Use This Process To Find Lasting Happiness In Your Career

Could it be that our basic beliefs about how to achieve lasting happiness are wrong? That’s what Dr. Alex Lickerman, a primary care physician, and Dr. Ash ElDifrawi, a clinical psychologist and marketing professional, claim in their book The Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness. The two doctors argue that we have erroneous beliefs deeply embedded in our thinking that produce a fragile and temporary sort of happiness, which we often mistake for happiness that will last. Based on two decades of research into the latest science and real-life patient experiences, Lickerman and ElDifrawi offer a new understanding of how to attain happiness that endures.

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Ash EiDifrawi is a clinical psychologist, marketing professional, and happiness expert.


ElDifrawi says he discovered his life purpose when he found out that he was accepted to medical school and instead of feeling joy, he was gripped with overwhelming anxiety. In processing this event with his best friend, Lickerman, the two discovered that ElDifrawi did not want to be a doctor after all. “I was on autopilot to fulfill the wishes of my parents,” he says. “In examining what truly made me feel happy, I realized that what I wanted was to pursue a life in which I helped other people figure out how to solve their problems, how to develop and grow in some way, how to become happier.” That is when he decided to become a clinical psychologist.

After studying at the University of Chicago, ElDifrawi trained as a forensic examiner and drug abuse counselor, and also became a certified marriage and family therapist. In order to earn extra money, he conducted focus groups and consumer research. Soon he found himself changing professions. Drawn to the world of consumer psychology, he transitioned to a career in marketing and product management. He spent several years at McKinsey & Co. before going on to hold senior positions at Wrigley, Google, and Gogo. Eventually, he landed at Redbox, where he serves as the chief marketing and customer experience officer.

“I’ve had the good fortune of working for several great companies in various roles, but the common theme has been my focus on developing people and helping them realize their full potential,” says ElDifrawi. “To be clear, I really enjoy what I do and make a good living at it. But what I am most proud of is that I’ve had the opportunity to help people grow and develop, and that I’ve gained even more personal growth in return.”

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ElDifrawi enjoys spending time with his family.


ElDifrawi believes that finding a career that blends what you love, what you are good at, and what can support you and your family is rare. In fact, if you set that as your expectation, then you might be disappointed, he cautions. Careers sometimes must be seen as a means to an end. “Not hating what you do is important, but if working allows you the opportunity to pursue other things that make you happy, then that is okay – that is why it’s called work,” he explains. “Now, if you can find a career that also creates meaning for you, then consider yourself truly blessed. That is a gift.”

At the same time, doing what you love for a living can present a paradox that is worth noting. For example, Lickerman, in addition to being a doctor and ElDifrawi’s coauthor, is a gifted painter. Gifted enough that at one point he was hired to do a commissioned painting for a significant sum of money. He took on the project, but not far into it he realized that painting no longer gave him the pleasure that it had in the past. In fact, he had come to dread the task. Why? Because now he “had to do it.” It had become work. What had changed? Only his mindset.

“The lesson here cannot be overstated,” says ElDifrawi. “ Whether what we do provides us with a sense of fulfillment or a sense of misery is really about mindset . Put another way, how we approach our job might be more important than the job itself. As research has shown time and again, our mindset can transform the same external event from misery to ecstasy, and how we feel about what we do for a living is no different.”

In order to find lasting happiness in your career, Lickerman and ElDifrawi recommend the following process:

  • First, ask yourself what you believe, at your core, that you need to be happy. Is it a particular job? A person? Money? A life filled with basic pleasure? The adoration of others? The ability to create value? Freedom from pain?
  • Then, ask yourself what choices you’ve made, both personally and professionally, that were driven by that belief.
  • Ask yourself, have those choices served you? Have you played it too safe because you believe a life free of pain is the key to happiness, so you’ve avoided risks? Have you ruined relationships, both personal and professional, because you believe the key to happiness is being better than everyone else?
  • Learn to recognize when the action you want to take is driven by a belief about what you need to be happy that hasn’t served you well in the past.
  • Decide which beliefs about what you need to be happy will serve you better and seek to cultivate them. We have to think beyond the day-to-day choices that are so easy to rationalize and imagine the mosaic of the life we are creating as we reflect back on the life those choices have created.

Specifically, in order to tap into your life purpose, ElDifrawi says you need to accept that it might change over time. “Don’t burden yourself with coming to some perfect insight that will be your guidepost for the rest of your life. Start with asking yourself what truly makes you happy. What gives you energy? What are you passionate about? Don’t worry initially whether or not it creates value in the world. That will work itself out in time. At the same time, don’t shy away from pragmatic questions about making a living. There is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue fame and fortune, as long as your entire ability to be happy is not wrapped up in achieving a particular goal. But for most people, the answer to the question ‘What is your life purpose?’ is not so obvious, so you need to venture forth on your own personal journey of discovery.”


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