So, I was sitting at my desk, with Mont Blanc view, in my dream job, leading a great team, interesting projects. Happily married, a lovely house, dear friends, bucket loads of money and …. I was freakin’ unhappy. What the heck?! Impossible! Embarrassing! Unthinkable!

Acknowledge success

To cut a long story short, I found my way back to happiness with positive psychology. Rainbows & roses. Let me tell you about it… or am I the only one with luxury problems?

What if the job you loved makes no sense to you now? You had energy to run marathons before but now you ask your love to kick you out of bed each morning. All your life you were convinced that you must add value, work hard, rise to the higher echelons. You’ve pushed yourself day-to-day like a top athlete. Is turning your life around really an option? Retiring early? Going down another path? What to do with the rest of your life?  You may fear the lack of status. Because who are you, if not the VP of xyz, the partner in this firm, the director at this company? Who will want to know you if you are no longer moving within your professional network? You may fear not having that regular income, not convinced you deserve to live so selfishly, choosing to do only what you want. This is not what your parents taught you. Who are you to live only for pleasure & freedom? Not earning that income, losing that status, no longer measuring your success by a big car, a job that impresses, being useful to society in a way you believe is right… If becoming a rat-race drop-out is your dirty secret desire … I’ve got some tips.

If you already know that you want to become rat-race drop out, jump to section B) below.

If you’re not sure yet, let me ask you: do you frequently tell yourself “O yes, I’m OK, but I’ll be really happy when…..”?
Far too often we project our happiness into the future, to the moment we’ve achieved x, y or z.
And then when we achieve x, y or z, happiness is again postponed, because now we realize that what we really need to be happy is a, b or c.


A) What’s keeping you?

I was personally chasing the top jobs for two reasons:

Status: if people respected and admired me I would feel good about myself. Or so I thought. Until I realized that even if I was highly respected in my field of work, I felt the same inside as I had always felt. Which was “ it’s never enough” . I was always chasing the next achievement, the next promotion, the next project completed, higher numbers in earnings and cash than last year.
Do you recognize this? That you cannot celebrate your achievements? That it’s never enough? Or you celebrate for about 5 secs and then you move on to the next peak to climb?

Hide my introvert nature: as long as I had a role which allowed me to reach out to people, or people had a reason to speak with me about my work, I didn’t have to worry about how to start a conversation and about what. I was my job, that defined my role in life. I didn’t have to wonder who I was without the function.
How do you introduce yourself? “I am [name] and I am [function] at [company]?”  Is that your identity?

You may have other reasons to keep chasing the dream

  1. I NEED to be useful, add value, because … well… eehm…
    I will become an outcast if I don’t, people will reject me, I will die, …. Or something like that?
  2. I CANNOT feel safe unless I have € x,xxx,xxx on the bank.
    What if I, my spouse, my children get an accident, become seriously ill, lose their job, the house is destroyed by a fire, ….?
  3. People WON’T take me seriously without this job, this money, this house, this life style.
    And who am I if people do not take me seriously?
  4. I WON’T be happy without this job, this money, this house, this life style.
    Forgetting that you are not happy now, as it is….
  5. I MUST keep growing, learning, achieving, because standing still is like dying.
  6. ….

If you’ve got other reasons, please do let me know – comments are welcome!

This becomes a problem when you feel you don’t have a choice or you’re not considering other possibilities, as showing in the “one ought to”, “must”, “should”, “cannot”.
We have our conscious and also unconscious reasons to keep going, without stopping to realize we have that choice to simply be happy now. That you have everything you need, right here, right now.

“But…, but…, but…” you say?
All nonsense, there are people happier than you, living a way worse circumstances. The question in the end is: do you want results, or reasons?


B) Leaving the rat-race … for what?

Maybe you don’t know what’s at your heart’s desire, you only know it’s not this you’re doing now.
Go back and remember: what did you love to do as a child? What puts a smile on your face? Wouldn’t you still love these same activities?
What have you lost along the way that you’d want to recover?
And, have you ever done a Values Exercise to find out what is really important to you? You can drop me a note for instructions or find it on the internet. Basically, it comes down to writing down the most important life events, what you learned from them and why they matter. Keep asking yourself what lies beneath that is important , till you come to your (current) core values like freedom, safety, creativity, compassion, learning. Does your job tick these boxes? What kind of role will tick them? Get in touch if you would like to having a sparring partner for how to find security, and a solid base to start living your (new) dream.

Top job = top sport

When you’ve been in the corporate game at a high level, you’ve played top sport. High levels of adrenaline, performing under pressure or stress, with big responsibilities. This is not child play. You may have loved the game, you may still love it, or possibly it has worn you thin.

In any case, when you switch or retire you will need recovery time. It may be that you need to let go of the stress levels slowly, like a former athlete who’s building down their sport’s heart.
We all know (about) people who dropped the moment they retired. My granddad was Corporate Controller at Unilever and did exactly that, my father-in-law was a VP at Solvay and did exactly that.
I retired at 46 and was ill during 6 months. I just came off the phone & the friend I was talking with needed 8 months to get back in shape.  So, what I learned is that it’s better to make a plan – you may want to build down slowly, or ensure you give yourself time to recover while keeping the carrot dangling in front of you: creating an enticing plan for the future.

That plan you can create and bring to life with visualization exercises. Close your eyes and dream: what does your life look like, sound like, feel like, smell like in 3 years from now?
Who’s with you? Where are you? What time of day? Is there a soundtrack to this? How do you feel when you look around you?
How do you know you’ve got what you need, right there and then? Then what are the steps you took to get there?
For all I know, it might be a sunset on a beach, apero and dinner with some friends and family, celebrating that 2 years ago you took the leap to finally start with ….

Let me know!

More on the happiness journey to rainbows & roses here: