The pursuit of happiness

Last week I was in Sydney for work, and got to meet up with a few amazing Aussie ladies and had great conversations with them over some food and drinks.

N, 31

N is a social worker who specialises in re-homing kids who have run away from home. She is good at what she does, with her education on psychology playing a big part in how she connects with the kids and their parents, helping them reconcile their differences so that the kid eventually gets to go home.

Her job is stressful but she is proud of it, and her friends say it is “very cool”.

At 31, her friends are at different life-stages, getting married, having kids.. while she remains single after getting out of a 10-year relationship.

She’d started going to the gym after returning from a long break she took to get over the breakup. Working out turned out to be something she really enjoys and now ahe goes to the gym everyday.

She tells her friends she’s taking it easy on the dating front, but she hopes that one day she will eventually meet someone in the gym.

That’s part of her motivation for going to the gym everyday!

S, 25

S is an aspiring Olympian in Track and Field. She is currently training to qualify for the 400m hurdles event in the Tokyo Olympics.

She is working full time while training full time. Track and field athletes like herself do not get any help or funding from the government so she’s doing all these out of her passion for the sport.

Six months ago she decided to go on a 4-day work arrangement so as to ease the balancing act between working and training after work. She had to take a pay cut in order to do so but she was glad she decided to do it.

I was in awe with her drive. On some days, I can hardly keep up juggling work and kids after work and here she is, juggling full time work and full time training after work.

“What motivates you?” I asked her.

She simply shrugged and said it is something she’d always loved doing. And she has a goal, and a line of sight to her goal. Of course there are days when it is difficult to get out of the bed.

But hurdles is what makes her happy. (She preferred it to running because she gets distracted easily if she only had to run. 😂)

And she is thankful to have her family and partner’s support.

She knows she would retire from the sport eventually, so holding on to her full time job is one of the ways to future-proof herself.

But until then, it is about getting qualified for the Olympics and competing in the Olympics.

S, 28

At first glance, S looked like a regular office lady working in Sydney.

But as she warmed up to us, she shared that she’s taking not one but two courses outside of work because she has interest and passion in the two subjects.

Polish, because it’s the language of her ancestry and she wants to be better at it. Security, because it is related to her line of work and she wants to learn more about it.

She’d started saving up for her own college education since high school, working part time while schooling full time.

She entered college and dropped out after 2 months because the course turned out to be something she did not want to do.

She ended up taking a gap year and working full time before enrolling in college again. She took the time to figure out what she really wanted to do.

When she graduated from college, she worked in a law firm.. and hated it. She hated how transactional the industry and the people were. So she quitted that job and ended up working for the government.

She feels good to be supporting the team of people who are making a difference to the lives of Australians.

“I’m still figuring it out,” she said. “I don’t think I have found my strengths and true passion yet so I’m still exploring.”

“I don’t need to be a CEO or anything. But in a few years’ time I hope to be a manager and be seen as an expert in a particular subject matter,” she smiled as she shared about her future plans.

“I used to get very stressed, setting 5-year goals, 10-year goals.. and then I realized it’s more important to be happy. It’s my life, my path, not others’.”

So this is how she took on “life”. Small goals go a long way.

Her goal in high school was about saving for college. And then it was about finding the right job. And then it was about saving for her wedding. Now, her husband and her are saving to buy a house.

Her eyes sparkled with so much joy as she shared her wedding photos and told us how she’d decided to splurge on her wedding and how she flew to London with her mum to get her wedding dress customised.

She shared her favourite moments before and on her wedding day, the preparation and the 30 minutes she had with her husband to practise their first dance together as a married couple.

“I can’t tell you where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in 5 years’ time. Who knows? I might be living in Europe or I might have a baby,” she shrugged. “I think the most important thing is to be happy.”

I think she’s already got it all “figured out”.

Speaking to these ladies energised and inspired me, despite being the introvert that I am (86%, according to the MBTI test).

What struck me was how they are both the “laid-back, go with the flow” Aussie stereotype who does not care too much about what others think of them, and also the opposite of it when it comes to achieving the goals they’ve set for themselves.

It is not about being happy and irresponsible.

Happiness is a prerequisite for the decisions they make and the goals they set. Once they set sight on something, they go all out in the pursuit of that happiness, defined by their own terms.

They are not afraid to chart their own paths and to compare themselves with themselves, not with others, and not with what society expects or forces them to do.

And they work really hard for their happiness.

I hope our girls grow up with the same wisdom and the same tenacity to pursue their own definitions of happiness and fulfillment.

And I hope we give them the right environment and upbringing to achieve that.