by Sue Weston

When it comes to careers – or life – the storybook ending is a myth

Apr 03, 2019

Happiness is not a competition – it’s an individual achievement. So, search internally for what makes you happy. And live happily now.

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I want my storybook ending. I grew up listening to the Disney happily-ever-after fairy tales, where the handsome prince rescues the fair maiden. I knew that good would trump over evil, true love would conquer all, and dreams will come true.

I believed there was a master plan for success, and all I needed to do was follow the rules. The path for career success began by working hard in school to get your dream job, where you worked hard and get promoted. I believed fame and fortune were only a step away. But were they really?

I was disappointed when my life experience did not match my expectations. I felt that other people had achieved their perfect lives. Looking back, the past appeared better than the present. But my recollections were skewed with memories that edited out the difficult patches, other-people’s lives were no more perfect than my own.

Now, I am learning to enjoy the journey and to live happily.

Fairy tales are stories intended for amusement

They should not become a roadmap for life. Stories are make-believe, showing a fantasy world. Disney sold the happy-ever-after ending to attract children and give voice to our dreams. The original fairy tales published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812 were not as uplifting. In “Cinderella,” the evil stepsisters cut off parts of their foot to fit into the glass slipper, and in some versions have their eyes pecked out. And in “Little Red Riding Hood,” the wolf eats the grandmother.

Disney made us believe in the magic of stories, where dreams could come true. While this was effective marketing, it is not a strategy for personal success.

You can achieve your personal storybook ending by distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Step one is recognizing there is no perfect life. Everyone faces challenges and each person’s journey is unique. Moreover, what worked for your parents may not work for you. Finding your way requires making mistakes, taking risks and embracing the journey.

Like fairytales, many of our expectations for how to achieve happiness are simply myths.

Having more money does not make you happier

Researchers found that happiness increases ONLY until you make enough to live comfortably. Earning more money increases stress as people become driven to purchase more and climb socially.

Satisfaction is not guaranteed

The high-profile jobs we aspire to can be stress-producing, requiring long hours that take us away from our families and may rob us of our sense of self. Happiness in work increases for people who feel like they are making a difference like a salesperson or toll-collector who view their jobs as problem-solving. These employees expressed a higher job satisfaction than many other professionals.

Hard work will not guarantee a promotion or success at work, especially for women

People who keep their head ‘to the grindstone’ are often overlooked. So, speak up, ask for the promotion you want, demonstrate your value by volunteering for stretch assignments and taking leadership roles.

Getting married does not guarantee happiness – it takes hard work

Even the storybook romance requires hard work, as your relationship shifts from passionate to becoming companions and life partners. And the long-term impacts of marriage differ by gender. Studies found that women who have never married have the longest life expectancy and are happiest, while married men live longer than single men and make more money. So, live the life which is right for you.

Ditto children

While having children can be rewarding, parenting comes with stress and responsibilities. Instead of being envious of others, think about what is right for you.

Because of these myths of what our idealized life should be, we tend to judge people who live life differently in a negative light. We want to believe that being driven, having a successful career makes us better people.

In actuality there is no one size fits all narrative, we each have different abilities and passions. Our success is measured on an internal barometer. Happiness is not a competition; it is an individual achievement.

So, search internally for what makes you happy. Remember that finding happily-ever-after comes after a struggle. Even in fairytales the characters have faced difficulties first, and then the story ends. In reality, we will be faced with many challenges to conquer, and our stories continue.

By keeping perspective and looking inwardly, you can find what makes you happy. Follow your heart to achieve your dreams.