“What makes you happy?”
This was the question posed by a dear friend of mine as I was recounting to her the details of a potentially life-changing job offer on the table. I was in the midst of a major career decision, and I had to very carefully weigh the pros and cons of the options in front of me.
My friend, a former banker-turned-full-time writer, did not ask me the financial details of the offer. Instead, she asked in a concerned and sisterly voice, “But, Nines, what makes you happy?”
I was stumped and didn’t know how to answer her, but I perfectly understood where she was coming from. She left a very good job at a multinational bank in order to pursue her heart’s desire, and she’s been at her happiest and best (I dare say) because of it. Not only has she been able to match (and even exceed) the income she was making as Assistant Vice President, she has also been able to travel to different parts of the world to share her advocacy. Even to a former banker, happiness is clearly more than just about money.
So, the next morning, I walked over to my favorite spot by the bay and began drawing THIS (below). It’s nothing more than a doodling of “happiness keywords”, but it DID help me distill what my “life bottomlines” were–regardless of the career path that I chose. After all, why should my happiness depend on my current job? I should strive for happiness regardless of any job I take now and in the future , and I shouldn’t depend on anyone else for my own happiness. Conversely, even if I had the best job and all the money in the world, but none (or very few) of these, I would probably end up being very unhappy.
Then, just last weekend, as I was wrapping up a delicious afternoon spent lounging on a king-sized bed (in a hotel room where I stayed for free), I tried another approach to the Happiness Tree. I’ll leave some simple tips here for you to try out in case you’d like to make your own, but do feel free to experiment and come up with your own “Happiness Experiments.” 🙂
Tips for creating your own Happiness Tree
1. Starting at the base and/or the trunk, identify the core values, principles, or ideals that you deem to be non-negotiable in your life. (In my case, “financial comfort”, “togetherness with my family”, “peace of mind”, “career growth”, “creativity” and “public service.”)
2. Draw some branches, then identify the other things that are important or valuable to you based on or stemming from those core values, principles, or ideals. (In my drawing, they are the ones in bright green.) Some of my own examples include “innovation”, “inspiration”, and “traveling lifestyle.” If you can, draw them closer to the core values that you identified in your roots and trunk.
3. Feel free to create as many branches as you wish, then draw branches that stem out from those branches after that. At this point, your Happiness Tree will look like a rotated mind map; feel free to use different colors, fonts, sizes, and even orientations as I did above.
4. As you’re coming to the end of your Happiness Tree, visualize the “fruits” of your happiness. What are your “happiness bottomlines”? In my case, they included: “Give kids opportunities I didn’t have” (I don’t have kids yet, but I hope that someday soon I will), “Empower Filipinos”, and “Write books.” It was clear to me by the end of the exercise that, no matter what job I get in the future or what path I eventually take, the outcomes should be the same. I should be able to provide for my family, help my fellow Filipinos (or, better yet, fellow human beings regardless of race, religion, and location), and write books.
And here’s a confession: These doodles still haven’t given me the answers to my career questions, BUT they have assured me that, no matter what job I take now or in the future, I’ll be happy as long as I tend to the “fruits” that I wish to enjoy.
How about YOU? What makes YOU happy, and what would your Happiness Tree look like? 🙂