When I earn more I'll have more...
Leadership roles attract the higher packages, and there is a common belief that when we earn more we'll have more... happiness.
Here's something that works as well as that notion:
Happiness is an internal experience that is definitely influenced by external events, however its derivative is within. It's a choice. There are happy people to be found in every environment, situation and context.
As a Leadership Coach / Mentor, my experience is that with higher salaries and more responsibility comes more pressure and often more feelings of being trapped and unhappy.
As income rises, life-style changes. We don't live a $45,000 life when we earn $200,000. We tend to buy more expensive brands and experiences (restaurants...). As we earn more, we spend more generally speaking.
I have sat before as many high income earners who are unhappy as I have lower income earners. The lower income people may dream of the day when they can earn more - this will surely solve all of their current challenges that make them unhappy. The higher income earners can feel trapped by their success - now I earn this income, my lifestyle is set to this standard and I can't go back. I am now trapped in a career that I no longer feel passionate about and takes me away from the very people and things I now value most (family, friends, hobbies...).
So what's my point?
Separate Happiness from Lifestyle, Income and Career.
Choose a career that brings purpose to your life. We don't need to be Mother Theresa to be living a purposeful life. Purpose is adding value to our own lives and that of others.
Be consciously aware of lifestyle choices. Does where you live matter to the quality of your living or is it a pressure to appear successful? What if a small house in a fringe suburb with a low mortgage gave you and your family the perfect lifestyle with excess funds to travel the globe? Who is to say it is anything less than perfect?
Be mindful of the relationship you have with money. As you earn it, do you save it, spend it, invest it? Do you use it to give other people happiness or to add more 'things' to your cupboards. Look back 12 months at everything you purchased (other than household groceries and 'must have' items like school uniform etc). Do any of those purchases matter right now?
Our ideal career is where we can leverage our passion. It is a place where we can learn, grow, give, feel valued and create as we connect. It has all of the components of fulfilment within it.
Our ideal career will add currency to our feelings of happiness - but as the opening to this piece states, happiness IS A CHOICE that is freely available at all times.
If you feel trapped by your own success and happiness is not something you experience on a daily basis, here's a quick list of tips to explore:
Remind yourself each day, that YOU have chosen this current situation. Even a non-decision is a decision in itself. This, as a bi-product, will remind you that YOU can therefore change the current situation.
Tell yourself "the future can be different to the past". Get crystal clear on how you would like tomorrow to be different from today.
Isolate the "can't's". These are the very things that prevent you from making the decisions and taking the actions required to make tomorrow different from today, in the way you would like it to be.
Expand the can't list. If you can't change career, as the income drop affects others (where or how you live etc), it's time to talk to them. Seeking a win/win outcome for all.
That's enough to start you off on a path towards a life that is of your own design.
The Happiness Trap is where we believe what we earn will improve what we have which will bring us the experience of happiness.
What we have are things, and stuff - what we feel is a choice.