Don’t Sacrifice Your Happiness For Future Security

don't sacrifice your happiness

If you are not happy here and now, you never will be.

– Taisen Deshimaru

When I was young, I had big dreams. I wanted to live an adventurous life, follow my heart, be fearless and passionate… and I wanted to travel the world as soon as I finished college. Why would I sacrifice my happiness for anything less?

When I finished college, I already had a job offer waiting. It was at a local company where I worked as a student during the summer holidays.

I didn’t really feel very good about the offer. The job seemed rather boring, there weren’t many possibilities to develop and move forward, and above all, I wanted to do some traveling.

Unfortunately, back then, the economic situation wasn’t really that great and everyone tried to convince me to take the job.

I should have listened to my heart…

My heart was saying: “No, that’s not the right job for you, you’ll get something better, something you will really love, a job where you won’t sacrifice your happiness…”

But the rational part of me, my left brain had a different story: “You are crazy, the economy is going down and you think about traveling the world? you won’t even find a job when you come back…”

I got scared, I cracked and I accepted the offer. I wasn’t happy at all. If at least I would have liked the job, or if only I would have felt at least some passion for the work I was supposed to do…

Fear was stronger than my biggest dreams. I never really worried much about the future while I was in high school and even later in college. How come I got so scared about my future security within such a short period of time?

Was it because of all the conversations I had with friends and family members about how bad the job market was, about how difficult it has become to make a living, the constant negativity in the mainstream media…?

Trapped in a life I hated…

Well, there I was, in a job I didn’t like at all, bored most of the time, underpaid… but at least, now I was integrated into the corporate world and I had secured my future.

Secured my future? Well, at least that’s what I “forced” myself to believe back then to make the pain of not doing what I really wanted to do a bit less heavy.

Anyway, two years later I had enough of the job and I left the company. To travel and to do what my heart was longing for? No, over those last two years, my worries about my future security have grown even bigger.

Now, I was firmly integrated into society. I was reading the newspaper every day, I watched the evening news and during my lunch breaks, I discussed gloom and doom with my equally worried work colleagues.

Wow, how could I have changed so much in only two years? I turned from a lively, passionate young man with big dreams into a scared chicken who was worried day and night about his future security.

Even more problems to come…

And that’s why I applied for a job at a big, prestigious company with excellent development opportunities and a great salary. Fear was my motivator and I got the job. I was relieved, but I didn’t feel happy.

The job seemed equally boring than the one in my last company, but hey, after two years I got used to living and working without any passion. The money was great and that’s all that really counted.

The money was great? Heck, I never even cared much about money. What was going on, where have all my dreams gone? No, the money was only good to create the illusion of security and to feel less fear.

All my joy and happiness was gone…

I spent almost 8 years with this company, 8 terrible years. I worked more and more and I worked harder and harder. I started climbing up the corporate ladder and I made more and more money.

But, as the years went by, I felt worse and worse and I slipped into a depression. All the money and the fancy stuff I bought didn’t help. I felt empty and tremendously unhappy.

I didn’t live my life and I didn’t live my dreams. Actually, I didn’t live at all, I was merely existing.

Finally, the turning point…

The fear of living an unhappy future made me sacrifice my happiness in the present. This ironic realization hit me hard. How had I been so blind?

After my realization, I spent several weeks reflecting on my life and what I really wanted. I started reading tons of books about happiness, personal development, self-empowerment, and related topics, I started going to the gym, and I cut down on my working hours…

And finally, 4 or 5 months later I quit my job. I didn’t have a clear direction for my future, I just wanted to live. I did some traveling for a few months, read more books, enjoyed being in nature, and continued my process of self-reflection.

Half a year later, I started a small business. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I had a lot of fun and I was really happy.

Now, I was living again – what a feeling!

If there is only one advice, one tip I could give you, I would say:

Be happy NOW! Follow your heart and live your passion. Be yourself and live YOUR life. Don’t sacrifice your happiness worrying about the future or letting fear control your life. If you live life like that, you will find a lot of joy and happiness and in such a state, absolutely nothing really bad can happen to you.

