Are you on the hunt for more fulfillment and happiness in your career? Here are the best three books to help guide you towards Career Happiness
Like I said last week in “I Choose To Be Happy”, a few years ago I did a deep dive into the world of Happiness, specifically reading lots of books, listening to podcasts and challenging myself to work on feeling more joy and happiness in my everyday life. At the start I only focused on my personal life and it wasn’t until I picked up some of the following books that I realized that this idea of going after Happiness can be extended to the workplace.
Like many of you, I’ve believed the message that you should be content with what you have and that in order to be truly happy you just focus on just being grateful for the life you are currently living. And while I do think that going after something just for more money or a better title isn’t going to bring me happiness, the following books helped me realize that going after a career that brings more meaning to my life (and others) is not only okay but vital for my overall happiness.
I wanted to write this post because I know we all tend to hold ourselves back from pursuing our dreams – either from a fear of failure, an uncertainty of where to go or a feeling of worthlessness – and I want to provide some resources that can help you get unstuck and move your career forward.
Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar
Tal Shahar is a Harvard lecturer and psychologist, one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology, considered to be the newest branch of psychology looking at how to create optimal conditions allowing us to thrive (instead of just surviving as many other branches of psychology focus on).
Happier is a book that examines how we can attempt to create more time in our lives for meaningful activity and he provides many exercises that allow us to figure out how to find that meaning and how to start to live a more meaningful life.
I find that there is a message that exists that you can either go full on 100% into a career (as Tal calls it the “rat racer”) or 100% into happiness but that you can’t have both. What this book did for me was to show me that you can strive for career success while still having some “balance” and that can lead to happiness. Tal showed me that the message, that wanting success makes it impossible to also achieve happiness, is wrong and that you can actually have both. If you are striving for success in a way that makes your life meaningful and in a way that focuses on the journey not the outcome (the elusive I’ll be happy when…) then you are putting together a winning formula.
What this book did for me was give me permission to strive for that success in my career.
10% Happier by Dan Harris
This is one of my favourite books on Happiness and I always recommend it to clients, friends and colleagues. The story starts with an outline of Dan’s career working as a journalist in battle zones leading to a cocaine addiction and culminating with him having a full blown panic attack on air. The book then explores his search for answers – how can he learn to overcome his addiction, reduce stress but not lose his competitive edge so that he could still progress his career. He reaches out to all of the normal self-help gurus – Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle (in many laugh out loud moments!) leading him to Mindfulness Meditation.
He talks about how Mindfulness Meditation has allowed him to be more successful in his job, especially as it taught him how to respond not react to situations, how to manage stress and how to harness his competitive edge to greater success.
For me, I know that in order to try and give my 100% to my family, my health and my career that I need to ensure I’m taking care of my mental state which, for me, includes an active meditation practice. When I am meditating daily I notice a difference in my ability to handle difficult situations, my creativity and my stress levels allowing me to do all three more effectively.
While Tal gave me permission to strive for happiness through career success, Dan gave me a tool that sets me for success while reaching for the stars.
Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (and the follow up Happier At Home) was really my first foray into this world of Positive Psychology and Happiness. Those two books allowed me to make small changes in my personal and home life that led to joy. And her third book built upon that but for the first time it also had me focusing on how to take what I was learning and apply it to my day to day life at work.
Better Than Before is not a traditional book about Happiness, instead it is about habits and how the formation of habits can lead you to happiness or can lead you to despair. In it she describes her Four Personality Types (further explored in her most recent book, The Four Tendencies) that she has noticed when it comes to sticking to habits. You have the Upholder (habit sticker), Questioner (habit sticker ONLY if it makes sense), Obliger (habit sticker ONLY to make others happy) and the Rebel (habit sticker ONLY if they feel they aren’t sticking to expectations). What I love about this is that she gives tips and tricks on how to form or break habits based on your tendency, so as a Questioner I have to find habits that can withstand my critical eye! She also discusses the 10 Obstacles to Habit Formation, essentially the excuses we create to not stick to our new, good for us habits.
This book really helped me think about some of my work habits and allowed me to come up a plan on how to create some good habits (like administration) and how to break some bad habits (like using work to procrastinate from things like administration!).
Better than Before was really the next logical step for me, I now had given myself permission to go after my dreams, I had a tool that ensured I was able to manage the ups and downs that are natural in the workplace and with this, I now have the foundation of day to day habits that allows me to focus my mental energy on building and developing my coaching business.
These three books really helped me to get to where I am today and I hope that they help illuminate your next steps as well!
In case you aren’t a book reader, Gretchen’s and Dan’s podcasts which also provide some tips and help:
Happier – Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft
10% Happier – Dan Harris and a variety of guests
Have you read any happiness books that have really helped you? Drop a line in the comments to let me know.
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Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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