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You Deserve Happiness, So Stop Settling for Less

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A scene in the film Me and You and Everyone We Know—a quirky love story about a lonely shoe salesman and an equally lonely artist—shows the artist in the store where the salesman works, waiting while a friend shops.

The shoe salesman glances at the artist’s shoes and asks, “Are those comfortable?”

She says, “I guess so. I mean, they kind of rub my ankles, but all shoes do that. I have low ankles.”

He looks her in the eye and says, “You think you deserve that pain, but you don’t.”

You think you deserve that pain, but you don’t.

Too many of us go through life quietly enduring things that make us unhappy. We tolerate jobs that cut into our well-being. We stay in roles that rub and chafe and wear away at our happiness. In short, we settle.

A few years ago, while eating lunch with my colleagues in our corporate cafeteria, I looked around the room at everyone and then turned to my coworker. I asked, “Do you think these people are happy?”

He replied, “Right now they are.”

“In general, though,” I said. “Do you think they’re happy?”

He stared at me. “Do you really think anybody is happy with their job?”

And there it was.

We grow up dreaming of being astronauts and princesses. We’re told we can achieve anything we want. We’re promised the world and permitted to dream beyond its limits. But at some point along the way, we abandon the concept of happiness completely. We build lifestyles of cubicles and commutes. We do what we think we should.

And then we wake up on Monday morning filled with dread and think it would be ludicrous to expect otherwise.

“Nobody likes their job,” we justify, “so I shouldn’t expect to, either.”

The salesman in the film goes on to say, “People think foot pain is a fact of life. Life is actually better than that.”

The artist’s friend adds, “Your whole life could be better, starting right now.”

Your whole life can be better.

You deserve to face Monday with something more than despair. You deserve to feel excited about something more than Friday evening. You deserve to love your job. You deserve to feel that your happiness still counts. Because it does.

Happiness should be a standard that life decisions are measured against, and any decision that undermines your happiness should be regarded as a poor one.

Don’t bind yourself up in a mortgage if you’re going to use it as an excuse to stay in a job you hate. Don’t move to a city you hate for a job you hate just because it pays well. Don’t arrange your life so that you work an hour from home if you’re going to spend the commute missing your children grow up.

Do not settle for shoes that hurt your feet.

Do not justify a job that pains you in other ways.

Happiness is a basic necessity. Expect happiness—and then figure out how to get it.

To borrow one last line from the movie, “I am prepared for amazing things to happen.”

I deserve it. You do, too.

Krista Goral is an IT consultant by day and doubles down as a writer, blogger and philosopher/doer by night. She explores the everyday human experience on her blog, Response Crafting.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.yepi6.org/ yepi6

    I enjoyed your story very well

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Krista, we should seek happiness like fireflies seeking light! Happiness isn’t the destination either – we should embrace it during the journey. Sometimes, often, it takes dramatic life events to remind us to regularly seek happiness. Then we stop doing things we ‘should’ and start taking conscious action to have more happiness in our lives.

  • http://www.kizi-2.net/ kizi2

    thank your post, I’m going to find the way of his happiness, that NOA is not easy to get so I think that when it comes, let us know and keep it sincere.

  • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

    I enjoyed how you wove the movie’s themes with this post. (I just made a note to see it!)

    That said, something about the sentiments in this article made me cringe. And I’m a career coach who helps people do exactly what you’re saying- move from jobs they hate to work they love!

    Here are a few implications I’m getting from this article that I disagree with.
    1) It’s not okay to quietly endure things that make us unhappy.

    I think that people should work to set up their lives and careers in a way that suits them, but there are going to be times when compromise is necessary to get what we want. In those instances, yes, we’ll put up with what we don’t like, and it’s okay to do so.

    2) Happiness lies outside of ourselves in some perfect career.

    There are definitely jobs out there that are better or worse fits for us, and finding a good fit does make a difference in the caliber of our days. But holding out for perfection? Talk about giving away all your power. Happiness resides within us and in the way we choose to perceive our circumstances. Believing there’s some perfect career out there that will swoop in and save us will lead to loads of disappointment and frustration.

    3) We should not settle for anything less (than exactly what we want).

    I think we would all love to be Nobel peace prize winning millionaires who still have plenty of free time for our hot air balloon hobby. But I also think at some point, as we grow up, most of us realize that we are going to lead pretty ordinary lives, hopefully making a bit of a difference in our little corner of the world. There is definitely a settling of expectations that occurs, and that’s a good thing.

    4) People should be happy with their jobs all the time.

    There are going to be good days and bad days in any field, in any company, anyplace in the world. Even in a career you love.

    5) It was true when we were told “we can achieve anything we want”.

    You can’t achieve anything you want. You can achieve maybe a few things when you’re connected to people who will help you, an understanding of what you need to do, and a lot of persistence to get it done.

    6) You deserve to love your job.

    I would change this entire sentence from the passive and entitled ‘You deserve to love your job’ to ‘You can set a goal, work day after day, make sacrifices, and eventually build a career around something you care about. It won’t always be easy, and there will be times when you want to give up. Hang in there.’

    Overall, I love the ideals you presented here. I just think they need to be tempered with a bit of a reality check. Hopping off my soapbox!

