Digging to the root of happiness

Photo by  Marion Michele  on  Unsplash

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and we were chatting about career direction. He’s at a crossroads with his career and he’s trying to figure out what to do next. Should he aim for a manager position even though he doesn’t want it but it’s the next logical step in his career? Or should he leave his job, take out equity on his home and spend 6 months traveling the world figuring out his next plan? 

When I asked my friend what brought this on, he said he realized that he wasn’t happy with life and he believed work was the reason for it. He felt stuck and believed these were his only two options. I understood where he was coming from, but I believed he had more options than the two he stated. 

How often in our lives are we at a crossroads?  Whether it’s our career, our relationships, or something deeper.  How often do we take the time to figure out the root of the crossroads?  

This lead to a discussion about happiness and what it means to be happy.  It wasn’t intentional but we were unconsciously digging to the root of his unhappiness. 

As we talked, he realized that he wasn’t as unhappy as he thought. That there are many things in his life that he’s happy with. Many things he enjoys and looks forward to. But the one thing that he wasn’t sure about was his career. 

He liked what he did. He liked his co-workers. So when I asked him “what about your work is making you unhappy?” He had no idea. He just felt that it was time for a change. 

At this point, our food arrived and focus came on filling our stomachs.  But while I was eating, I thought “when you feel unhappy, do you even know why you’re unhappy?” So I asked him.

Because my friend was so sure that his unhappiness stemmed from work. He was so sure that if he left his career he would find happiness. Except when we talked about work he admitted he was happy with what he was doing, but he’d been doing it for over 15 years and felt it was time for a change. And yet, when we started breaking down everything he does, trying to figure out what about his job he disliked, there was nothing he felt he did that made him unhappy. 

Then the question changed: if you’re not unhappy, what is it you are feeling?  Is it boredom? Was he bored because his job is routine and not challenging? Bored because he feels that everything in life had become predictable? How do you define happiness and are you confusing unhappiness with another emotion?

We didn’t intend to go so deep. In fact, we went a lot deeper than either of us intended that it almost became too uncomfortable as my friend realized he may have an underlying concern he didn’t know of. But that can happen when you decide to peel back the layers. When you don’t accept one thing as truth and you ask a question again and again. 

I took a class once about Bryon Katie’s The Work. It was difficult and it was profound. It made me look at things differently and re-examine my outlook on life. It was challenging and eye-opening. And this lunchtime conversation felt similar to how I feel whenever I do the work. When you are trying to get to the root of a question, you ask yourself the same question again and again. Have you tried it before?  If you haven't, try it. You can ask yourself the four questions or you can simply ask yourself why. Then ask yourself why again. And again. And again. You may be surprised what answers come up. 

And if you ever need help on this. If asking the questions is too hard to do alone, write me. Talk to me. I’d love to help you peel back the layers. 

How did it end with my friend?  He decided to go home and think about it.  He wasn't going to quit his job just yet, but it was still an option. 

Has this ever happened to you?  Have you felt you were at a crossroads in your life and you didn't know why you felt the way you did?  Or if you believed one thing was making you unhappy but when you broke it down, you realized you were actually happy?   Have you ever asked yourself why and then asked yourself why again and again?  Share with us below!