388. A Science of Happiness Changed Her Life
At a high point in her career, having moved a few months earlier to New York, the city of her dreams, Michelle suddenly felt she was living a life of “grays and blahs.” She found herself asking, “How did I wind up here? Why am I not enjoying it? Is this just what being a grown-up looks like?”
Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace wellbeing teacher and change activator. With more than a decade of senior leadership experience in large organizations around the world, she’s passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience, into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success. An honorary fellow at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education in Australia, she blogs for Psychology Today, Huffington Post and Live Happy and her work has been featured in Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Boss Magazine, The Age and many more.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
“As a kid, I really enjoyed making my younger sister play hours and hours of school. I was always the teacher and she was always the student. This was a really clear passion for me early on. But because I came from a long line of teachers—my great-grandmother was a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher, and my mother was a teacher—of course, I was determined I was not going to be a teacher!” Decades later, she’s most alive in front of people eager to learn.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“I was living in New York City, the city of my dreams. My husband and I loved living there. I had an amazing job that was more than I had ever dreamed my career would be. But about six months in, I suddenly found myself really struggling to get out of bed every day. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Then, I was watching the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where Harvard professor Tel Ben-Shahar was being interviewed about his book, Happier. It reignited my simple childhood fantasy of living a happy life. His course had become the most popular class on campus. He was describing the science of positive psychology, this idea that we can measure human flourishing and create interventions to improve human flourishing. He said we can actually teach people to be happier. All the light bulbs in my brain were flashing on that night. I rushed out to Barnes & Noble the next morning, waiting for them to open, so I could get the book. I bought it, sat down and read it. It opened up this whole new field to me about the science of human flourishing, and what we can do to be happier.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
“I think we have to continually ask ourselves if we are on the right path for us. Once we get into the workplace, we are often put on paths that are designed for the benefit of the workplaces but not necessarily for us. We think we have to stay on that path, and keep climbing up to the next thing and the next thing. We stop asking whether this is the right path for us until we eventually come to some point not dissimilar to what I did in New York, where we ask, ‘What am I doing? How did I wind up here? Why am I not enjoying it? Is this just what being a grown up looks like?’ We assume we’re stuck and don’t have choice in it.”
Steps to Success from Michelle McQuaid
- Discover your strengths and passions. Find tools and people to help you do that.
2. Ask for what you want at work. You might be surprised at the response.
3. Explore the many small ways you can change your work day without permission. This can make your days much more pleasurable.
On Her Bookshelf
Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, by Tal Ben-Shahar
Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work, by Michelle L. McQuaid MAPP and Erin Lawn
Connecting With Michelle McQuaid
Free ebook “6 Steps to Move from Functioning to Flourishing” offered at michellemcquaid.com, as well as other free resources.
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