Last year, this time, I was depressed. I was working in a career that did not make me happy, I was living a life that was not fulfilling, I was following a path I did not want to continue down. I was pursuing a dream that did not feel like my own. A dependable paycheck, a clear and comfortable career path until retirement. Everything I could ever want, right?
Now up until this point, I had been living life based on goals defined by someone else. It was easy, comfortable, and well-known. No surprises or anything - follow these steps and you'll have a "happy" life, and this career was that embodiment of that concept. I was actively ignoring my unhappiness, justifying as something I just needed to work through. My situation was the "happy" life.
I combated the unhappiness with a stubborn repetition in my head: "It's going to get better."
It never did.
I remember sitting in the middle of my living room, paralyzed with indecision to leave behind the comfortable position I was in. My mind was conditioned to believe that where I was presently, was the "happy" life - it was wrong to throw it away; ignore your unhappiness and just be happy. It would not go away. With great mental effort, I repeated the question - "what do you want?" in my head over and over again, challenging myself to understand what I wanted.
Challenging one''s self is not easy, to really ask yourself and listen to yourself. It is easy to stick with what is known and comfortable.
In my repeated challenging of myself had landed on a simple truth. I wanted to be happy in my life, on my terms. Now what did that mean to me?
For me, happiness was: to experience as much as I could in life, to learn, to develop, to teach, to help others, to make the world a better place. Ha! Who would have though the traditional "happy" life would not match my expectations for happiness?
Start with reflection, be self-aware, learn about your core values and motivations. These actions are in your control. Enable yourself to design a career around you.
Lester Xu is an Associate at Pariveda Solutions. He's passionate about user-centered design, product development, and culture and community building.