One year ago, I lost the best job I’ve ever had.
When it happened, I didn’t know whether to feel devastated or relieved. During the majority of my 10 years there, I thought I’d found my dream job. I'd put so much energy into my work. The long hours and extensive travel seemed worth it, despite all of the sacrifices I made.
But on the day I got laid off, I realized I had begun hating my job for longer than I allowed myself to believe. Lots had changed at that company in the second half of my tenure there, including me.
I’d gone from loving my job to being unhappy, to being completely miserable.
Getting let go was actually the wake-up call I needed. It forced me to look in the mirror and examine everything in my life. In the process, I learned these three important truths about myself.
1. The core of my identity is separate from my employment.
Like many people, I derived much of my identity from my job. Besides the fact that it helped me fulfill my responsibilities as a provider for my family, everything I felt about myself, my social status, and my self-worth was intertwined with that job. Now, all of that was gone, no longer part of my day-to-day life. On top of that, it was the first time in more than 25 years that I didn’t have a job. I was completely lost.
This experience forced me to think long and hard about how I wanted to be thought about by my family and friends. There had to be more to my life than being thought of as someone who worked hard and had a good career.
I wanted to leave a legacy of being a great husband, dad, and friend. I wanted to do work that had a positive impact on the world by inspiring and helping others live up to their fullest potential. Most importantly, I wouldn’t allow a job, or the person deciding whether or not I keep that job, have so much influence over my life.
2. We often let stress manipulate our priorities, but we ultimately have a choice.
My job required me to travel extensively, which meant I was spending countless nights and several weekends away from my family. Because of this, I missed out on a lot of experiences with my son, and it put a lot of extra parenting responsibilities on my wife who had her career. FaceTime replaced family time.
A few days after I was laid off, I made a list of what was important to me personally and professionally. I’m embarrassed now to admit how much importance I placed on my job, income, travel, and other professional pursuits in that initial list. It took a few weeks and several rewrites of that list before I had a more balanced list, and one that more aligned with the man I wanted to be in the present moment and not the one I had become. With my family at the top, that list acts as a filter for how I prioritize everything else I do.
3. The definitions of "success" and "happiness" aren't necessarily synonymous.
Like you, my parents and teachers always told me that I had to work hard to be successful, and only if I was successful would I be happy. But no matter how hard I worked, it seemed success and happiness were always just out of reach.
Instead of finding meaning in the work that I was doing, I focused on getting more money and more authority as I climbed the corporate ladder. But despite what I was able to achieve, it was never enough. I only wanted more, thinking that happiness would eventually appear.
I wasn’t any closer to finding happiness on that day I lost my job, or so I thought. Little did I know the journey I would take over the next year would lead me to new levels of happiness like I’d never experienced. Along the way, I’ve learned that happiness is now and that when you're happy in your pursuit of success, it greatly increases the likelihood of your success.
Today, I’m using my experience to help others discover how to be happy with what they have while they pursue all that they want in life. I may have taken a detour in my pursuit of happiness, but now I’ve found happiness in the pursuit.