The Courage to Choose Happiness

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About a week ago, I had lunch with an old friend who told me an inspiring story.

First, some background:

Well over a decade ago, this friend felt passionate about doing his part for climate change.

He decided the best way he could think to help was to become a lawyer and fight for regulations that would serve the planet.

He went back to school, got his law degree, and true to his intention, began working in the nonprofit sector for many years, struggling to reduce pollution from cars and trucks.

A few months ago, I got an email from him about a real estate deal he was putting together under his new brand.

Real estate?

Apparently he had made a career change.

When we caught up last week, I asked him what had inspired this change. Here’s what he said (paraphrased):

I still felt passionate about the cause, but the work itself was frequently very frustrating. A lot of my time felt wasted. We always seemed to be taking two steps forward, two steps back, and I wasn’t sure we were actually accomplishing anything.

Yet it was important to me to be a role model for my daughters; to show them what it means to have a sense of purpose.

One day, I asked my 6 year-old what she knew about my job.

“That you hate it.” she said.

That’s when I knew it was time for a change.

He had been interested in real estate investing and decided to give it a try. It was scary for him to make the jump. He felt loyal to his co-workers and to his identity, and he wasn’t sure others would invest with him. But he pushed through and it worked.

Now he has more freedom, flexibility, and fun, as well as time for himself and his family. Plus he loves what he’s doing.

I have to say though,” he added, “it hasn’t been easy to let go of my ‘I’m saving the planet’ identity AND my ‘lawyer’ status. If I’m honest, I enjoyed being able to describe myself in those ways.” 

I’ve shared this story with several people since he told it to me. I find it a beautiful example of getting in integrity with one’s self, despite the objections, judgements, or fears of the mind.

I love that my friend had the courage to challenge his own beliefs about what was a “good” or noble profession with the actual facts of his experience:

    • He didn’t feel like he was actually helping
    • He didn’t want to do the things he spent most of his time doing
    • He wasn’t nearly as happy as he believed he could be
    • His daughter wasn’t inspired in the ways he’d hoped 
    • There was something else that was calling to him

Then he found the courage to actually make the change, despite, what I imagine, was a grueling cross-examination put forth by the mind.

Maybe the planet will incinerate due to my friend’s career change.

It’s more likely, however, that his happiness, vitality, and the abundance he’s now experiencing is freeing him up to find new, more effective ways to care for the planet. He’s already exploring ways to reduce carbon from his new investment properties, and he’s aiming to set an example that can scale through his new industry.

Without taking the leap though, he’d have never known there was a way to be both aligned AND happy.

This 12 minute exploration looks at a sense of obligation and the thoughts or feelings that often accompany that occurrence.