Many of my clients, when thinking about a change they want to make, talk about wanting to be happy.  What does it mean to be happy?  Much has been written on the topic of happiness and research supports our efforts to find the illusive happy. But first we have to define what happy means.  Part of my happy is honoring my values, one of which is authenticity and I’ve learned, especially in my time living and working abroad, that being flexible or adaptable to a situation while important is sometimes at odds with my desire to be authentic.  Authenticity is another topic on which much has been written and it is a word that means many things. For me, being authentic is about being true to myself. When it comes to aligning being authentic with the flexibility a situation requires, I have discovered I need to pause and reflect on the balance between being authentic and being flexible: imagine a teeter-totter.

It is a worthy exercise to define what happy looks and feels like for you, and what your core values are. Being authentic, true to who you are, while you balance what the situation/job/people need from you also requires some thought. I talk to my coaching clients about the place where they are both happy and authentic as standing in their power. Standing in my power is about loving the work I do, having true connection with those around me, and making time for play and self-care. I have pictures, words, song lyrics, and quotes that describe standing in my power. Here are a few:

Trail in Tennessee

Nature brings me
clarity (Tennessee)

Puppy love - can't help but smile

Puppy love – can’t help but smile


Reminder to believe
in myself

Power in looking up into the trees (Montana)

Calming look up into
the trees (Montana)


There is power in quiet

My coaching client Sarah* has been defining what standing in her power looks like, which includes the business she is preparing to launch and how she wants to be in the many roles she plays personally and professionally. Sarah found several images to describe standing in her power which we have come back to when a question paralyzes her. Recently, her employer asked if she would be  interested in a different job which would delay the business launch but would have her doing more of the work she wants to be doing. It would likely require a substantial pay cut but could help her build the offering for the new business. We talked through pros and cons but she was still conflicted. Then I had one of those magic question moments that are rare and powerful in coaching: I asked her if the standing in her power images she had found could help her make a decision about the possible job.

She was quiet for a moment.

Then everything changed.  She said when she thinks about this possible job through the lens of standing in her power it is clear she does not want to pursue it. The picture of the possible job is not how she sees herself standing in her power.

This is not a story about not pursuing possible jobs and holding tight to a dream you’ve defined.  Each of us needs to figure out what it looks like to be happy, live authentically, and stand in our power. Use different words if these aren’t working for you, but do think about and define for you, and come back to redefine them as you evolve. You don’t have to be artistic to define happy, authenticity and standing in your power.  Go for a walk and take pictures with your phone, search images online, look for pictures or quotes in magazines you enjoy, listen to song lyrics. Draw, paint, write, or sing if that works for you.

Questions to get you started:

  • What is on your happy dashboard?
  • How do you stand in your power?
  • What does being real or authentic mean for you?

You might also like: Be Real. Define Happy.  Keep Your Rockstars.

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