“I hate my job. I’m unhappy. My career needs to make me happy.”

As a career coach and formerly unhappy employee, these are phrases I have heard far too often. Many of us are in the constant search for a “perfect” job so that we can unconditionally love every aspect of our lives. In a nutshell, we link our happiness directly to how satisfied we are at work.

During my first session with clients, I typically ask them to draw a Happiness Pie. This Happiness Pie is a circle that they then cut it into slices based on the pieces of their lives where they find happiness. More often than not, work is the largest chunk of their pies. We spend a lot of time at work (more than 4,000 days over the course of our lives according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), so it makes sense that our work takes up a large chunk of our pie. It also makes sense that our work affects our mood. But, let’s reflect:

  • Why is there this inherent need to find happiness through our work?
  • Why can’t a job just be a job?

While turning to our careers for happiness is not necessarily a bad thing, what happens when we are unhappy at work? I’ll tell you–we often end up unhappy with life. I am not saying we shouldn’t look for work that makes us happy. Nor should we stick around at a job that makes us unhappy. What I’m saying is that our happiness does not have to be tied to our work.

I recently had to do a serious recalibration of my own Happiness Pie. I was burnt out and incredibly unhappy.

In checking in with my Happiness Pie, my dissatisfaction (with my work and my life) made sense. My career was the largest chunk (like a really, really large chunk) of my Happiness Pie. When I was loving my job, it was awesome; I was incredibly happy. But when I was unhappy at work, my life suffered; I was miserable.

After many, many Starbucks runs (I do my best thinking when coffee is involved), I made the conscious decision to recalibrate my Happiness Pie. I have intentionally decreased the chunk of pie I delegate to work, and increased the sizes of the slices where I know I can find more meaningful and more consistent happiness–friends, family, exploring SF, Netflix and of course, coffee.

As a recovering workaholic, I am used to turning to my work for satisfaction. To fill the gaps in my life. To find happiness. Through lots of mentorship and therapy, I’ve learned that our (un)happiness is often a direct result of where we choose to place our energy.

This journey didn’t take place overnight, and it’s still a work in progress (my life is a work in progress), but I’m already starting to feel better and happier.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com


  • Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES

    Career & Life Coach, Resume & LinkedIn Writer, Business Mentor

    Forbes Coaches Council & CaffeinatedKyle.com

    Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. He is also a self-proclaimed Starbucks addict. As a result of working with Kyle, students through c-suite executives have landed jobs at Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and nearly every other Fortune 100/500 company you can think of. They have also found happiness.

    His passion for coaching has positioned him to present and motivate people on the topics of professional development, mental health and/or social justice. Audiences have included Fortune 100/500 companies, startups, government agencies, nonprofits and university campuses, among many others.

    Kyle is an official member of the invitation-only Forbes Coaches Council and a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. He is also a proud alum of San Francisco State University, where he completed his Bachelor of Science in Health Education, and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at University of Washington, where he completed his Masters of Public Administration (MPA).

    And finally, while Kyle has received national and international recognition and awards for his work, he is most proud of being dubbed ‘Mr. Loquacious’ by his fifth grade teacher.