When working with coaching clients, I often hear that they want to be happy. Happy is one of those words that we all define differently. It is important to define what happy means to you. When you are happiest, what are you spending your time doing? Thinking about how your career and work are part of (but not all) your life, how does your life overall look when you are happy and fulfilled?
The idea of a Happy Dashboard emerged over time. A number of years ago, I was considering a job offer and realized that until that point I had made all of my decisions prioritizing my career. As I thought about the offer to move to Asia for a very entrepreneurial role at a big management consulting firm, a dream job in many ways, I reflected on how I was spending my time and what really made me happy. My first dashboard emerged. I accepted the job and I decided that I would revisit my dashboard each month to: (1) grade my happiness; and (2) pick something to focus on in the next month to make me a little bit happier. My first dashboard, as I embarked on my third expat assignment and first move to Asia, included:
- Maintaining strong, close relationships with the people that are important in my life
- Working with smart people who challenge me to grow and develop
- Learning new things at work
- Doing work and building professional relationships that make a difference
- Having friends that aren’t connected to my job
- Learning and trying new things outside of work
- Traveling and exploring new places and/or experiencing new things
Each month I took myself on a date to reflect on my happiness status. Early on I loved all the new experiences, people and places, and found that it was easy to give myself a high “happy score.” I joined a professional women’s group, met a lot of people and was exposed to new ideas and experiences, including a weekend study trip to Thailand to learn about micro-lending. I took a lot of weekend trips to explore new places and often would extend work travel to explore. Then, as I have found to be common among expats, I hit a low point and was not as very happy. Upon reviewing my dashboard, I was reminded of things that make me happy and it helped to pick something specific to try for the next month. One month I joined a Bikram Yoga studio and learned a new style of yoga. Another I took a SCUBA class and then spent a weekend in Malaysia diving. As time went on, I settled in and things evened out, I found my new “normal” and checked in with myself during my monthly reflection. I decided to mix up my exercise routine and joined a triathlon training group and completed my first triathlon.
As time has gone on, life has evolved: I moved back to the US, went to graduate school full-time, started a business, bought a condo and put some roots down in Chicago, to name just a few. My dashboard has also evolved. I still have my monthly reflection to think about how happy I am and pick something to focus on or try out. At the moment, I am focusing on good self-care: sleep, healthy food, exercise, meditation and play.
What is on your happy dashboard? Are you spending time on the things you say are really important to you? If you are not as happy as you would like to be, what’s one thing can you try in the next couple of weeks?