December 31, 2023


3 minutes

Why you aren't happy

Kareem Abukhadra

Author, Founder Relentless

After several years supporting hundreds of jobseekers, we've met everyone from minimum wage earners who embrace life with the ecstasy of golden retrievers to candidates earning over a million dollars a year who were always in a bad mood.

Here are the patterns we notice across happier jobseekers:

  • Happier job seekers view themselves as the primary controller of their emotional state.

    To put this in context, I got this subject line off another article I read a few months ago.

    I initially felt attacked.

    I was able to get myself out of that emotional state because I believed that I had more power over my emotions than the stranger who wrote the article.
  • Happier job seekers make room for sadness, frustration, anger, and other "negative" emotions.

    You would make room for a friend "to vent off steam" before you offered solutions.

    Giving yourself the same room to vent is a precursor for being able to process your negative emotions and re-enter a happy state.
  • Happier job seekers expect happiness to take effort.

    It takes effort to maintain your physical health because you need to exert physical exercise on a daily basis.

    Happiness requires you to exert effort on a daily basis too to deal with challenging thoughts.
  • Happier job seekers believe that achieving their future goals (e.g. make a certain income level or getting a certain job) is easier if they're happy.

    Therefore, they reject contemporary ideas that pit happiness and achieving goals as living in tension with one another, and view happiness as a useful tool for achieving their goals. See happiness.
  • Happier job seekers use sadness, rejection, and failure to win.

    They too remember the girl (or guy) who rejected them, the teacher who didn't believe in them, and that kid from school who bullied them.

    They just use those experiences to fuel their journey not bring them down.
  • Happier job seekers understand statistics.

    1 out of 10 days a week will inevitably be your worst day in 10.

    Remembering that is helpful the next time you get caught in the rain.
  • Happier job seekers realize that they live better than the best kings lived 100 years ago.
  • Happier job seekers speak to themselves like their favorite boss spoke to them.

    Your favorite boss pointed out what you were doing well much more often than they criticized you.

    You were much more motivated to work hard and much happier in the moment because of it.

    Why wouldn't you apply the same management style to yourself?
  • Happier jobseekers define what happiness means to them because it's hard to influence what you don't define.

    I define happiness at any given moment as the level of positive emotion I experience minus the level of negative emotion.

    Positive emotion = Joy, presence, anticipation of positive events
  • Negative emotion = anxiety, depression, sadness, guilt

    Using this definition, I then aim to maximize the area under the curve of a graph with two axis:

    1- Numbers of hours in a day
    2- Amount of happiness

  • For example, in the figure below, day A is happier than day B.
  • After defining happiness, happier jobseekers develop 100 different strategies to increase their happiness.

What strategies do you use to influence your emotional state? And if this article triggered an emotion in you (whether it was happiness or a "negative" emotional state), please share that too.

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