This is the key to narrow the gap in the equation of career happiness

Throughout my years as an executive coach I have seen people triumph over immense hardship while others falter over minutiae. I’ve seen a sense of urgency spearhead achievement while chronic victimization hamstring progress. I’ve been party to personal transformations because people risk vulnerability with great courage and I’ve seen stagnation be the end-product of complaining about unmet expectations. Most often the underachievers carry self-doubt that they don’t know how to convert to confidence.

It’s pretty clear to me what makes people happy and empowered to create the life they want and what does not. It’s a simple equation.

The golden rule of happiness

The shorter the distance between what you want and where you are the happier you will be and the more risks you will take.

You want a better job

Let’s say you want to move up in your career, possibly changing companies. And right now you are in a miserable role. There is an undeniably huge gap between what you want and where you are. I liken it to a child who is learning to crawl and sees an animated toy that he really wantsm across the room. He rocks back and forth, trying to propel himself toward the prize. He inches forward on his knees but can‘t quite get his hands to synchronize. And he comes to a moment of truth. Can he get the toy or should he give up? Will he risk with determination to challenge his body, or will he pacify himself with something closer, giving up the goal.

The tool to get there

One of the reasons I enjoy being an executive coach is because people who seek one are not only determined to create the life they want but have the courage to admit they can’t see what is holding them back. They get curious about themselves the same way a little boy gets curious about how to reach what intrigues him. He doesn’t know what to fear because he hasn’t experienced failure. If he touches a hot stone he likely won’t touch it again. For adults this takes great risk because we have experienced many hot stoves in our lives.

The key is to allow a difficult experience to be a situation, not an edict. It takes mindful vulnerability to view a situation from a third-party perspective and not internalize it as personal. Curiosity is the tool that builds vulnerability. Adopt the innocence of a child and the world will be much larger than you think it is.

Narrowing the gap

Let’s revisit the fact that you want a better job with curiosity. No more blindly applying for positions or ruminating that nothing works. Ask yourself, “WHAT does ‘better’ actually mean? More flexibility? Less travel? A culture that shares your values? The ability to broaden your skillset or mentor under a high performer? WHAT does your ideal work day actually look like?

WHEN will you compile a formal list of companies you want to work for so you can target your resume toward their mission, goals and the job description? WHEN will you update your resume with measurable key accomplishments instead of simply a list of your current responsibilities? WHEN will you call former bosses and colleagues and ask them to write a letter of reference for you, giving them bullets from your list of key accomplishments to make it easy for them?

Get curious about WHO might help you answer the previous questions. Who inside your organization will you meet with monthly to discuss your career? WHO will you call or reach out to on social media networks to ask about the culture of their organization?

When you get curious about the details of your goals it provides you with actionable strategies that narrow the gap between what you want and where you are. You embrace the unknown with the curiosity of a child. This acceptance of your own vulnerability allows you to set aside the expectation of being perfect and builds the confidence necessary to risk. It also provides clarity and context around what your ideal life will truly be like as opposed to theorizing it. You step into the life you create.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at