Sometimes, we get ourselves into negative life situations without even noticing that it’s happened.

Negativity can sneak in when you aren’t looking. It can sneak into your relationships. In can sneak into your family life. It can sneak into your finances. And of course, I wanted to talk about it here at After Graduation because it can sneak into your career.

It doesn’t happen because we lie to ourselves, at least not always. It can happen because we tell ourselves that we’re happy when we’re not, but more often, life just…changes. And somewhere when it changes, we stop being happy, but we don’t acknowledge that or even notice it at first.

We are growing, evolving, changing people. What makes us happy today might not make us happy tomorrow. It’s okay to wake up one day and say, “You know what? This isn’t working for me anymore. I’m outie 5000.”

The outie 5000 part is option, but you get cool points with me if you say it.

I actually think that most of us should say this at least three or four times during life. If you’re truly happy in the same job you’ve been doing for 50 years, you’re extremely rare. Most of us have a desire to to bigger and better things, whether that means getting a promotion, owning our own business, or moving on to a bigger company. Sometimes, we need a complete change, and while it may be technically taking a step back to go from a manager in one field to an entry-level position in another field, it’s a step forward for you as a person.

The hard part is realizing when things in our lives have become negative. We’re just so used to it that we don’t always recognize the slow devolution. It’s like if your spouse loses 50 pounds over the course of a year. You see him or her every day, so although you do notice there’s a change, it’s not until you see an old picture that the weight loss really strikes you. On the other hand, someone who hasn’t seen your spouse in a year or two is more likely to have that “woah mama” moment right away.

You don’t want to get to a point in your life where you hate going to work. In a perfect world, you realize that you’re heading down that path before you get there. Ask yourself:

  • Do I still have a passion for the industry? Do I read up on news, educate myself, etc. about things going on in my field, even though it isn’t part of my job?
  • Do I feel challenged at work, but not frustrated by problems that are impossible to solve?
  • Do I feel like I’m making a difference?
  • Do I take pride in the work I do or do I simply complete the work because it has to be done and I want a paycheck?
  • Do I feel stuck in my position, with no chance of promotion?

And then here’s the big one: Would I still do this job even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it?

Or, because we all need money, think of it this way: If I won the lottery and never had to work again, would I still keep my job?

I understand that if you’re a recent college grad, you might be in an entry-level position or even still searching for a position at all, so it might seem as though this doesn’t apply to you - but it does! For example, maybe you are no longer passionate about your major. You used to really enjoy a certain field, but now you’re just going through the motions to complete classwork so you can graduate.

News flash: Working in the industry won’t be any better than studying in that industry. Even if it is your last semester, it is never too late to change your major. It is better to put in another year or two or three of school now than to work for a decade in a field that you hate only to go back to school anyway.

The bottom line is that we all owe it to ourselves to examine our perceived happiness from time to time. Don’t automatically say you’re happy just because you were last year or the year before. Happiness is not automatic and happiness is not stagnant. Happiness changes, just as we change. The hunt for happiness doesn’t end because you think you’ve found it today.

I’m outie 5000.

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  1. Carl Rittenhouse Larson (Reply) on Saturday 22, 2011

    Great post. Optimism can be a survival tactic. But to the extreme, it can also lead to a dangerous amount of denial. One of a person’s biggest life challenges, I imagine, is to find the balance between healthy optimism along with self-honesty.

    ps, I love your blog… and your site generally. Keep up the great work!

    • Allison (Reply) on Saturday 22, 2011

      Thanks, Carl! Denial can be such a crap thing. It’s often easier for other people to see that we’re in it, yet we can’t see it ourselves.

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