In a 2017 article titled: 7 reasons Americans are unhappy, I read:

Americans are more unhappy than they were before the great recession. 

Then, I found a Washington Post article titled: Why the U.S. rating on the World Happiness Report is lower than it should be –and how to change it. I read:

Thirty years ago, studies found that Americans are getting richer, but they’re not getting any happier. That remains the case today. Our incomes are going up. But our well-being is not going up. It’s barely budged for 50 years.

College students, graduate students, young professionals, and businessmen and women increasingly find that their lives are void of happiness and meaning. But, most are not as unhappy as lawyers. Just a few months ago, an article was published: Why are lawyers so unhappy?

In the article, the writer discusses the chapter “Why Are Lawyers So Unhappy” from Martin Seligman’s book: “Authentic Happiness” It is worth reading the article to discover the three reasons that lawyers have the highest depression rates of the 104 occupations surveyed.

According to Richard J. Leider’s The Power of Purpose, adults over the age of sixty-five consistently say that if they could live their lives over again, they would be more reflective, more courageous, and more focused on finding purpose earlier on. Evidence of the decline in happiness and purpose is apparent when one looks at the recent rise in the study of how to attain them:

  • Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change was first published in 1990. Since then, more than 10 million copies of the book have been sold.
  • In 2002, The Purpose Driven Life, a Christian book about finding purpose, was published. It quickly became a worldwide bestseller.
  • In 2006, the most popular course at Harvard in the spring semester was Psychology 1504, “Positive Psychology.” Close to nine hundred students crowded into Memorial Hall Sanders Theatre each Tuesday and Thursday to hear Professor Tal Ben-Shahar’s lecture on “how to get happy” and how to find “a fulfilling and flourishing life.” In a March 10, 2006 article about the course, The Boston Globe reported that in the last several years, positive psychology classes have cropped up on more than one hundred campuses around the country.
  • A recent study found teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier. However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy. (See: What might explain the unhappiness epidemic?)

Clearly, finding happiness and fulfillment in our careers and in our personal lives is an enormous challenge that we face. Moreover, the line between our careers and personal lives has largely been erased, and thus many of us lack a sense of control over our lives.

The net result is that more and more people feel stressed and burned out. Despite today’s challenges, some people are thriving in their careers and personal lives even while working the same amount of time as those who are burning out.

What accounts for this disparity? The answer begins with attitude. Those thriving assume responsibility for their happiness and success and take a proactive approach to cultivating fulfilling lives. They’ve established their goals, discovered their values, and defined their own sense of work-life balance based on their priorities. As a result, they are “in the zone” in whatever activity they undertake, and they have found purpose in their careers and lives.

Most of this blog comes from the introduction I wrote many years ago to my book: to Say Ciao to Chow Mein: Conquering Career Burnout.

In Ciao, I answered the question of how one goes from burnout to balance by demonstrating how one can adopt the proper attitude and put into practice the methods of those who’ve attained career and life satisfaction.

Ciao was the parable story of Tony Caruso, a young, burned-out attorney who learns how to live according to his priorities and, thereby, achieves his desired career and life balance.

Ciao is still available on Amazon.