In the last 5 months, I've had several conversations with friends and colleagues about how "fed up" they are with their current employment situation, and how completely unhappy they are. Most of the conversations ended with, "I really just don't want to work for someone else anymore".
What was interesting to me about this was how many people in my circle were apparently experiencing the same malaise I was experiencing - working hard for someone else, and never finding true fulfillment in their work. Caught up in what Robert Kyosaki calls, "The Rat Race", in his book, 'Rich Dad Poor Dad'. The problem with "The Rat Race" is that while you're racing, you become fixated on only what is right in front of you. Like a rat in a maze, your vision can only be as wide as the pathway you're running, and only as far as the next wall.
Kyosaki talks at great length about how this "Rat Race" robs us of our joy and freedom because it encourages us to make all of our decisions from the two most destructive human emotions - fear and greed.
For me, greed wasn't so much my poison - instead, it was fear that caused me to stay in a very unhappy environment for several years before I had the courage to start my own business. It wasn't fear of failure; it was the fear of "not having enough". Since the economy crash in 2008, many people have been "happy" to stay in the jobs they had because of the "security". The idea of launching my own company sounded like a foolish thing to do in such "uncertain" economic times.
I realized that the notion of "security" is really a false notion, and that nothing, absolutely NOTHING is secure. My dad always likes to say, "there's a beginning and an end to everything", his paraphrase of the Buddhist proverb, "impermanent are all created things; strive on mindfully."
After the realization and a gut check to assess how truly unhappy I was, it was abundantly obvious that my days as an "employee" were long over. I took the plunge and kept waiting to feel SOMETHING. I'm not the kind to expect bad things to happen or invite unhappiness, but I wondered when I would start feeling the natural human emotions of loss (leaving a business I built from nothing), separation pangs (ending a working relationship with a boss whom I admired and respected).
In the absence of these negative emotions, I realized that I did feel SOMETHING. I felt relieved. Everything about my energy has changed. I spontaneously laugh for "no reason", I smile a whole lot more than I did before. My skin has returned to its natural and healthy state. The biggest thing I've noticed is that I can actually breathe. Real, deep, normal, measured breaths. Finally, this is what it is supposed to feel like when you're alive.
This morning, I read an article about how happiness is not as elusive as many people think it is. In the book, "Happy for No Reason", the author talks about how we have what psychologists call a "happiness set-point" which is about 50% genetic, 10% circumstantial, and 40% choice.
I would argue that circumstantial would be about 5%, but the concept is more important than the figures. The great thing about the concept is that with training of the mind, you can change your set-point (just like the BMI set-point through diet and exercise).
Focus on the 40% and celebrate something today. Even small choices can lead to big happiness.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds