How to Be happy at Work
The ‘Uncut Series’ is a set of audio out-takes that I recorded on the fly based around the 7 Job Search Pillars. The audio contains comment and valuable insight from myself and experts in the field of career – on how to be happy at work – derived from personal and professional experiences that have helped me and many others discover a career path towards their dream job.
Listen to my latest interview with Happiness Coach Susanna Halonen in which she talks about her personal experiences of work and how she lost motivation in her corporate job and found her calling in her current role. She also talks about how she dealt with and fought fear and how a book changed her life. She also talks about her latest book and reveals the symptoms that you might experience that indicate you’re not happy at work.
Susanna: I became a happyologist basically through a series of little steps. I used to be in the corporate world originally. It was when I was at the corporate world and I realized that I wasn’t fulfilled that I discovered basically positive psychology which is the science of happiness and human performance.
Susanna: Through this amazing book called The Happiness Advantage by Sean Acre. It was a total eye opener and life changer for me. As I read that book I realized, “Oh my God, this is exactly the field that I need to be in, this is exactly what I need to be doing.” It was after that book that I decided to basically take little steps to explore the field more. It was also a coaching session, actually, that I had from a career coach that helped me realize that I could actually change my career path as well.
Susanna: Coming from a family, I have 3 brothers and a father and they’re all in corporate world, and management consulting, financial services. A very kind of different path than what I’m taking now. I’d always assumed that the corporate path was just the one to follow. My coach really helped me realize that wow, there really are other things that I can do and if that’s what I want to do that’s okay. After that coaching session it was like a series of steps that I took to basically test the waters a bit, explore positive psychology a little bit deeper. Eventually, I ended up leaving the corporate world, doing a full on coaching accreditation and a masters in positive psychology and then set up Happyologist as a business. Now, that’s what I do basically full time.
Alex: I can really resonate with a lot of what you said there because my career path was very much defined I suppose, or at least set out by my parents. I wanted to follow them as my example and it only through exploration that I discovered other things. I think that’s a really good point in terms of taking a career path that suits you as opposed to following one that’s been defined or set out for you. That’s a really good point.
What was it about the, for you, the corporate world … I believe you worked for Sony, it looks like you had a really good career with them. What was it about your corporate life that perhaps made you question what you were doing and take a different route?
Susanna: It was quite interesting because Sony was also my first job after university. I was quite excited about it. I went into the graduate scheme. I got a lot of training and development which is amazing and I still really appreciate that. I think as I stayed there longer and longer I started to kind of see myself change a little bit and I stopped challenging situations. I started to accept status quo which is kind of what … Sometimes that seems to happen in the corporate world and I realized that’s not really me. I have more ambition and drive than that. I’m really motivated to change things and to make things better. That was definitely one thing that I realized that was a little bit of a mismatch, that it was just too difficult to create change in the corporate world. Also, I think just the environment in itself wasn’t right for me. I love freedom and independence.
I’m sure with maybe the right teams and the right managers that’s possible. It is quite rare to come across these days. I realized, well actually, if I’m going to work my bum off and I’m really going to want to do things that are meaningful to me I should set up something on my own and do something that I feel like I have to do rather than something that I just feel like I should do. I think there was also a little bit of a values mismatch as far as the company culture internally and my values personally as well. In the end I just realized it wasn’t … The industry wasn’t right for me, the company wasn’t right for me. I realized I needed to think about what’s most meaningful to me and how I want to spend my time. That’s when I decided to basically make the leap and make the change.
Alex: Excellent. Again, I think from my experiences with working with people looking to change careers, there’s a certain element of fear.
Alex: I don’t know if you came up against this yourself, even if you didn’t what would you advise people who for example are in a comfortable corporate setting but not happy with it and reached that point where they see themselves need a change but just can’t overcome that boundary, that fear in the back of their mind to make the change?
Susanna: Yeah. I can definitely relate to that. I was so scared to make that leap and to create that change. Like you said, that’s the thing, you get so comfortable on that path, you getting your promotions, then developing yourself within the company, you just get so used to that environment, getting that monthly paycheck. I was deathly terrified of losing that false sense of security. There is a reason I call it a false sense of security as well because I think there are companies now that are very volatile, they have to be very quick to adapt to market or they’re going to be, again, making redundancies in the organization and things like that. It’s not really as secure as people think it is.
The way I basically fought that fear to really overcome it and to just get on with it was really by taking tiny little steps. My first step was really, actually that coaching session that gave me that epiphany that I could do something else. After that I basically just took one step further. I set up Happyologist as a blog initially so it didn’t have anything to do with making money or creating it into business. It was just for me to write about positive psychology and happiness, and how to de-stress and things like that. I was like, Oh, okay, I really enjoy writing about it, okay, so I’m going to explore it a bit more. I did an intro to positive psychology weekend course and loved it. I was like, “Okay, now I’m going to take it a step further and I’m going to apply for the masters.”
Equally, all of those things were happening as well with the coaching side. Because the coaching experience I had was so powerful I wanted to help create that kind of epiphanies for people as well. That’s what inspired me to become a coach. I did an introduction to coaching. I was like, “Oh, wow. This is definitely right for me.” Then, I took a full on accreditation. It was like I took the tiniest little steps I could take in order to get affirmation that yes this is the right path for me, and yes, I’m definitely confident that this is what I should go for. I was taking all those steps whilst I was still working in the corporate world. I was doing it weekends or late night evenings and all these things.
It’s amazing how much you can achieve just by saying maybe one or two Saturdays a month you’re going to basically just spend the day exploring this new field or job or industry or whatever that you’re thinking about switching to. It was just by taking those little steps that I got the reassurance that I needed, yes, this is the path to take. Eventually, because I had taken so many steps each step made me feel more confident and more sure so then every step I took after each step I could take an even bigger step. I think, really, fear is fought with action. The more you can do something in order to test the waters the better. I think that is really the key to creating change.
Alex: I think that’s a brilliant example of how to move yourself forward. I think that you really enjoyed the journey from where you were to where you are.
Alex: I suppose what a lot of people tend to do, they set out their eventual goal but they don’t necessarily enjoy the steps that they take to get to their eventual goal. That story that you told is a really good example of enjoying the journey. Thank you for that, it was really great.
It sounds like as well, I actually read somewhere that you’re a pessimist or you were a pessimist and you turned yourself somehow into an optimist. How did that come about? How did you work through that?
Susanna: Yeah. I guess maybe that’s one of the reasons that kind of drove me into positive psychology as well, understanding how to see the glass is half full rather than half empty. I’ve always been quite critical and quite negative, and pessimistic overall. It was basically by immersing myself in that field of positive psychology that my understanding what actually makes us happy and fulfilled, what makes us productive, that I started to completely shift my mindset and my thinking into a more positive one. I realized, “Well, negativity’s just kind of wasted energy.” It cuts everything from our health, to creativity, to productivity, it’s just no good for us.
It was almost like I had to hear all the scientific evidence to realize, Okay, optimism is what’s good for you. Then, basically, everything that I learned in positive psychology around these tools and interventions that I now use on my clients I basically done on myself to start out with. One, I wanted to make that shift in my mind to become an optimist so I could really start feeling more empowered, inspired, more driven, go after the things I wanted. Two, because I wanted to test those things and make sure they worked before I stared using them on clients as well. It was definitely, again, a step by step process. It’s a journey that I absolutely loved. For sure, I still have days that I might be a little pessimistic, it’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come. Now I also have those tools when I am feeling a bit negative I’m like, “Okay, this is the question I can ask myself now or this is the exercise that I can use now to get back into this positive place where I want to be.”
Alex: There actually are exercises that allow you to get rid of all that negative energy and turn it into something positive?
Susanna: Yes. Absolutely.
Alex: I guess, then, as a happiness coach, this is something that probably you do not come across every day. It’s only the first time I’d heard about them when I thought to read your blog and your book. What does a happiness coach do and why do you think it’s important?
Susanna: Yeah. That’s a great question. I do get that a lot. People are like, “Happiness coach? What do you mean?” It’s essentially life coaching with a focus on happiness. All the different types of challenges that I help my clients with are with that mindset in order to get them into a place where they are more positive so they can start creating change in their life that is right for them.
I basically work with all kinds of different challenges from people who are feeling stuck in their careers and they’re not sure why or what to do. For some people I coach them through that situation and then they realize that actually it’s because they’re not being challenged or they’re not growing enough. They take that to their manager and I prepare them for that conversation. Other times, people realize well this is not the company for me, this is not the type of career I want. Some people take the complete leap of, okay, I want to become a freelancer or entrepreneur and I coach them through that process as well so that they have all the confidence in themselves and in their abilities to really make that leap. I really guide them through that whole change process.
I do work with a lot of people who are looking for behavior change and looking for different habits in their life, for people who feel like they’ve gotten stuck in a little bit of a rut when it comes to not being able to … Exercise is an easy one, or eat healthily, or they’re too stressed and they’re unable to sleep, then I completely break it down for them we go 10 steps back to figure out how did we actually get to this place and how do we get now to a more positive place so that you get your health, your physical and your mental health back so that you can start, again, to have that energy. In a way positivity also needs energy so you need that energy there and that needs to be created with the right habits and the right routines as well.
Those are kind of the few things that I work with my clients on.
Alex: Nice. Sounds like there is a full range from the lifestyle to the actual careers that you cater to. Is there any typical client, is there anybody who you would say, “I have more of this type of client than another?” Is that something that you can identify?
Susanna: Yeah. I mean, I’m definitely getting more and more people who want to take that leap from the corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur or a freelancer. With them I help them a lot with their confidence, making sure that they’re clear on their strengths and their values, making sure that they’re prepared as much as they can be to deal entrepreneurship. It is quite a tricky one to get into as well because unless you’re in it you don’t really know what it involves. It does need, require, it basically requires a lot of resilience as well.
Susanna: I basically work a lot with getting them more resilience so that when they decide to make that leap then they are kind of prepared for all the hard work that’s going to go into it but also they make a leap that’s right for them so that they are really fulfilled by that new entrepreneurship route, that they really believe in it, that it’s aligned with their values and believes. That, of course, is one of the key ingredients as well.
Alex: Definitely. I’m intrigued, how do you get somebody to have that resilience, how do you do that?
Susanna: Basically, depending on the client I use different types of tools.
Susanna: Resilience is really tied to positive mind set so the first exercise that I give, kind of a homework that I give to 99% of my clients is this gratitude exercise. Basically, it’s very simple but it’s very powerful. It’s incredible how much it changes. There’s research that shown that it actually changes how your brain is formed in your neural pathways as well so it’s very, very powerful. The exercise basically is for 21 days in a row you should finish every day writing three things that you were grateful for in that day. It needs to be really specific to that day. That way, every day you’re forcing yourself, essentially, to think about, “Okay, so what did I appreciate today. Okay, maybe the sun was really nice and bright today and it warmed my skin nicely. Or maybe I got a really great hug from my partner or my kid when I was feeling a bit low.” Maybe you had a big win, you got a new client or something like that, or a pitch went really well. It always needs to be something really specific to that day.
The idea is that as you do it for 21 days, 21 days is approximately how long it takes to build a habit, that’s why I always tell them to do it for 21 days in a row. As you kind of do it again, and again, you start to look for things to be grateful for around you.
Susanna: Already, then, you start to basically start to shift your mind from oh, what’s wrong and what’s lacking to okay, let me look at what’s right. That’s when you start to spot more opportunities around you as well. That’s where I think really gratitude is one of the foundations to positivity and resilience. That’s why that’s the number one tool that, the first tool that I basically use with all of my clients.
Alex: I see. Okay. The other thing is, you mentioned typical client, for example those that are in the corporate world and looking to move from that to say, for example, entrepreneurship.
Alex: There’s often people, I guess, they go through their career and they, as you said, you have good days, you have bad days, but how can you recognize or are there symptoms that you can recognize in yourself that tell you it’s time to change, or it’s time to move, or it’s time to do something different?
Susanna: Yeah. I think a lot of those symptoms are very individual to people. Definitely, if you are kind of feeling exhausted all the time because that’s a sign that you’re draining all your energy doing something you don’t even believe it. You’re exhausted but not fulfilled. For example, as an entrepreneur you might have days that you’re exhausted at the end of the day but you’re fulfilled. That’s one of the key kind of energy shifts to think about if you are feeling drained and exhausted but you don’t feel fulfilled or happy. The second symptom is also if you start to just really feel miserable, frustrated, angry all the time. That’s the thing, when things start to go wrong at work and you start to kind of get to this place where you’re in status quo and just don’t really care much about it, that tends to go a little bit into other areas of your life.
Of course, as one person we are one being so when one thing happens in one part of our life it affects the rest of our life. If you find yourself more frustrated at home as well, or more restless, or you feel like nothing’s going right, you feel like the world’s against you, those are signs that it’s time for you to take a step back and say, “What is it that’s not right.” Try and compartmentalize and say okay, there’s something not right with my job. Then you ask, “What is it that’s not right with my job?” A lot of the time I tell people to go back to basics about their positions and just say, “Okay, write down a list of the pros and write down a list of the cons.”
Look at those two lists. It’s interesting because a lot of the times when I take people through this in a coaching session they actually stop to look at all the pros of the job and they’re like, “Yeah, those are really good but they’re not enough for me.” I’m like, “Well, that’s a sign that even the pros aren’t enough for you in terms of them not making you feel enough fulfilled or enough challenged or being tied enough to your values. That is the key sign that it is time to move on.”
Because, even when you go into entrepreneurship or another position there’s always going to be something about your job that you don’t like. I admit I’m not a fan of all my accounting and bookkeeping so luckily I have an accountant to do all that. That’s okay. It’s okay to have things that you don’t like about your job. You need to like most of it and make sure that you are getting the fulfillment out of it. Even if you write that list and you’re looking at the good things about your job and you’re thinking well, actually I’m forcing these as good things. They don’t really mean much to me. That’s when you know you’ve got alarm bells going off and you need to think about making a shift.
Alex: Sure. For you, I guess by now you’ve dealt with lots of people who’ve come to you and not felt so happy and you’ve guided from being in a place where it wasn’t a positive experience for them to somewhere where they’re feeling much more fulfilled, much happier. Is there a story that you could share with us briefly of somebody who you’ve taken through that process?
Susanna: Yes. Definitely. There is one of my clients who used to be in the financial industry in London and she basically just felt … She had even had another path before that because she’s not from the UK … She still felt stuck and unfulfilled and she’s like, “I’ve already made one career shift and I’m still not understanding what I should be doing. I’m bored out of my mind. I just don’t feel challenged. I’m not in the right environment.” She was interesting as well to work with because in the beginning when I was getting her to identify her strengths and her values and all the things that she was naturally good at and the things that were important to her, she tried to deny the fact that she had all these resources and all these abilities. At first I was actually making her to really believe in herself. I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes or dangers that happen that when we get comfortable and we stop being challenged in stuff then we also start to believe that I can’t do this or I can’t do anything else.
That’s kind of been the first thing you need to do is build the confidence back up. Then you can start to think about, now we’ve got your mindset in order, you know you’ve got all these amazing capabilities and you are beautifully unique exactly as you are, so what do you want to do now to contribute to the world? We worked through a series of sessions with her. In the end she actually went to one of these taster coaching sessions like a train to become a coach?
Susanna: Because I said through the sessions we discovered that that was something that she might be really interested in because she really loved working with people. When she went to this one day taster and she called me from there and she’s like, “Zana, oh my God. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. This is exactly the path I need to be on.” It was just amazing that we had gotten her to that place that she gotten that confidence in herself that, “Okay. I can do this. Oh, yeah. I definitely want to do this.”
Following on from that day I helped her get prepared to get accredited as a coach and now she’s actually setting up her own business as well as a coach.
Susanna: Yeah. She’s really amazing.
Alex: That is an amazing journey from working in a place that you’re not interested in, really, to really finding your … Unlocking your passion and being certain, having that certainty about what you’re doing, I suppose, there’s nothing more fulfilling in that. I can say that for myself as well.
Susanna: Yeah. Exactly.
Alex: Susanna, you’ve written a book as well. I have to say I haven’t read all of it yet but I’m intrigued by what I’ve read so far. What attracted me to it was the title. You always hear people talking about, “You’ve got to find your passion. You do this that and the other to find your passion.” Your take on it seems slightly different. The title of your book, Screw Finding Your Passion it’s Within You, Let’s Unlock It. Can you tell me the idea behind that?
Susanna: Yes, absolutely. That book is basically based on research that I did around passion in positive psychology. As I was interviewing and doing this research, and exploring what actually passion is and how it comes about, what I discovered is that in order to live a happy, fulfilling life it’s not about chasing what you love but finding love in what you do. This idea of find and follow your one passion and just obsessively pursue it for the rest of your life is actually quite misleading. People who sometimes then do that actually get a little bit obsessive about it and it can actually have a more negative effect on their life and it starts to drain them and take away from their life rather than fulfill them. As I did my research and came up with this finding there were these 5 things that seem to help people to live passionate lives without tying them to just one thing. It was really interesting.
Personally, I’ve gone through my passion journeys as well trying to follow my love for horses and then realizing actually doing it full time kills my love for it. I was blown away by the responses I got when I did this research and in the end the whole findings from all the interviews that passion is something that sits within us and we can choose to bring it out whenever we want. We don’t need to tie it to just obsessively one thing.
Of course, through my book I talk about the different steps you can take to start unlocking that passion because of course there are things that you can do to help that passion come out as well, if you feel like the flame has died a bit so to say.
Alex: Sure. What I’m going to do actually, I’m going to put a link at the bottom of this post where I’ve written my P.S. so people can link to your book and have a look for themselves. I think it’s something that everybody should read whether you’re looking to change your career, or you’re looking to unlock your passion. It’s a highly recommended read, I would say. Just going on, actually, there’s something that really intrigued me in the book, it’s something that I’m hearing more and more where people’s career are the concern and that’s the idea of authenticity and its importance.
Alex: I think in the book you make a link between authenticity and passion, can you just tell me a bit more about that?
Susanna: Yes, absolutely. That is really the foundation to living a passionate and fulfilling life is to make sure that you are being authentic. I think that we forget that we are subject to a lot of pressures around us, it could be subconsciously, it could be consciously, it could be from our parents, our family, our upbringing, society, our friends, wherever it is that we could be surrounded by … Even the media, there’s so many things kind of shouting at us telling us to be like this, be like that, or do this, do that, in that we just need to take a moment to pause and I like to say put your hands on your heart and say, “This is what’s important.” In the end you need to connect to your authentic self, to your own values and beliefs, if you want to make a path that’s really aligned with who you are.
It is incredible because it can be really daunting and scary for people to actually follow their own path and really be truly authentic. Maybe they’ve just even forgotten who they are and lost touch with their inner being. Sometimes, it takes some time to really reconnect again. This is where I love things like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, all of those things that really connect you to your inner being and to your intuition, bringing ourselves awareness in all those things. I think all of that helps you to become more authentic so you realize you don’t have to be anybody else but you. I love this quote by Oscar Wilde, it’s in my book as well, he says, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” It’s so true.
You are just so unique exactly the way you are and you are perfectly imperfect the way you are. You are absolutely enough the way you are. I think the more people learn to embrace that, that’s when they start to get connecting to their authentic self. That’s when they can start to make those shifts and changes in their life to make sure that they are living a life that’s really true to them.
Alex: Excellent words there. I second that. I think it’s one of those things I think … I’ve come across a lot of peoiple who are almost putting on a front or putting on a fake or a façade I suppose of who they really are and not really … Then applying themselves, wondering why, feeling unhappy, I think authenticity or the lack of authenticity is certainly something that people should look at. As I’ve said before, reading a book is certainly open up your eyes to many people so I’d recommend it. I’m just intrigued to know as well because as I said I’ve never heard of a happyologist before and I’m intrigued to know what the future holds for you, Susanna. What plans do you have for the future? How are things going with the book and everything?
Susanna: Yeah, well I think I just want to keep spreading the word and keep doing the work I do. Keep helping more people through my coaching and my workshops, and my writing. There are definitely more books in the future. I’ve just got too many ideas to fit one I think. I’m also working on an online course as well because I think that will help make the stuff I talk about more accessible to people as well if they can’t come to my live events, or if they want more than just the book. Yeah.
Alex: Sure. If people should want to buy your book or go to your live events and read more about you, where should they go? Where’s your website?
Susanna: Yes. My website is happyologist.co.uk You can there sign up for a free happiness newsletter that comes out every two weeks with all kinds of tips around dealing with stress, overwhelmed, and getting clear about your authenticity, and becoming happier overall. My book is available on Amazon. If you search for Screw Finding Your Passion it’ll be the only one there. My online courses, they will be coming up on my website as well in the new year.
Alex: Excellent. Then, just as a final bit of info from your final, what would be your biggest tips for somebody who’s looking to really unlock their passion? What’s your biggest possible tip?
Susanna: I would really go back to this gratitude exercise because I think that is the first thing when it comes to you becoming more positive. It’s also going to make you more self aware about what you actually appreciate the most. I would then take another level, add another level to it. After those 21 days and you’ve got a list of three things you’re grateful for every day, look at those different lists. Save them. I like to have a gratitude notebook. Go a bit old school here and use pen and paper. Flip through them and see what are the things that make me feel most appreciative? What are the things that I do feel most grateful for? Then you can probably start identifying a pattern.
Think about, “Okay, these are the things that really light me up. These are the things that help me to feel fulfilled.” Those are your first initial light bulbs when it comes to thinking about your authentic self and what is it that helps you to feel good. Often the things that we appreciate the most in life are also very tied to our values and our true self.
Alex: Sure. Excellent. Susanna, thanks so much. Anybody who, as Susanna said, wants to have a look at the website and the book go Happyologist.co.uk
Susanna, thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing about your course and your new books in the future.
Susanna: Thank you so much for having me. It was great for you to have me here.