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Career Feels


Abigail Shrier contributed an essay to the recent weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, drawing up on her new book, “Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up.” The title had me at hello: Stop Constantly Asking Your Kids How They Feel. If you don’t have time (or a paid subscription to WSJ), here’s the potentially shocking leading hook from the article: “Studies have consistently shown that the more adults value happiness, the less happy they tend to be.”

I wholeheartedly agree when it comes to parenting. I’m a bit notorious in my immediate family for not caring about how my kids feel about the food we’re eating for dinner or that they don’t want to swing by Trader Joe’s on the way home. I also carry the same philosophy as a youth sports coach—knowing that you prefer to play shortstop or striker and don’t feel like playing right field or defense are interesting data points. Still, I’m more focused on your overall development as a teammate and player. A kid’s feelings are only one part of the picture, and choosing to use them as the primary orientation is unhelpful for any pursuit. As Shirer writes, “If we want our kids to be happy, the last thing we should do is communicate that happiness is the goal. The more vigorously we hunt happiness, the more likely we are to be disappointed, regardless of the conditions of our lives.”

However, her article also helped me connect some dots and inspire future career prep ideas:

    • Happiness is a Poor Indicator: If happiness is the best or only indicator that you are on the right career or education path, you’re setting yourself up for near-continuous disorientation and disappointment. How you feel at a particular moment might have little relevant value for understanding your direction. (I have a good friend who’s switched jobs and careers several times because of his feelings, and he’s still searching for the “right fit.”)
    • Values > Happiness: rather than asking yourself if you’re happy in your career field, ask yourself if this expresses a value that you find truly important. Prioritizing your values can be a much better diagnostic of your progress. 
    • Satisfaction > Happiness: growth and change rarely inspire feelings of elation or glee. Instead, training and learning new skills can feel overwhelming, humbling, or intense. However, learning something new can be incredibly rewarding if you stick with it and work through your resistance. 
    • Contribution > Happiness: one of the greatest joys of my life (Yes, I said “joy” on purpose) has been contributing to teams, helping to solve problems, and the times I’ve gone above and beyond to work on a meaningful project. If you had checked in with me during the process to inquire about my feelings and ensure I was happy, I probably would’ve told you to shove it, respectfully. 

Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to be happy with their career choices. I hope and pray that, as adults, they experience positive emotions frequently at work. I know I do. I hope they enjoy working and don’t view it as a means to an end or a necessary evil. But I also understand that there are more important things than happiness.


P.S. What if there was a way to get the best resources to impact the kids in your life—delivered to you at the right time?
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