So You’re Happy Huh? Keep Telling Yourself That


While my wife and I were at church yesterday, another member of our congregation asked her how her teaching job was going.

“It’s great! But it’s also really stressful.”

To give you an idea of how stressful, she’s a first-year Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Ec) teacher, teaching 4 separate classes, one of which is a full-blown catering class in its first year and she’s writing the curriculum. She’s also a student club sponsor and has to be available for all meetings and events. And she’s dealing with a new administration that favors an autocratic leadership style. Yeah, I basically get to spend zero time with her.

“So it’s great.”

“Well, yeah. It’s great. But it’s also stressful.”

“Well, all I need to know is that it’s great. You don’t have to tell me it’s stressful. Doesn’t that make you feel better?”

“Well, not really. Because then I would just be lying to myself.”

“Well, my job sucks too. But I just keep telling myself it’s great and hopefully it’ll stick one day.”

Sounds like optimism, right? Wrong, it’s stupidity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an optimistic guy and I feel that a good dose of optimism is necessary if you want to change anything for the better in your life. I also believe that being content with what you have is an essential virtue. But if I believe hard enough that a flying unicorn fairy is going to come down and sprinkle me with six-pack holy water and it’s going to make me happy, 15 years from now my stomach is still going to be flabby and I’m still going to be unhappy.

Seriously, guys. If you hate doing the things that you spend the majority of your working life doing, don’t expect happiness to come just because you’ve deceived yourself into believing it. You’ve got to build your own happiness. You have to learn to live life on your own terms. If you want to see a change, be that change.

I met a marriage counselor a few months back, and while I was talking to him, he told me a little about his story. After graduating from college, he went to India with the Peace Corps and spent two years raising chickens with Indian villagers. After he came back to the states, he didn’t really know what to do with his life, so he started working as a mechanic. He did that for 10 years and started hating it. Instead of telling himself it was great, he went back to school to get a teaching degree and for the next 20 years he taught high school Auto Mechanics.

When he was in his late 50s, their kids had all moved out and his wife, who had stayed at home their entire marriage, wanted to go to school to become a marriage counselor. At that time, he was again feeling bored and unhappy with his job, so he decided to join her. Five years later, they have their own practice and he loves every minute of it.

What a baller.

Rather than tell himself it’ll all be okay and he’ll just have to deal with a sucky career, he put on his big boy pants and did what he wanted to do. He didn’t make excuses or tell himself it would be too expensive or it would take too much effort. He didn’t wither away in mediocre complacency. He rolled with it and did what he wanted to do, and he didn’t allow himself to fail.

So what’s wrong with the rest of us? Too often, we allow ourselves to become victims of circumstance. Why? Because it’s sooooo easy to play the victim. We wish things were better, but we don’t have enough money, or we have too much debt, or it’s too hard, or whatever other lame sauce thing we have to say. Okay, maybe you do have a lot of debt and you can’t start a business right now. So does that mean your solution is to roll over and waste the rest of your life doing what you hate?

No. That means your solution is to attack your debt like a wild dingo until it’s no longer a threat to your dreams. If you can’t do that yet, is your solution to just keep on living your unhappy life? No. That means your solution is to learn some mad budgeting skillz so you can go all wild dingo on your debt. The same goes for any other obstacle. It’s true that not everyone can immediately leave what they hate to start doing what they love, but everyone has baby steps he or she can take to get there eventually. It’s hard to change, but it’s so worth it. So stop lying to yourself and get on it.

What are you missing out on right now because you’ve been complacent? Do you have an awesome story of kicking your circumstances to the curb?

p.s. Thanks for all those who have shared my stuff lately! Big shout out to:

Lisa Vs. the Loans – Links Lisa Likes 11/4/13
VOSA – VOSA Month in Review: How Automation & Passive Income Made October 2013 a Great Month
Budget for Health – Post-Halloween Blog Carnival
Jana Says – Carnival of Personal Finance: The Netflix Binge Watching Edition

(photo cred)


20 thoughts on “So You’re Happy Huh? Keep Telling Yourself That

  1. I think it's easy to get complacent in a job that you just tolerate. My husband basically did that at his old job and it took something really drastic to make a change. Now he's in the same industry but working for a company that has far fewer demands. What he found out is that he liked the "job." He just didn't like performing that job at his old workplace.

    1. That's good! You've got to have a little of both. I should have included that pessimism factor. You're not going anywhere unless you realize that you're just going to be unhappier later on.

  2. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expiating a different result. I always loved that saying. We all have something that isn't going well for us. For me right now I have great friends but my career in video is slow and my dating life sucks. But I am TRYING, and feeling things out. I can't go balls out back to school for a different career (well mainly because I really don't know what I want to be anymore) because of MY circumstances, but I'm definitely trying out new ways of making money which does bring a lot more happiness. As far as dating well you saw how well that was going…but not giving up, just need a new perspective or try something new.

    1. It's always good to try something new 🙂 A lot of the stuff we worry about isn't really that big of a deal in the long run. Just do what you feel good about and you'll be happy. And that's all that's important! 🙂

  3. The last three years have been all about change at our house. I get to work part time now and write and run my blog. Hubby has a new job that is challenging him and paying more money. It took some real soul searching and getting over the notion that you are supposed to work full time until you're 65, whether you like it or not. Once you can get out of that mindset, it's lots easier to find ways to change your situation.

    1. Awesome! I'm glad you get to focus more time on doing what you love, and I'm also glad your husband has a challenge. My current job offers zero challenge and it's killing me, so I've been rabidly searching for something better. It's interesting though what you can do once you start thinking for yourself and deciding to do what you want rather than what everyone else wants.

  4. Such a great post! I struggle with my career as an actress because I LOVE the work. I show up at the theatre, perform- it's amazing. But the in between, and what really is the day to day life in theatre- auditioning and trying to get by on what you've saved from the last show- is miserable. I've decided to embrace and accept that I don't like that day to day and create something for myself that I DO love in the meantime. Slowly but surely my freelance business is becoming a viable income option and it's way better than wallowing in self pity when I'm not performing.
    My recent post Failing to Plan Ahead Destroys Budgets

  5. Of course it's great to look on the bright side of things. But that doesn't mean you have to shut out reality. Being uncomfortable and unhappy is what motivates people to change their lives – why pretend to be happy??

    Also, thanks for the shout out, Ben! 🙂
    My recent post Links Lisa Likes – 11/11/13

    1. Agreed! And the craziest thing is that this guy owns his own business and he hates it. So I feel that if he had it in him to start this one, he should have it in him to do something more along the lines of what he’s passionate about.

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