Are you happy with your life?

After landing an IB internship for next summer, I definitely experienced a prime case of arrival fallacy: thinking life would be a lot sweeter and all that, but instead after a short celebratory period, I've actually felt worse.

I've been thinking a lot more about what I want to get out of life, what I value and want to surround myself with, what my purpose is, how I want to spend my time, etc., and it's been challenging. I'm not miserable, but I wouldn't say I'm a happy person, and I have a pretty nihilistic, pessimistic, cynical viewpoint on life in general. I'm trying to figure shit out and build a healthier lifestyle, so hopefully time/effort helps.

So the question out here to my fellow finance peers: are you truly happy? Do you feel satisfied with your life? Appreciate any thoughts

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Comments (20)

Most Helpful
Aug 28, 2021 - 12:08pm

It seems like working towards the goal of an IB internship seemed to be one thing that gave you purpose and energised you. Now that you've reached your goal, how about setting a new one? Either in terms of career or personal. I'm not saying doing this will solve the fundamental issues you're having, but it might be a short-term solution to give you some hope and drive.

To truly understand what will make you happy and what will not, I can reccommend the novels of the classical Russian authors (e.g. Tolstoy and Dostoevksy). Finding contnentment/happiness is a constant theme in those books. I'd start with War & Peace or Anna Karenina. 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 28, 2021 - 2:00pm

You will probably feel the same empty feeling after getting your return offer and go back to university as a senior - in heaven for first few weeks, then after you question what the fuck you are doing here as you have achieved one of the highest paying jobs right out of the university.

Like others said, it is very important to occupy yourself with multiple goals. Fitness is a really good one for guys. Music can be good as well. Having purpose probably is one of the most important aspect in the world.

Aug 28, 2021 - 9:15pm

Personally, I think chasing happiness is the easiest way to not be happy. Echoing what others have said, continue to find new goals to purse. It also helps to find joy in the process or in the little wins along the bigger journey. 

Aug 29, 2021 - 3:50pm

I'll answer your question first - yes I'm happy, yes I'm satisfied and I'm no where near where I want to end up. For a long time I couldn't say all three of those things together and have them make sense in my head - which is silly, because it's a great place to be. I'm terrified that something will derail my career, impact my health or that of my family, I'll screw something up, etc. but defaulting to being pessimistic or sad about where I'm not... is like torture. 

Leads me to my next point - happiness is an active choice that you make day in and day out. Period. You choose whether you approach the day excited to be alive, find new challenges to pursue and another opportunity to go after the things you enjoy. Hell - just me writing that is already conjuring all kinds of cynical, 'who are you, Mr. fucking Rodgers?' retorts - but I really believe it to be true. 

I've spent a long time in life saying 'I'll be happy when' vs. 'I'll be happy now' - which makes no sense. If you aren't optimistic or excited for what you are moving towards... you really think you can achieve it? And besides, who wants to deal with that cynical person who gets the job they wanted for years only to hear them say 'what's the point, I'm starting at the bottom of the ladder anyway, it's such a long climb up!' 

If I make one suggestion to you it's simply this - start tomorrow by writing one thing you are thankful for. Write down one thing you did the prior day that made you happy, and write one thing that you'll do today that will make you happy. And then keep doing it. For me, it helps me to keep my default viewpoint (and it doesn't work all the time, mind you) from switching to that cynical view of the world. I got this from reading Atomic Habits and I'm really trying to embrace it. Setting myself up for success, embracing the person I want to become without denigrating the person I am at this moment. 

That's all I've got, so thankfully you won't have to read anymore ranting of faux self help material - but seriously, congrats on the internship and keep working on finding a health/fitness routine that works for you. You won't regret it. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 29, 2021 - 11:25pm

Well fucking said bro. We all have a choice to make every single day. We can choose to spend the day being unhappy with our work, wishing we had better people in our lives, ruminating on the mistakes we made, regretting the opportunities we've lost. Or we can choose to spend the day being grateful for securing a competitive career, showing up for the people we DO have in our lives, correcting the mistakes we made and not repeating them, and making the absolute fucking most of the opportunities we still have ahead of us. 

Making the wrong choice repeatedly makes you a leech that saps the joy from the people around you, and making the hard but right choice repeatedly makes you a source of joy and strength for every single person you interact with. Choice wisely, fellow chimps. Choose wisely.

Aug 29, 2021 - 11:51pm

I felt pretty similar a few years ago when I was in the same position and here's where my thoughts are at now: it's important to distinguish what you are looking for, and as complicated as this can be, it was helpful for me to define happiness and satisfaction separately and understand their connection.

