By Becky Morrison, Lawyer turned Happiness Coach and best-selling Author of The Happiness Recipe
I did everything I thought I was supposed to. I got good grades, attended a great college and a respected law school and found myself in a high-paying job as a litigator on the partnership track at one of the country’s top 100 law firms. I was happily married and had a beautiful, healthy daughter. Somehow, despite having checked all the boxes, I wasn’t happy.
I was a pretty good lawyer. I have always been a strong communicator, efficient writer, strong problem-solver and skilled relationship-builder. The problem wasn’t that my substantive skills weren’t there. The problem was that, despite being nearly 30, I had no idea what would make me happy. That was nearly 20 years ago.
Over the next two decades, in the process of balancing happiness and success I learned a few important lessons that I want to share with you.
Lesson #1 – You Don’t Have to Have One Purpose.
As an unhappy young litigator, I wanted to find more happiness and I thought I needed to find my “true purpose.” It was frustrating, then, when I could land on a single thing that I thought could be my life-long passion project. I was a new mom, and while I loved being a mom and wanted it to be a higher priority in that moment, I also knew that I had professional aspirations beyond motherhood.
Ultimately, I discovered that life is a series of seasons. And happiness doesn’t have to come from having a single guiding purpose that remains consistent throughout. That means when you are looking for happiness you need to pay attention to what season you are in. And it means you will need to recognize that as your seasons change, your purpose might also change.
Lesson #2 – Tune into your Happiness Recipe
As my career wound through big law firms, entrepreneurial finance, small business consulting and now coaching, I learned that the recipe for maximum happiness is really very simple: do more of what matters most to you and less of the rest. I call this priority-aligned living. Succinctly put, it is about spending as much of your time, energy and resources as possible on the things that matter most to you. This, of course, requires being willing to let go of the rest – even when it’s difficult.
Priority-aligned living is not one size fits all – it is highly individualized. It’s not based on perfectly aligning your actions, rather it simply provides a framework for decision-making, problem-solving and time-spending. And, probably most importantly, it’s not an end state. It’s practiced with each decision we make, and it evolves as the seasons of our lives evolve. Living in a priority-aligned way can require making hard choices, but they are your choices.
Lesson #3 – Mind the Gaps.
Priority-aligned living, while straightforward in concept, is not always easy to execute. I’ve noticed that the there are three things that tend to get it in the way.
The Authenticity Gap
The first of these is the Authenticity Gap. It happens when we don’t know, name or claim what really matters to us and our happiness. Often it pops up when what matters most to us is in conflict with either what we’ve been told should matter to us or with what we believe we deserve.
You can see it in my story. I did all the things I thought I should do to bring me happiness in my career but it wasn’t until I connected with what mattered to me that I actually found it.
To close the Authenticity Gap, get honest with yourself and others about what matters most ot you. Because we live in a world where information, ideas and “shoulds” fly at us a million miles an hour all day long, that might requires slowing down enough to actually listen to your voice over all the outside voices.
The Emotional Energy Gap
The second gap is the Emotional Energy Gap. It is tied to how we view ourselves and our ability to have more of what matters to us. And it’s the gap that most oftent gets missed. We live in a action-based world and as result we often jump right from knowing what we want to doing it. But it is important to make sure that we’ve got the beliefs and feelings that will support us.
To close the emotional energy gap identify the places where you need to shift your mindset to support yourself as you name and claim what matters most to you, and actually do more of that and less of the rest.
The Physical Energy Gap
The final gap is the Physical Energy Gap and it’s created when you don’t actually match your capacity – time, energy and resources – to your priorities. Ultimately, priorities are not spoken, they are lived. And if you are saying one thing and doing another, then you’re a victim of this gap.
To close the Physical Energy Gap, you need to align your capacity with your priorities. When you are clear on what matters to you, believe you can do more of that and less of the rest, then you can actually take steps to make sure that you are spending as much of your capacity as possible on those things that fuel your happiness.
Finding career happiness starts with understanding your personal happiness recipe. Recognizing that your purpose and priorities can change as your seasons do, allows you to understand the importance of identifying the season you are in. Then, in that season, you can write your happiness recipe – naming and claiming what matters most to you, doing more of what matters and less of the rest, and having a mindset that will support you along the way.
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