27 thoughts on “Don’t Sacrifice Your Happiness For Future Security”

  1. Hi Robert, it just felt like my life described in your blog.Raised in a culture that teaches sacrifices of today leading to better future, I have always led a life thinking about 5 years from now. Half my life is over and I am still trying to work towards that future. Definitely doing well on career, but happiness seems to be elusive- a target that moves when it seems to be within reach.

    Thanks vey much for your blog. It is an eye opener and gives courage to try somerhing that makes you happy now and not to wait for that future.

    1. Hi Murthy – you know, at the age of 20 I was saying “I’ll be happy when I’m 25”, when I was 25, I thought, “When I’m 30, my life will be really great”… and it went on like this.

      Until I realized that there is only one moment to be happy and it is NOW!

      Do the same, decide to be happy now.Once you get into it, you will be surprised how easy it actually is. My past mindset was that feeling really good and happiness comes only with “big” things – money, career… what an illusion.

      Happiness is found in the simplest things. But, you also need to PRACTICE happiness. It doesn’t just come out of the blue.

      Don’t worry, when I use the word practice, because it’s fun and exciting…

      First, decide to be happy now. Take all little occasions during the day to get into an energy that’s as close as possible to joy and happiness: children playing,the warm sun rays, a beautiful flower, a funny dog… – take those occasions to consciously move towards joy and stay there as long as possible and then take the next occasion.

      Condition yourself for happiness. The more you focus on joy, the more you are in joy, the more occasions life will present to you to feel even more joyous.

      Just keep moving towards that direction – you’ll see, there is nothing more delicious in life than being in a state of joy and happiness without any specific reason – just because you are alive and simply because you choose joy over being indifferent.

      You are the creator of your joy and happiness – no one else can do it for you.

      1. That’s great feel-good advice, but it doesn’t undo the fact that “watching children play in the warm sun rays” doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table or pay off future hospital bills. You seem to be saying “just do what you want whenever you want and everything will work out just fine”. Many 30 year-old college graduates are living with their parents because the job market has devastating cycles. Many things are out of your control.

        It’s a wonderful bonus to live a happy life. it’s absolutely necessary to be responsible and work/plan/save for future hard times.

  2. Robert, great story and congratulations on following your intuition. I applaud you.

    I am curious though, do you look back and regret not making that decision to travel much earlier in your life or do you look back at those 8-10 years in the corporate world and are grateful for those experiences as they may have somehow given you the perspective, skills, etc. that you are using now and needed?

    1. Looking back now, I’m grateful for all experiences – even the not so pleasant ones. If there is something I would regret, it would be that I waited so long with my search for true, happiness, doing regular self reflection, writing a self realization diary…

      Those years in the corporate world were mainly unpleasant because of my own mindset (worries about the future, constantly pushing myself and not wanting, fears…). With a positive, easy going, playful, relaxed… mindset, I’m sure, I would have experienced those years as MOST joyful.

      What I learned from my experiences and from doing a lot of self reflection is that those painful experiences in our life are not so much created by specific circumstances, but by our own limiting beliefs and negative thoughts…

      1. Love your response! I to wish I would have learned to self reflect much sooner. I now appreciate it so much. It’s not merely the experiences that cause us to be unhappy or stressful, it’s the lens in which we view them.

        Thanks so much Robert!

  3. While I think we can find happiness in any career, I do agree that what we do for a living has a big impact on the quality of our life. I’ve been pretty lucky and have been able to work mostly online for a lot of years. However, a few years back I decided to give that up for the “security” of a “real” job. I won’t go into the details but three years later I’m back to freelancing with the conviction that the only real security is what we make ourselves and working for ourselves is just as “real” as sitting in an office and collecting a pay check. Thanks for this inspiring post!

    1. Hi Jordan – you are absolutely right. It doesn’t really matter that much what we do – be it working from home, working in an office or whatever…

      What really matters is that you follow our passion and that you do what is right for YOU. What is great for one person, may not be so great for another and vice versa.

      And yes, of course, happiness can be found in any career. It’s not so much a question about the job itself, but much more about the mindset as I mentioned in the comment above.

