Career growth and happiness

Career growth and happiness

It can sometimes seem that there is a conflict of interests between our personal lives and our career development. Perhaps career progression will only happen if we short change our personal lives, or maybe our personal lives will only work out if we sacrifice career growth.

All too often…, leaders and managers become so consumed in climbing the corporate ladder, or working to ensure that they do not move down the ladder, that lose focus of what is really important in life…

Can you really be successful in the office and at home? Can you be successful at both without shorting one or the other?.. Are you willing to sacrifice family for professional achievement? Some folks are.. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish had spent more time with my children when they were growing up.”?..

Is the price worth it? Assess your personal situation and decide where to place your dedication and determination.

Modeling and Benchmarking Supply Chain Leadership, page 87

Does there have to be a contradiction between career growth and achieving personal happiness, or is there a way to find harmony between these different facets of our existence?



One of the most important ingredients of a successful personal life, is the ability to be natural and spontaneous. For example, we often find happiness when we allow our thoughts and feelings to wander wherever they want to go. In our working lives however, we tend to assume a stricter and more self-conscious mode of existence.

Two of the factors that persuade us to leave our natural selves behind when we enter the workplace are:

  • Time pressure: In our personal lives, our feelings and thoughts develop at their own natural pace. In the workplace, on the other hand, our activities are timebound. Work must happen within its allotted time slot, otherwise the downstream processes that depend on our output will come to a stop.
  • Conformity: In our personal lives, we value self-expression and search for our unique individuality. In our work life, on the other hand, we conform to the ways of thinking, feeling and doing of the company that we work for, so that we can blend into the workplace dynamic.

The need to meet targets on time, and the pressure to conform to the company’s way of thinking, pushes us into a task-focussed frame of mind which can make us lose touch with our natural selves.

Children have a natural grace which asserts itself easily, but which is rarely seen in the sophisticated adult except in persons with a great natural sweetness of mind. Innocent moments are of greater value in the adult – they bring a more complex being and a wider knowledge into balance than in the case of the child – but such moments are infrequent of the difficulty experienced by a mature person in coming to terms with a complicated world….

The child shows an interest in the minute details of objects. He wonders at things and is fascinated by them. The cultivated adult, on the other hand, fails to observe much of what goes on about him, subordinates his activities to his interests, has little left to wonder at, and is too confident of his knowledge of things to find them fascinating…

William Blake, page 14

If we lose the naturalness that is essential to our personal lives, we are likely to make decisions that could adversely impact the relationships that are crucial to us.

How can we make sure that our natural freshness is not dulled by the daily grind?


Thriving from challenge

When we encounter pressure to perform, we experience a sense of uncertainty. “Will we be able to meet the challenge, or will we fall short?”

There are two ways that we can respond to this quandary. We can either feel exhilarated, and rise to meet the challenge that has been put to us. Or we can feel dismayed by the expectations that have been placed on us, and tense ourselves up to desperately try to meet our targets.

The experience of uncertainty can vary: it can be an exhilarating challenge to be confronted and resolved – it is exciting and makes us feel edgy and alive, and delivers us a sense of satisfaction and mastery when we resolve [the situation]; or it can be anxiety provoking and stressful, making us feel impotent and unable to predict or control our world and what will happen to us in it.

…if we believe our resources to deal with the demand[s placed on us] are adequate, we feel a sense of [excitement that makes us meet the challenge head on.] if we believe our resources are inadequate, we feel a sense of threat that [makes us shrink away and ignore the challenge as much as possible].

Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology: Collection: Volumes 1 & 2, page 65

Being upbeat about the challenges we face, releases our inner aptitudes and enables us to grow from the challenge. If we feel overwhelmed, on the other hand, our feeling of inadequacy makes us close up, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Two ways in which a positive frame of mind provides us with the abilities that we need to win are:

  • Finding new possibilities: If we feel secure in our capability to ultimately solve the problem, then we allow ourselves time to look around for new ideas. If we feel threatened by the challenge, however, then we can’t afford to admit that we do not already possess the tools and knowledge needed to solve the problem, as this would make us feel more threatened. Subsequently we may try to force a non-optimal solution, using the knowledge that is immediately available, instead of looking for fresh insights.
  • Intuition: Intuition happens when we allow ourselves to park a problem in the back of our minds. Our subconscious then makes the connection between our understanding in other areas and the problem that we are faced with. If we agitatedly turn the problem round and round in our minds however, we will never experience the deep understanding that comes when our background thought processes are allowed to free-wheel.


High energy balance

If we grow to meet the challenges that we face at work, this releases energy that grows our natural vitality. The positivity that this creates provides strength and dynamism in our personal lives, which in turn becomes the the base from which we can approach new work challenges with confidence and optimism.

This positive feedback loop can become the gateway for us to operate at an entirely new level.