Happily Ever Afters Don't Just Happen


And another myth bites the dust, gone the way of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny & Tooth Fairy. While those last 3 were relatively harmless for us as children, that first one—Happily Ever After—has left its mark on us as adults.

After repeated exposure to the same story line: hero gets into trouble and not only gets out of trouble, but lives how?, why Happily Ever After, many people develop and retain a deep-seated expectation that somewhere, somehow they’ll find their Happily Ever After job, spouse, or whatever. And armed with that delusion, they react to life’s inevitable setbacks as evidence that they should abandon the job (or spouse) that’s not “making them happy” and continue their frantic, but futile, search for the one that surely will.

As I mentioned during my presentation, this Happily Ever After phenomenon plays out as a multi-step cycle that looks like this: 

We looked at how this cycle plays out in the workplace by following a new employee from day one to a point 45 minutes to 6 weeks later.

People show up excited that first day, and that excitement is based in part on positive expectations. For some people (maybe most) the expectation is that this is their “Happily Ever After Job”. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Forty-five minutes to six weeks after showing up, the new begins to wear off, and as it does, so does that initial excitement. After some attempts at denial, they then move into the next step in the cycle, fear.

Fearing that once again they’ve failed to find a Happily Ever After Job, these people realize that their job situations aren’t changing, so the best they can do is create more comfortable feelings, and that’s what they do. They shift from fear to their old “friend”, anger.

Anger is a compelling alternative to fear because it offers them an opportunity to find the people and circumstances to blame for their unhappiness. Having determined that they are victims, they conclude that there’s nothing they can do about the job that’s “making them so unhappy”, so they just give up. Some of them spend their careers in that step, but some go looking for that ever elusive Happily Ever After Job.

And where do they look? Why, out there of course, And what do they look for? A job that will make them Happily Ever After. And when they find it they’re mighty excited—for 45 minutes to 6 Weeks—until the new wears off and the cycle plays out again.