Am I Happy in My Dream Life? A Reflection on Happiness, Meaningful Work and Life

Does “happily ever after” exist? 🏰

I think happiness is not a permanent state that you strive to achieve.

It is never the end goal.

Today marks my 6th month of living my dream life as a registered music therapist. And I want to take you on a tour of the behind-the-scenes: the hard work, the challenges, and things I learnt about happiness.

Yes, you might have guessed – it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy.

I’m living my best life now, and I’m very grateful for that. 🌈

Continue reading, and reflect on your definition of happiness and ideal life. 🙂

⏳ Timeline | Milestone

A few years ago, I was an unhappy new grad, fresh out of Uni, suffering from quarter-life crisis and being stuck in jobs and a career path I didn’t like. Basically I was following the society script and timeline – and I didn’t like it. If you are wondering about my past life and how I pivoted my career, here’s my story.

Let’s have a bird’s eye-view of my achievements after I quit my accounting career:

March 2020 – December 2021

  • Completed the Master of Creative Music Therapy in Sydney, Australia with distinction average

December 2021

  • Became a registered music therapist
  • Got a part time job
  • Created a job from my independent placement
  • Started my own business

May 2022

  • Became a neurologic music therapist

I’m not listing my finest moments out to demonstrate how “great” I am. I’m just a human being trying her best in everything she does. What I’m trying to say is – this is what most people see. People like my friends from my old life who admire my courage to give up a profession for another and jumping off the society script.

I’m all about being transparent. Let’s look at the not-so-glamorous stuff behind the curtains:

🧨  Behind-the-scenes

  • Poor mental health during the 2 years of studies
  • Imposter syndrome
    • Constantly feeling inadequate
    • Constantly thinking “why am I here?”
  • Anxiety upon visiting new sites to provide music therapy services
    • “I don’t know enough songs to pull this off”
    • “I can’t manage a large group”
    • “Other healthcare professionals might think I am an entertainer”
    • “My supervisor will be judging my every move”

It requires a lot of effort to achieve a worthwhile goal.

I would say that I was only able to persist and get through all the challenges due to the fact that I’m passionate in helping others with their health and wellbeing.

I genuinely care.

That is my calling, my north star.

And that makes the journey manageable.

💭 What Makes A Good Life? Ikigai and its problems

To start off with, I think a good life doesn’t mean you have a smooth journey without obstacles. After all, what’s the fun of the ride? 🎢

Then there are different theories about aspects in life, like the Ikigai. I used to believe in that concept and the idea that if we find something we like, we are good at, we can get paid for, and there is a demand, we can live the “best” life possible.

But that is just theory, in my opinion.

I’ve preached the idea to my friends who were going through similar struggles and feeling the same dissatisfaction in life, but I never really convinced anyone to take the leap.

Why?

It would be cruel to tell someone to find “that thing” when they are already struggling a lot.

I knew I hit jackpot when I heard about music therapy.

I used to tell people that it is the perfect way to combine my passion with my profession.

BUT – there are several problems:

  1. Everyone has different values and worldviews. Some don’t believe that they can change, and some are happy in an okay day job as long as they don’t work during weekends. Then there are people who don’t see any “bigger” purpose apart from being rich (however they define it).
  2. There is a risk that you will lose interest and passion in what you used to like once you monetised it.
  3. Some people never realise their full potential.

My point is, however you define your ideal life, you are not immune to setbacks. You still have your rainy days, and days when you feel like giving up.

It all comes down to whether you are willing to “endure” those painful moments, because that’s the whole package – your dream is worthwhile when hard work is involved. You have to make changes, and sometimes sacrifices.

Here are a few things I don’t enjoy doing at work, but am willing to “suck them up”:

  • Singing nursery rhymes and Elvis Presley’s songs almost on a daily basis
  • Long commute
  • Writing NDIS reports (lol)
  • Managing different stakeholders’ expectations (clients vs clinic vs managers)

I used to complain all the time when I was an accountant. But I’ve never complained once ever since I changed my career.

My dream is worth it.

😇 My Definition Of A Good Life

Here’s my (current) formula of a good life:

Work-life integration + Being useful to others = Good Life

Let me explain.

🤝 Work-life Integration: The New Path to Happiness?

I recently came across the term “work-life integration” and it inspired me to reflect on the kind of life I want in the next 3-5 years.

The thing is, after we had a taste of how the pandemic changed our routines and lifestyles, “work-life balance” might not work for most people anymore:

  • We don’t clock out physically when we work from home
  • Our family (hmm, kids especially) drops in during Zoom meetings
  • We don’t have a separate work and living space (at least for most people)

Our previous view of “balance” was disrupted.

Basically, our work and personal lives don’t co-exist the way it was.

That’s how “integration” comes in: what if we look at the bigger picture, and find the best time to do different things?

Here are a few examples:

  • You might wake up early, take the kids for a walk before school and enjoy breakfast before you start working at 10am
  • You might work on your personal/creative projects first thing in the morning and only reply to work emails in the afternoon
  • You might work in the morning, clock out in the afternoon, do your own thing until you need to attend an evening international conference call

It’s a blend.

To me, it sounds ideal because you get to decide what you want to work on. The key is allocating your energy intentionally. When you know when you perform certain tasks the best, you work smarter, not harder. When you are in your genius zone most of the time, you feel more satisfaction in life.

Maybe work-life integration is the new path to happiness.

 

Further reading: listen to Jay Shetty’s recent podcast episode here on allocating energy to fix your schedule, productivity and life

 

That sounds like the ultimate productivity hack. 😉

I’m still testing this idea out, but I’m very intrigued by the idea. I’m also trying to apply this in a bigger picture: instead of working my arse off and saving for retirement, I’m more inclined towards working in different locations while I explore the cities. I don’t need to save “enough” money as long as I can apply my skills anywhere I wish. That might mean I will be doing music therapy and busking in Barcelona during summer, and then going to Fiji before coming back to Sydney. I will be technically “working” as I go, but that sounds like a good integration (bleeend!) to me.

I will be documenting the journey. 🙂

📚 Lessons I Learnt About Pursuing Happiness

  1. It’s a journey, not the end goal
  2. Measure the gain, not the gap
  3. Stop focusing on yourself
  4. Be in the moment

Watch the video here for more stories.

🗣 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

  1. You should feel a bit unsecured and “inadequate” in situations because you are growing, and you are gaining new skills and experience. If you always feel too confident, you are in the wrong room. Imposter syndrome is real, but you will get over it by DOING more.
  2. Play to your strength.
  3. Work smarter, not harder.

🎵 Things I Learnt in My First 6 Months Of Being A Music Therapist

Here are things music therapy students would want to hear:

    1. You will never learn/memorise enough songs. Take baby and consistent steps.
    2. You never stop learning even when you become qualified.
    3. You are first human, then a therapist.
    4. Don’t stereotype clients by age. There are people in their 40s who love rap songs; there are kids who listen to AC/DC because that’s what their parents listen to.
    5. There are always problems and things you don’t like. Suck it up, or make it enjoyable.

💬 Final Words

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” – Viktor Frankl

  1.  What does happiness mean to you? What kind of lifestyle do you want in the long term? And how do you get there?

  2. I hope my story helps you gain clarity in figuring your life out. If you’ve enjoyed it, please share to others you think will benefit from it 🙂