How Can Anyone Be Content at 30?

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines contentment as the “action of satisfying” or the “process of being satisfied.” Technically, contentment can come at any age. One can be content with a project accomplished and a job well done, but I am thinking about feeling satisfied with life overall. From the vantage point of age 68, I don’t understand how anyone could be content at 30 because of all the unknowns and possibilities ahead. For me, contentment has come with age.

I was never content when I was younger because I believed there was more to come, both joy and sorrow. Over my years, I experienced great moments of happiness: marrying my husband, giving birth to our daughter, success with my chosen career. Yet contentment is different from happiness. Happiness is a high excitement, a thrill, and joy in a moment, whereas contentment is a more placid emotion. Contentment, I think, requires a very strong sense of self and belief that you are fundamentally OK that would not have been possible when I was younger. (read more…)

The Emotional Negotiation

The Emotional Negotation

You probably know you should become better at negotiating, although maybe you don’t view yourself as the tough, stubborn, hard-nosed type. In fact, if you read about negotiation, you might hear that the most important thing in a negotiation is to know your bottom line. The official term for this is best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. But focusing on this in a negotiation presupposes that negotiation is all about power plays and leverage. I believe this approach distracts from a much more influential component of the negotiation: emotions. Ultimately, we make decisions for emotional reasons, and give logical arguments afterwards.

Many times, negotiations are happening between two unskilled parties. You know this type of situation (maybe you’ve been in one yourself): one person offers a salary of $50K, the other asks for $60K, and they compromise at $55K. When things like this happened to me, especially when I was early in my career, I thought the solution to getting a better final salary was to just set a higher initial anchor. I’ve since been involved in many, many small and large negotiations, and I now provide private negotiation coaching to start-up founders and individuals who want to improve their job offer. I have found that having a deep understanding of the emotional component of a negotiation has a far greater influence on the outcome than power and leverage.

Here are five suggestions I make to my clients to help them use emotional focus to their advantage in negotiation: (read more…)

Adulthood, Chapter 1: I Think I’ve Made a Huge Mistake


Being underemployed and purposeless is not so much fun anywhere, but in Chicago the city became an agent of my despair. The plains seemed a metaphor for my life: barren and flat, with no variation as far as the eye could see.

It was the fall after I’d finished college, and my boyfriend Lars and I had moved to the Windy City. All senior year I had dreaded graduation, because it marked the day I was flung out to the world without a plan. Once I turned in that last paper, there would be no more assignments to make me count; I could fade into oblivion and it wouldn’t matter. (read more…)

“Alison, Rachel, Nicole, Elizabeth…”
First love and first loss

Turkey-Pond_Andrew Wyeth

Remember how exciting it was, when you were a kid, to like someone – like like them, that is – and find out that they liked you back? Steph and I have been talking a lot about podcasts ever since doing our last one, and one of the topics we both wanted to address was love. In this episode, I interview someone very close to me about it – my husband, Tim. Tim can remember the names all the girls he had crushes on, going grade by grade, from 1st to 12th. I wanted to know more about his memories of first crushes, and first love. When does infatuation turn in to love? What does love feel like? How does it change as you get older?

In talking about these topics over a series of conversations, though, we found ourselves drifting in to discussion about Tim’s mom, Jamien. Jamien, with whom Tim had a difficult relationship, died of breast cancer when he was 17 and she was 48. About a year after she died, Tim fell in love for the first time. Three years later, as he coped with the break up of this first real relationship, Tim realized that feelings he’d suppressed about his mom’s death were coming back to him powerfully. “It felt like going through mom’s death again, only way worse this time.”

(read more…)

Happiness Takes Work (Are you doing it?)

morning-sunWe treat happiness as passive, something that comes when we are lucky, that is somewhat out of our control.  We talk about “being” happy, not feeling it. Is this truly how happiness works? According to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of positive psychology at UC Riverside, maybe not. In an interview with Dan Ariely, Lyubomirsky said “It takes ‘work’ to be happier.”

While we don’t have total control over how happy we are, we can influence a notable portion of it. Lyubomirsky explains that our happiness- that is, how happy we feel day-to-day- is 50% genetic, 10% determined by our life circumstances (these are both outside our immediate influence), and 40% our behavior and daily activities (which we do have control over). (read more…)