Happiness can come from a wide array of sources, typically more fast paced things like a fun night out drinking, enjoying a great meal, or grinding out a good workout. It also comes from accomplishing things you set your mind to - getting the internship, getting the grades you want, etc. Overall I think happiness is tied to the things that show you your life is special and constitute the aspects of your life you can be personally proud of.

As for satisfaction, this comes from slower paced, longer term parts of your life - primarily your relationships with other people. There is nothing that compares to the feeling of contentedness that comes from feeling loved. This can be as simple as goofing around with your dad, as deep as appreciating the deep sacrifices your mom has made for you and the connection that forms, as comforting as curling up in bed with a significant other, or as fun as going to the beach with close friends who you can talk to all day or just sit quietly and enjoy each other's company. At the end of the day, what truly matters are these relationships you have with others - I think because of the way it feels to be involved with another human life rather than just focusing on your own life or interacting with material possessions.

Understanding the difference between happiness and satisfaction and pursuing both accordingly is extremely powerful. Neither is more important than the other - we need both. Focusing purely on short term happiness leads to a very empty feeling long-term. You may set your sights next on private equity, and when you get there you will feel the same arrival fallacy, something that will repeat when you continue on to a top MBA program or hedge fund - the next rung of the ladder is never going to satisfy you. Conversely, focusing solely on satisfaction through relationships would lead you to stagnate on a personal level, never putting in effort to move forward and improve/accomplish. Both are essential and they are symbiotic. 

Know the difference and adjust your focus accordingly. Having read your post, it looks like you need to put a bit more effort into the satisfaction side of the equation. Take some time to do non-academic things you love and spend quality time with people you care about. Best of luck and enjoy - college is really fun after you lock down the internship.

Aug 30, 2021 - 1:07am

yeah working in it for a while now - you just get used to the grind, and you have small things to look forward to (birthday parties, weekends, etc). It's stressful for sure but you can have a fun time throughout all of it. 

Array
Aug 30, 2021 - 1:32pm

I keep reading these posts about people not understanding what's missing in their life.....ever tried working on your spirituality? 

Somehow, this never comes up even though this has been a source of meaning for people for literally thousands of years. All the sudden, we think that we're smarter than all those generations and strangely enough, find ourselves miserable. I'm a pretty happy guy. I go to church almost every Sunday, I pray every day and read a bit of the Bible if I can, and I know my purpose in the world. Just one guy's view.

Aug 31, 2021 - 12:25pm

In the spirit of being fully honest, especially being in IB, not even close to happy. Likely won't be happy until I leave the industry and do something I love to do. Yet, I treat this as a means to an end and the only real way that I can accomplish financial security for my family while also developing a plan to be a business owner without the risk of being a start-up. I found I have a niche for doing these things in M&A and could capitalize on it. The job sucks, the hours suck, the clients suck, the people (for the most part) suck. You will either feel like you are going to get fired or someone is gunning for your job at all times. Pressure is high, performance is key and you are only really as good as your relative performance to your peers. It is a cut-throat industry and they have to pay your for that dynamic. 

As gloomy as that is, it is a great means to an end and if you are a person that can eat that dynamic for breakfast, you will be just fine. Anyone who comes into banking thinking they will be happy and enjoy what they do is either completely nuts or ends up just being a lucky human being. You need to understand what it is and prepare for it. If you can handle that frame of mind, you will be able to be successful and set yourself up for a nice comfortable situation down the road. If not, you will really struggle to handle the mental toll this industry can place on people. 

Key phrase: I hate my job 363 days per year, except for the day I learn my bonus and the day it is paid.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that absolutely loves this road of IB, but it is unlikely. 

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2021 - 9:17pm

Honestly, I can't say I feel amazing. I Got my SA offer recently too and it's hitting me now after being back at school that I don't have a ton going for me besides a really nice internship offer. I Don't have as many friends now compared to my freshman year because of covid and the time commitment for recruiting, started to get back in shape over the summer at least but now I have way more free time that usually gets spent thinking about how empty my life is. I partied and drank a ton last weekend and that didn't seem like it would be the answer to my problems, so I guess I'll have to see what life has in store for me. I'm probably going to pick up a new hobby, it always surprised me how much better that can make me feel. Anyways, cheers to greener pastures bro. I have a feeling it'll get better for both of us eventually.

Sep 3, 2021 - 2:28am

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