How To Deal with the Unhappy Success Story

Feb 25, 2016, Written by Amy Tressitt

Unhappy Success Story

My 12-year-old son plays baseball. He’s good at it. The ability to play sports just comes naturally to him, and even without trying, he succeeds. It’s easy for him. Success in this area of his life is easy.

During the spring, we spend every weekend at a ballpark (usually far from home). This is an investment that requires a commitment from the entire family–monetarily and physically. And, I love my son. So I do it gladly.

But, I often wonder to myself, is he playing because he wants to do it? Because he loves it? Or is he doing it because he thinks it’s expected of him? Because it makes his daddy happy to see him following in his childhood footsteps? Am I wholeheartedly supporting something that makes him unhappy?

How often in business do we do what we do because it is the easiest route for us? Because we are succeeding at it, and because we are making other people happy?

How Do We Overcome our Feelings of Being the Unhappy Success Story?

As a parent, I find myself giving my son advice that I don’t know if, as an adult or as a business owner (or even an employee), I could take myself. In the baseball situation, I’d tell my son that he can’t allow himself to feel he has to play. That if he isn’t playing because it makes him happy or because he loves it, then he shouldn’t be playing at all!

But as adults, how much can we allow our happiness to influence our future? We have commitments, financial obligations, and people counting on us. As business owners, we can’t just start over making blue widgets because our ‘calling’ is not the very successful red ones we currently produce!

And, let’s face it, even people who love what they do, who are completely entrenched in their life’s calling, aren’t happy all the time!

So, how do we overcome these feelings of unhappiness when it’s a job that you succeed in, but it’s not your passion and your purpose?

Examine your unhappiness.
Why are you really unhappy? Is it a temporary situation? And if not, what is the deep-down root of the unhappiness? Take an assessment of your feelings and identify the causes. Write them down. Give them a name. We can’t fix what we don’t recognize.

Prioritize them in order from the easiest to resolve to the most difficult…and begin ticking them away. You may find that halfway down the list, somewhere between “I hate staring at the brown wall in front of my desk” and “my receptionist smells like burnt popcorn,” that your satisfaction and happiness level has increased.

Learn to love what you do.
Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Let’s be real! We all can’t do what we love for a living. I love to sing. But I promise you I wouldn’t make a dime trying to make that my job.

Where does that leave us? There are some of us that have fallen into careers through an unforeseen chain of events. Maybe you inherited the family business. Maybe you began with your passion and were promoted through the ranks to a position that no longer resembles what you love to do. But no matter how you got here, you need to learn to love what you do! Accept that not all of us will fulfill the Confucius wisdom.

Focus on making a difference with what you do.
Maybe creating products or services that others love, can bring you happiness. If your success comes from doing what others want you to do, try and find a way to make your own mark within your current company.

And, never forget to fake it ‘til you make it.
Tell yourself you are having a great day, that you love what you are doing. Walk through the office with a giant smile on your face. Positive energy radiate and becomes infectious. If you act like you are happy, you might just wake up one day and realize you are happy.

Add happiness to other areas of your life.
We have all heard it a million times, life is about balance. If every part of your day is not fulfilling, make sure that the highs, at a minimum, can balance the lows. Your home, church and play life can be the main source of happiness for you. And if all areas are lacking, take the steps to increase happiness in your life.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, gives us five key steps that we can take each day to increase our experience of happiness.

  1. Bring gratitude to mind – Write down three NEW things that you are grateful for each day.
  2. Journal – Write about a positive experience you’ve had recently for 2 minutes once a day.
  3. Exercise – Engage in 15 minutes of mindful cardio activity.
  4. Meditate – Watch your breath go in and out for 2 minutes a day.
  5. Engage in a random, conscious act of kindness – Construct a 2-minute positive email thanking a friend or colleague, or compliment someone you admire on social media.

Ask yourself if it’s worth it.
If you can’t find any redeeming qualities of your career, if you are becoming the person you said you would never be, and you have done the steps to attempt to eliminate the unhappiness, maybe it is time for a change. We all have to accept that success doesn’t equal happiness.

When I asked my son about why he played baseball, he didn’t wax poetic about his unwavering love of the game or being the best ball player in the MLB. He just told me he loved being with his friends and hanging out at the ballpark on the weekends eating ballpark concessions. What brings him his happiness is a byproduct of what brings him success.

If you are the unhappy success story, maybe you just need to step back and look around. You may need a change of scenery. But, you never know, you might just find you have a great view!

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Amy Tressitt

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