Secrets to Fulfilled Life, Part 2

I wrote previously about Oliver Burkeman’s piece in the Guardian. Today I wanted to expand on another point he’s made:

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness.

The idea, according to Burkeman, is that we don’t ultimately know what will make us happy — so we should be choosing the approach that favor growth. In my mind, with growth comes new opportunities, and then maybe one among those will provide us with happiness.

About ten years ago, I was two years into a job with Jacobs Engineering in Omaha, NE. By this time I had gotten to know everybody in the office, at our client’s corporate headquarters, and at several plants. My speech was steady and fine. I wasn’t overly confident about just throwing myself out there, but I was less worried about what others thought.

An opportunity then came up to go overseas and work for Jacobs in Saudi.

What would this mean? The stress of packing up our house and moving. Moving to a foreign country. New laws, new politics. New coworkers, a client relationship that wasn’t very old.

Basically leaving all the comforts of home for a lot of unknowns.

It would have been so easy to stay at home, but I knew in speaking with my boss that I needed international experience to move up in the company. And I had that drive to do so.

So I chose growth.

I went into that adventure with the mindset of, “ok, I’m going to make this work.” And it did. Very well. I knew ahead of time that my speech might be rough at the beginning. It was. But then it smoothed out considerably, and I started feeling more confident about what I was doing, and why I was there. I started writing more, and cranked out this blog. I went to the NSA conference.

The chance to go overseas could have been seen as “maybe” happiness. Maybe things will work out. Maybe I’ll enjoy the sun and the sand. If I had made the decision purely based on potential happiness, I would not have gone. But instead I looked around as often as I could while there and took stock of a lot more of the world and what it had to offer.

Life changed a lot in those 5.5 years, but there was certainly no shortage of opportunities.

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