The Secret to Unhappiness

This past week was great. Like most weeks, I spent part of every day wondering what I ever did to deserve to be so blessed in life, and being grateful for the interesting, dedicated people I met, for the opportunity to learn more every day and aware of the real privileges I have. That I can work from home much of the time, have an adequate travel budget to attend events like the Tribal Disabilities conference, get paid a sufficient amount that I can afford to give a significant amount to charity – the fact that these are all privileges not everyone has is not lost on me. I think about it literally every day.

meeting at turtle mountain


Over the past week, I met a lot of people who were greatly content with their lot in life. All of them had one thing in common – they really liked their jobs. I can’t say for sure what the secret to happiness is, but I can guarantee you that having a job where you feel unappreciated, underpaid or overqualified is the certain route to unhappiness.

Being older, I have had the advantage of watching a number of people’s lives unfold. Last week, coincidentally, I was in two states where I had lived twenty or thirty years ago and had the opportunity to run into a few people and learn “the rest of the story”. I also was privileged to meet some really fascinating people for the first time.

Here is one fact I observed – no matter whether they lived on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation or Kansas City, Missouri, those people who were happy with their work were MUCH, MUCH more satisfied with their lives than those who hated their jobs. Also, and I think this is important, they were MUCH happier than the people who just kind of didn’t mind their jobs.

Happiness begets happiness. There are a couple of my friends on Facebook who begin every day by thanking God (or the creator, not all of my friends are Christian) for the gift of a wonderful day. I just un-friended those people who were always complaining about something. Who really wants to hear it?

Intelligent, interested people attract one another. The two people above are specialists in mathematics education and technology. We met for an hour and they asked a lot of insightful questions about what our game could do, our plans for future releases. The meeting was suggested by Dr. Carol Davis, one of the pioneers in establishing tribal colleges as an opportunity for higher education on American Indian reservations. I learned a lot and am looking forward to working with all three of them during the school year. That experience is repeated day after day – I could have shown a picture of the folks from St. John the Baptist, Warwick High School, Tate Topa Middle School, Crossroads Charter School … it goes on and on. I could show you pictures from our last meet up or our next staff meeting.

What all of those have in common is that I left energized, enthusiastic with new ideas I wanted to try. I get paid a decent salary, too, and have nice benefits, which makes it easier for me to be less stressed and in a good mood when I meet new people. It’s easier to focus on what people are saying when you don’t have to worry about how you are going to pay your electric bill or who is picking your child up from day care.

I really love my job. There have been plenty of years in my life when I did NOT love my job, I either actively disliked it or figured it was “on the balance, okay, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. I got paid well, had health insurance —.” That is the thing you really have to worry about, settling for a life that is just “not too bad”.

The difference between my life now and then is palpable. It’s exactly like that feeling on a cold, overcast day when the clouds part and the sun comes out warming you up. And it’s that different every day.

Seriously, if you don’t really like your job, do yourself a favor and start looking for something else now.¬†You only get one life.


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