      1. Hi Robert! I’m glad I saw this blog. I’ve been into anxiety the past few days. I’m from the Philippines and currently residing here in U.S. I just got married this May and my husband is in my home country. I’m currently working and earning a good salary compare when I’m back home. I can buy all the things that I want but it doesn’t make me happy at all. I’m 25 but never experience being a 20yr old lady. Since I got here in 2009, I started working. I don’t have a lifestyle ‘coz after work I go home straight.

        I feel so incomplete and unsatisfied of my life. I’m planning to quit my job and go back to my country for few years and see how it’ll work out living there with my husband. I told my parents about it but they’re not happy about it coZ I have to leave them and they told me that I should think about the consequences of my decision. I really don’t know what to do. But thanks to this blog, it somehow enlighten me. Wish me luck!

  4. Hi Robert, your last statement is very powerful and meaningful. I’m going through a moment of unhappiness and boredness in a marriage, also, working a job that I don’t like at all. But since the bills have to be paid, I stay in the job. Many times my mind and heart telling me to do something different, but the fear of failure is preventing me from making the change. Working from paycheck to paycheck was never my dream but for now, I found myself stuck in that situation. Your statement is very inspiring, and thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Watson, our thoughts and beliefs have an immense impact on the reality we create. So, if you are worried that things will go terribly wrong if you leave your current job, then (because of your beliefs) things might actually go wrong and that’s why I recommend you spend some time working on your beliefs and fears before making any BIG changes.

      There are various “tools” you can use to get your mindset from “this won’t work out…” to “I can do it and now I’m ready…” – but as anything in life, shifting your mindset requires daily practice – it won’t just change out of the blue, you are the one who can change it.

      Please check some articles on my blog (for example: What To Do When You Are Stuck In A Negative Spiral That Turns Your Life Upside Down…) for more ideas and how you can use different tools to shift your mindset.

  5. We don’t know how much time we have on the planet so it’s amazing (and a little sad) that we live out our lives putting up with so much for the promise of a better tomorrow (aka retirement). There comes a time when we have decide between fear or living more fully. Whether we can mix the two is a debatable point.

    1. Absolutely Peter, and I think it has a lot to do with the way we are conditioned in our society already from a very early age on to live according to the status quo in order to avoid any “disasters” in the future…

    2. This is so true.I used to live in Florida and cannot tell you how many people I met that waited to retire to fulfill their dreams.Six months later, they were dead of a heart attack, stroke, or were battling cancer.If we lived every day as if it could be our last, how happy would we be?In 3 months, my Hubby and I are downsizing to an off grid cabin in the woods.I am afraid of the unknown, but will have no mortgage, as we are pay-checking the place.My Hubby will be able to retire early, and live his life with passion NOW, while he still can.His parents both died of cancer ,before they even had the chance to retire, leaving him alone at the age of 16.We are decluttering and assessing what we really need to be happy(and it’s not much)…

  6. Thank you for sharing your powerful story. It is incredible what I leap of faith can achieve!!
    As a mindfulness teacher, I am a huge believer in enjoying the present moment! I’m always grateful to hear stories like yours.

  7. Hi Robert,
    Your life story was interesting and insightful. You have mentioned that you were unhappy in-spite of getting a better job with a bigger salary and inspite of vertical movement up the corporate ladder. It so true. I congratulate you for your frankness and for your decision to quit the job and follow your heart.

    I am also in the middle of a great change in my life. I expect to do better tomorrow. But I want to be happy today. I want to live in the PRESENT.

    Thanks! It gives me further inspiration to follow my Heart.

    Thank you once again.

  8. What a powerful story, Robert! I spent years working with teenagers who were conditioned at a young age to enter the workforce, conform and create a subsistence living “no matter what.” Scary how kids can be socialized out of their dreams so quickly.

    You are a great living example of readjusting your life to take in happiness, joy and some fun risk taking. Get out there and keep living your truth!


  9. I have mixed feelings about what you say. I have always been the one to follow my heart, travel, adventure, take seasonal jobs, and not settle for work I despise. I have pursued my creative passions, as well.
    In 2013, at the age of 45, I found myself quite literally penniless and living on the sofa of my mother’s small apartment, very much an unwanted “guest”.
    From where I sit, job security would be very welcome right now. I’ve spent 6 months not knowing where my next meal was coming from, all the while knowing there was a limit how long I could stay with “family”.
    I’ve been very blessed to find options, but I would advise anyone who is not truly financially secure to think hard about the very real possibility of becoming homeless!

