Happiness (Advices to Students)

A student wrote to me: “Which career will bring me happiness? I am still confused about finding a career that would give me more happiness. Please advise.”

I wrote to him: “What do you mean by happiness? Do you know what it is? People have a different opinion about happiness and I do not know what it means to you. A few years ago, this question has been asked in my class and we had a lengthy conversation about it. Many students told me that happiness is getting what they want. So I challenged them: “If you want a good grade and get it, and you are happy but how long would you be happy? One hour, one day, or one week? If you want a degree and get it, and you are happy but what happens if you fail to graduate? You are unhappy for sure but for how long? What you consider happiness is about getting what you want, get a degree, get a job, achieve success, becoming somebody, maybe a top position in a company. As long as you want something and you can get it, you are happy but if you cannot get what you want, then you are unhappy. Basically, you associate happiness with things, career, jobs, and ideas and these have become important to you. However, we are living in a fast changing time, many things will change over time. What is happiness to you today may not be what will be to you tomorrow. You get a job today and you are happy, but after a few years, you are bored and frustrated, the job is no longer your source of happiness anymore. You study technology and get a job and you are happy but technology changes. What happens if your skills are no longer needed? Suddenly you are worrying about losing your job so your job is no longer the source of happiness anymore.”

Smiling woman from Vietnam (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

It is important to understand that happiness is something in your mind, not in your job, or material things, or ideas. A career is something that you can enjoy doing. If you like what you do, you are happy and if you do not like it, you are unhappy. Everything is in your mind. There is no perfect career and there is no perfect job. As long as you enjoy what you do, that moment is the happiness. As long as you can keep a positive attitude about your career then you will be happy. My question is what makes you happy?


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University