Thursday, 29 April 2010

Happiness and career choice

An article in Thursday's Guardian talks about the rise of depression in the UK, particularly amongst women. One paragraph quotes Lorna Martin, author of Woman on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown:

"I think we're conditioned to think that sadness shouldn't be part of the human condition, but it is. It's like all of these difficult emotions, like loss, fear of mortality...seem so difficult, so they're just pushed away – then they bubble up."

Many of us choose careers in this way, too. We pursue this thing called happiness, and we try to avoid difficult emotions. The problem is that no emotion - least of all happiness - can be controlled by our feeble minds for long.

If we try, the only effect is that we begin to narrow our lives by limiting our willingness to experience ourselves as we are.

The only thing we can control is our behaviour. So instead, we ask our career change clients to identify what it is they truly value. We then ask them how willing they are to pursue this direction if it means taking all of their difficult history, negative thoughts and negative emotions along with them.

Ironically, if they are willing to do this, then happiness often occurs. But it is a different brand of happiness than the one they set out to achieve.

It's a sadder, more complex and vital form of happiness. It's the feeling that - no matter what life threw at me - I stood for something.