    1. My father used to remind me that without cash, everything is hypothetical. I’m 62 this year and still working like a dog, worried about how long I can hold on to my job. I want to travel and enjoy this beautiful earth, and go away for months in a mindfulness retreat; but I’m constantly short of cash. What can I do?

  10. Hi, Mr Spadinger,
    I really love your story. It seems like me back then in college. I am so scared that right after I graduated, I couldn’t get a good job with high salary,etc. That’s what the society and my family expected from me. I found it so boring and desperate because so many people out there I had to please. My biggest dream is just like you- travelling around the world. It’s my passion, my happiness all along. I want to step outside the box and see what’s going on around me rather than sitting on office chair, going home and getting early marriage at the age of 22.
    Your story lightens my mind and I will go for what I long to. Because if I am not happy right now, how on earth can I be happy in the future, aren’t I?
    Thank you so much!

  11. You make some great points Robert, thanks for sharing. I too made choices based on cultural conditioning and doing what was expected… at the time it seemed “fitting in” was more important than being myself. And experienced all of the misery that comes with living an inauthentic life.

    But it’s never too late to “make lemonade” and with a little honest self-inquiry, I was able to learn more about myself and what makes me happy. And armed with this self-knowledge to then make new choices that put my happiness first. Not is a selfish way, but in a way that honors my Self – and that’s where the source of my happiness is. Not in what others think I should do!

  12. This post really hit me!!!! I am you, just some years after…! Its like the future me have written this to myself! Thank you so much for the wake up call! I needed it! (I think I even can drag is as far as “I think you may have saved my life”, at least the living part of it!!) Thank you, thank you!

  13. I love what you shared and I can really relate. I am still working on getting out of the “make safe choices over risky happiness choices, but my daily life is much happier. It makes it even easier when you have a partner and surround yourself with messages of support around these ideas.

    Thank you for this article! I am sharing!

  14. Great post. So inspirational. I definitely relate to this.
    I have a job that is secure and pays the bills but so bored and know that I want something more.
    I finally decided to take the plunge and move abroad to explore a dream that I have always had.
    But I think like a lot of people I am programmed to avoid ‘risky’ behaviours and every now and then I am drawn back to the security that I have at the moment and question if what I am doing is the right thing – even though I know it is!! So reading your post is just what I needed to help me rationalise those thoughts and feel more confident about my decision.
    Its scary how fear of the unknown can cripple us from getting the most out of life.
    So thank you and keep on inspiring!

  15. I hear you, and I feel you.

    I had a plan, and I executed the plan. I took a year off, and went back to work (same company) a year later as a consultant. The work was interesting, and I should have loved it, but it wasn’t the case. I hated it. And then it happened: I got a house, and they made me an employee. and somehow, along the way – I got scared. I was miserable — and it took me 8 years to quit, and move to consulting. Not because that was my dream job, but because I didn’t want somewhere where people in their mid-30’s were simply waiting for the retirement package. I was miserable.

    I’m not completely out yet, but it is coming. My small business is going to grow in 2014.

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed — I’m no longer the chicken.

  16. Hello Robert,

    i have read this post and somehow i am experiencing the same thing right now, my real dream and passion is playing music and travelling, but somehow this things are not profitable, and later some time took a degree in engineering just to secure a good future, after getting a first job at my age of 22, at first i was happy, but a year after some point in my life i started realizing that i have missed a lot of family occasion, quit my band, i’m not travelling anymore, and even watched the girl i like walk away with another man because of busy life in my job and even have to work for over times and weekends. And right now i am still sitting in my same office desk, still afraid of making the decision to make a change in my life, because i don’t know where to start right after i quit my job. Where will i get my money to pay my bills and my travel, i am also afraid to tell my parents that i want to quit my work because they are concerned about my future security and i would also like to somehow financially help my parents and bothers. At this point i want to live the life i want it to be, but i am still clueless on how to start. But from your last paragraph is where i became really inspired to do the right thing in my life. I hope you are reading this and will give you an update to this big decision to do with my life.

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