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Author Henry S. Miller explains why happiness may have everything to do with the success of your job search.

How did you become so interested in happiness?

When I read one of the very first self-help books, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, I became intrigued with the idea that people could affect their feelings and their self-image just by how they were thinking. In addition, I have always been a pretty happy guy and had noticed that not everyone that I met seemed to be as happy as I thought they should be. I thought that maybe I could write a book that could simply help people live the happiest and most fulfilling life possible for them. Then, in the late 1990s, the positive psychology movement began. This meant that there were tons of research studies on how people could be happier – and I decided that I wanted my book to summarize exactly what its sub-title says it contains: “Everything you need to know to flourish and thrive.”

Tell me about your book, The Serious Pursuit of Happiness.

Thanks for asking. Maybe you’ve noticed this also, but it seemed to me that whenever anyone is asked if they’d like to be happy, they respond by saying something like “Sure, just tell me what to do.” That’s what I’ve written my book to do: tell readers the strategies and the actions that research has proven people can use to live their best life. My book is really 10% textbook, 80% happiness bible, and 10% action planner.

Let’s talk about how happiness can affect the job search process.

Beyond the basics of a successful job search process – making it a full-time job with daily hours, creating and accomplishing daily to-do lists, obtaining needed qualifications, doing the necessary research before each interview, and taking care of yourself physically and mentally – being a happy person can influence both your self-image and your chances of landing your job of choice.

Having a good and realistic level of self-esteem is important for all of us. It helps us weather life’s inevitable disappointments. Healthy self-esteem is based upon accomplishments in our lives and can be built by genuine accomplishment of goals, taking on multiple roles in life, and having the courage to rise to the challenges and overcome them. We have all done these things in our lives, and we need to recall and remind ourselves of this so that we are confident of success when the next challenge arrives.

Self-confidence shows, and having enough of it can not only help in your job search process but is one of the attributes that can lead to a happier life.

What would you suggest job seekers do to amp up the happiness factor?

One of the most challenging things about job hunting is to deal positively with the normal rejections that occur and their potentially negative effects on your self-esteem. What we say to ourselves matters. So often, we take any rejection personally – that somehow, something is wrong with us and that’s why we didn’t get this or that job. And then, we compound the rejection by telling ourselves all the negative things we can think of about ourselves and end up becoming the victim. Instead, beyond any obvious under-qualification issues or personal turn-offs, in most cases, not getting the job we applied for usually just means it wasn’t a good match, or that the organization was able to find someone else who was a better match for what they need. Nothing personal, just business.

To combat any negative self-esteem-sapping feelings, I’d recommend that you do two things. First, create and then keep a list of all your positive qualities, skills, and abilities close at hand and remind yourself of all you have today in your life to be grateful for on a daily basis. Second, keep another list of what you are grateful for in all areas of your life – personal qualities you have, your relationships, your past, your present, your contributions to the world, your current situation – everything you are grateful for.

These two lists are truths about you and about your life that can act as unbreakable rocks or timeless touchstones that you can rely on to reinforce and bolster your self-esteem, no matter how your job search may be going at any one moment.

Positive affirmations about yourself have been proven to increase your feelings of happiness, at least at a modest level. And gratitude about what you have is a powerful and positive emotion and can often counteract many negative feelings about what you might not (yet) have, including a job.

For the skeptics among us, can you give examples of how you’ve seen these tips used successfully?

I think one of the most important realities to accept about happiness is the fact that no one is happy all the time. This idea of eternal, uninterrupted feelings of bliss is just marketing hype. Even the happiest of people experience life’s inevitable ups and downs, highs and lows – and few situations are a better example of this truth than during the job search process, right?

But these feelings don’t last – life is neither all highs nor all lows. Resilience during the lows becomes a key factor and would be especially important through the ups and downs of job hunting. Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” And resilience can be learned: don’t isolate yourself, share your challenges, recall how you’ve been successful before, look for positive progress, and be proud of yourself for taking daily action. Strive to be a resilient survivor, not a victim, and you’ll be the happier for your efforts.

On a personal note, without boring you with my story since we all have our stories, these imperatives, strategies, and actions in my book have helped me overcome a near-fatal car accident, a divorce, financial losses, and two cancers – and still stay mostly happy.

One final thought, if I may, is that while amassing knowledge about happiness is a crucial first step on any journey to be happier, happiness is an active, not a passive pursuit, so action is still needed to make the changes necessary to live your best life. I wish you the very best on your journey.

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