard to buy category. A gift card. A bottle of wine. A book or three. I will be content knowing that I was thought of this holiday season. As soon as I figure out a way to fit my wishlist in a cart I will be the first to let you know.

Success and Happiness Quote
original image by Gray Lensman (flickr)

Wake up to a new and improved you

The sun had set Tuesday evening and I informed my son that it once again time for him to go to bed. Normally he moans and groans. “I’m not tired!” he’ll complain. “Five more minutes!” or “I just want to finish this show!” He doesn’t realize that the more he whines, the more convinced I am that bedtime has arrived. But Tuesday was complaint free – he was eager to go to bed.

Of course even though he wasn’t fighting me, we still weren’t completely able to take the express route to his bedroom. Instead we had to stop at each and every room of our house (excepting his brother’s because no one disturbs toddlerland after lights out.) At each stop, he would look into the room and say, “Goodbye [insert room name]. You are never going to see this five-year-old again.”

A wee bit melodramatic? Maybe. The ultimate bedtime manipulation? Perhaps, but he was just telling the room the truth. Upon Wednesday morning, the person emerging from his bedroom would be six.

I had to envy him a little. In his mind he was going to go to sleep a child, but would transform overnight into a more mature and capable version of himself. Someone who magically would now be able to handle more responsibility than ever before. Someone who would be instantly wiser. Kiddo 6.0 – now with even more confidence!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all wake up one morning and suddenly be better than the person we were the night before?

A couple of days ago, I came across an article on the most viewed TED talks of all time, one of which was by Shawn Achor on the happy secret to better work. I’d seen it before, but it has an intriguing message at its core, and is entertaining enough to watch again. So I did.

“See what we’re finding is it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

In his presentation, he argues that sustained happiness is not achieved by success. Instead it is happiness that creates success. So just be happy.

He makes it sound so easy. A kid can be happy for no other reason than he or she was named line leader for the day, but it can be difficult to remember how to appreciate the small joys once you’ve fallen out of the habit. Difficult, but if Shawn Achor’s stats are accurate, worth the effort.

Some of the most common tips for how to gain sustained happiness and self-confidence are to act positively and dream big. Considering a good night’s sleep directly correlates with my ability to do both of these things, my son’s way of thinking might not be that far off. Maybe I do just need to worry less about success and sleep more. Even if I don’t wake to overnight millions, at least I am better rested.

So success –  instead of chasing you, I’m going to try snuggling under the covers and appreciating where I am. When you are ready, you’ll know where to find me.

A foolish man seeks happiness
click on images for attribution