Don’t Mess With Happy

On my drive to work in the mornings I like to listen to an “all sports” radio show.  I find it relaxing and entertaining, and I get to keep up with my favorite teams as I go.  A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a segment about a hockey player who had signed a new contract with his current team in the middle of the season.  He had signed for amount of money that regular working people find obscene, but it was $1,000,000 a season less than what he might have been able to sign for had he waited for free-agency at the end of the year.

The discussion was about why players are often willing to provide “home town discounts” to their current teams.instead of creating an auction for their services.  There were a lot of things tossed around, but one of the commentators used an expression that resonated with me.

Don’t mess with happy. 


It’s a powerful little statement.  I’ve been thinking about it off and on along with it’s applicability in other aspects of life.  This week it really hit home as I came face to face with it.

I’m in the midst of planning for my “first retirement”, meaning the point in time where I cease to be a corporate being and become an independent coach and consultant.  I’m blessed by the fact that I work for a great organization that has a philosophy of providing “no regrets” careers.  They are actively involved with me in my retirement planning.  They have provided me great support in allowing me to learn and develop my coaching practice.

In this past week, an event happened which allowed me to experience the full scope of what my “retirement work” might look and feel like and it got me excited.  I was really happy about it and I started thinking again – don’t mess with happy.

The first thing that occurred to me is happy is a relative thing.  I’ve always enjoyed my career, but I’ve also never had to make a decision anything like retirement before so it lends new meaning.

The second thing was to go through in my mind what I might be allowing to mess with this new source of happy.  When I sit and listen quietly to what might be going on between my ears here are the major things that might want to mess with happiness for me.  Not all are related to this decision, but they have power to mess with happy nonetheless.

  • Money – how many people do you know who have changed jobs for additional money and started to regret it almost immediately?  Money and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive … one can have both.  But many decisions seem to be made to get more money without initial consideration of happiness. Aside from promotion opportunities, we often hear discussions where others are contemplating stepping out of a career to lower paying work or pursuit of dreams like being an artist and what causes angst is figuring out how to make financial ends meet.
  • Security – where money might cause someone to make a change, security messes with happiness by holding us back from changing.  It is amazing how we humans would rather stay in an unpleasant but known scenario than risk moving to an unknown but potentially happier opportunity.  In my case the present isn’t unpleasant, which actually makes it even tougher to plan for future happiness!
  • Status – I know I wrestled with this one for quite a while as I contemplated retirement.  I was always pretty certain that I would enjoy my planned life as a coach, but I was struggling with losing my identity as an executive, and how that might affect my relationships in the business community.  For me this turned out to be something that was a battle with my internal board of directors, and I discovered that I just needed to erase some old tapes that keep playing.
  • Connections – closely related to status is the idea of our relationships.  When we make a change in our work system, it affects a lot of our relationships.  Certainly we break our day to day connection with people in our office and that might give us pause.  When we change physical locations, we might impact our relationships with friends and even family by moving away. A first challenge is to sort out which relationships are truly important to us and which ones merely provide us a sense of belonging that is comfortable, but that can be replaced in our new environment.  For those that are truly important, this is a tricky dimension to being happy, as the happy draw of the new environment can be offset by some sadness or loss of putting distance in key relationships.

There’s a lot to think about here.  The bottom line for me though is what I’ve learned through my work with emotional intelligence.  Of the energy we need to live, only 30% of it comes from physical means such as food, exercise and sleep.  The rest of it is provided by our emotional vitality.  The emotion that supplies this vitality is joy, so happiness isn’t just some ethereal pursuit.  It actually provides us the energy to live.

What’s your experience with this?  How do you nurture your emotional vitality?  What causes you to mess with happy?

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Mess With Happy

  1. What a great company you work for Ian. I love their ‘no regrets’ philosophy and that they are walking alongside you as you transition into retirement! Thanks for inviting us along in your process and sharing so much useful information – must be the coach in you. 😉
    Diana xo

  2. I’m with Diana — what a great company you work for. And with Karen — change messes with happy which is such a conundrum — as an old boss of mine used to say, “Change is here to stay.”

    I’d like happy to be here to stay too so getting accustomed to change is vital!

  3. While your post relates to a choice (retirement or not), sometimes a change can be thrust upon one and in those instances it can take some time to realize it is those above four above aspects contributing to the “messing with happiness” rather than the change itself. I think acknowledging and focussing on those aspects could be of benefit after any sudden change or crisis. Ones that come to mind are death of loved one, divorce, retrenchment from work, displacement from home or a health crisis.

    1. You are quite right in your observation that sometimes life “messes with happy”, at which point it becomes necessary that we deal with it. Since that can happen more than we like is doubly important that we don’t cause further upset to our happiness on our own!

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