    • RichardsDaddy

      I’m with Alison on this. I’m completely down with the ideals presented here, but they aren’t rooted in the real world. I’d love to think I can go from cubicle drudgery to fluffy bunnies, but that’s like praying really hard to win the lottery. I am sick of the job I’m in, and I’m networking/searching for something where I’ll be more appreciated, use more of my skills, and have access to training and a defined career path. That’s the best I can do. No job will ever be perfect. And you know what? If someone offered me double what I’m making now to do something only mildly more interesting, I’d show up with bells on. I need to make the money I do to support my family, be engaged with my wife and my children as they grow, and ensure my kids have a great future. A job that may be perfect for me could slight my family. That’s reality and there is no escaping it. Can someone have it all? Of course. It’s not impossible, but it’s improbable.

      • http://twitter.com/bsaunders Barbara R Saunders

        My experience: we’ve been had. My college years pushed me in the direction of white-collar work and (it seems to me) left out MOST of the available world of work. Recently, while working as a freelance writer for a utility company, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who work at jobs I never thought about in the kinds of companies I never thought about. Concrete plant operation, for example. My career counselor once suggested I look into welding. These are, in fact, ordinary jobs not “the-next-Bill-Gates” fantasies, but so many of us just never consider them.

    • Diana

      Interesting because I did not read any of the points you made into this post at all. She’s not talking about holding out for perfection or refusing to face reality, but to listen to that little voice inside of ourselves that says, “I’m settling when I can do better.” At least that’s what I heard.

    • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

      Alison,

      I just have to agree with you and commend you for your spot on interpretation of this post. I finished and went…”ok, yeah, but how?”

      I really hate this idea that “happiness” just comes from a stork landing on your doorstep. That’s NOT how it works, and happiness really is something within, not something that lies outside in our perfect career or life. Anyway, I loved your comment. SERIOUS REALITY CHECK NEEDED.

  • Gerrard

    Once you settle, you won’t remember happiness. You won’t remember what made you happy. i used to be, i think, happier in my younger days but those are hazy memories. When I try to think about what could make me happy today, my mind draws a blank.

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  • http://twitter.com/attainablelife Unattainable Life

    I agree with you 100% with this post. I consciously live my life doing exactly what makes me happy. Along the journey of life, I’ve learned that there is no point in wasting my precious moments dreading each day. Especially when each moment isn’t even guaranteed.

    I know that’s not the best way to think of things, which I try not to think that way most of the time, but I do remind myself that this is my one life and I should do mostly what makes me happy. I should live my life on my terms. Understanding that materialistic things only make me happy in the short term and instead buying or just doing things that are experiences with myself or with others will make this life more worthwhile.

    I use the phrase, “Are you REALLY Living?” to help guide me in choices that I make. It simply means are the choices I am going to make helping live a great life or just exist in life. I choose to live and not just exist.

    Societal norms, especially in the U.S. tell us that we need to go to school, get a good paying job, get a house, buy a car, etc. but that isn’t what makes us LIVE. Those things that a lot of us dream about while sitting at our desks bored are the things we should be doing and taking the risk to figure out how to do them and possibly get paid doing them would be more beneficial than reflecting back on a miserable life of shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.

    I, too, am prepared for amazing things to happen because I deserve it. :)

  • Margaret

    Thank you for the reminder! I’ve been in toxic jobs and I’m now self-employed. I sacrifice every day but it’s worth it. Having control over my destiny and decisions in order to maintain my integrity makes me happy.

  • Razwana

    I agree that pie-in-the-sky thinking of an alternative career/job is going to be the answer to all of the issues. The grass is only greener when you are looking at it with envy, right?

    The sentiments in your post ring true, but before blaming the job or career for being unhappy, it is wise to assess life in general – what is working, what isn’t? And is the job really the issue?

    Thank you for the post.
    - Razwana

    • http://twitter.com/bsaunders Barbara R Saunders

      My big moment was when I realized that the absolute deal breaker was “sitting down for 8 hours a day,” which pretty much eliminated the entire world of full-time corporate jobs.

  • SFuManchu

    I do like your post and I do think it’s a worthy aim…however, the US economy hasn’t hurt this much for decades. Despite little bubbles of activity, it is still in decline with many people out there searching for any job, let alone a fulfilling job.

    Reading this article ten years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly. Reading it now, I’m fully aware that the employee does not have total control over their work circumstances, anything but these days.

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  • http://www.y8u.org/ Y8

    Now it’s time someone authored information such as this inside a obvious, understandable style. Appreciate your insight.

  • jrandom421

    Also realize you’re not going to find happiness in one shot. It cam happen, but that’s as often as winning the lottery. For most of us it’s a progression, going from good to better in a chain of events through a period of time. And while this may be the advice most millenials don’t want to hear, it’s the most needed: Take your time, proceed step by step to what you want, going from good to better, and HAVE PATIENCE.

  • http://www.y8friv.asia/ Friv 4

    I don’t generally perceive articles that categorical my views and thoughts okay.

  • cassandrajank

    There’s always going to be a mis-match of what you like to do what jobs want.

    The advice I would give is to find out what you enjoyed doing when you were younger when playing. Did you enjoy being in the school plays? What about playing a musical instrument? If you can find a job with something you enjoy you are bound to do better and succeed. There has, however, have to be a compromise along the way. Afterall, even being an actor has downsides such as endless auditions, learning lines etc..

    Caz

    Small Business Consultant
    http://www.motorcare-woking.co.uk/
    http://www.araarchitects.co.uk/

  • http://www.humorthatworks.com/ Andrew Tarvin

    I understand some of the pushback from other commenters about happiness and work. What I took away from Krista is to bias your decisions towards happiness where possible. We often take things like money and status into account when deciding on a job, but another thing to include (without ignoring the others) is our happiness.

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