The Pursuit of Happiness

This week was hard. The kids at my school were hopped up on candy for Halloween and there was a full moon. We had several technology issues, and the newspaper company once again stopped delivering our paper stating we hadn’t sent payment which they do every year about this time.

Because I had such a hard week and because I haven’t been feeling very happy about my work, I decided to start re-reading The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha. It is such a well-written and concise book about why we live in fear and how we can be happy. Too often, especially today, we’re driven by extrinsic factors. We live in fear and we pursue the wrong types of success.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of changing jobs or going back to school, and it’s because I’m not feeling the “self-success” I experienced when I first became a school librarian. The intrinsic motivation has been mostly gone this year. Education has become a numbers game (sales success) and social success game (pleasing or impressing supervisors and peers), so it’s hard to achieve my original goals (inspiring kids to read, building positive relationships/mentoring, and helping them become better researchers). The pressure to apply for grants, participate in Twitter chats/webinars, build Makerspaces, conduct professional development, fix sub-par technology, reach out to community members/organizations, teach prescribed lessons on digital citizenship to all 3,400+ students in the building has been killing my love of librarianship.

I don’t think that this is a feeling isolated to librarianship, however. This need for sales and social success is killing a love of career for many people. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t lead to happiness. It just doesn’t. Unfortunately, we compare ourselves to others and measure our success by numbers or by what others think. We compare our statistics with our co-workers and feel we don’t measure up. We read articles and blog posts by leaders in our field, and we don’t feel like we’re doing enough. When we don’t participate in activities that our bosses “strongly encourage” us to participate in, we feel like we might be disappointing them. This is me sometimes, but I just realized today that one of my bosses quite often posts on Facebook that she’s working 12 or more hours a day, is suffering from insomnia, and is going to or conducting professional development workshops on Saturdays. Is she successful? Yes, she’s successful in a couple ways, but it sounds like she’s under a great deal of stress, and I don’t want that for myself.

What are some other things that lead to happiness according to Neil Pasricha? Well, having a positive attitude leads to happiness. In fact, there’s a wonderful quote from Charles Swindoll in the book about how much more important attitude is than so many other things we value. (See below.) Being grateful for what we have and committing random acts of kindness can also lead to happiness. Reflecting on good things and being active leads to happiness as well. And something I wish I could do more, unplugging and meditating, also causes people to feel happy. Every now and then I go through this experience of feeling overwhelmed and dissatisfied, and I just have to remind myself to look at life through a different lens and focus on what’s important…even if that means taking time out of my busy schedule to rest, read, or go for a walk.

By the way, in case you’re curious, it’s been two months since my surgery, and I’m feeling good. I’ll have my reconstructive surgery in December or January, and a couple months after that, I should be (almost) as good as new. I truly am blessed. I just tend to forget that sometimes.

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 Photo courtesy of Frank McKenna  (@frankiefoto) at

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