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Whoever coined the adage “the grass is greener on the other side” never lived in Southern California.  Under the greener grass philosophy, you should not waste your time on wanting a better life somewhere else, doing something different, or become someone different; the idea being, once you’re there- the appeal will fade and leave you wanting once again.

Of course, there is some merit to this idea- the insatiable appetite of the mind can leave even those with everything, feeling empty #everycelebrityever. However, what this type of thinking should not do is dissuade you to pursue something better, different or more exciting.  I’m here to tell you that the grass can be greener on the other side—if you measure the grass differently.

This past year was a whirlwind of change for my wife and I.  We moved across the country, each quit our jobs with no prospects, started brand new careers, made all new friends, got a puppy, and I became a semi-pro surfer*.  It tested our resolve on the decisions we made and what it means to be happy.  Behind every hardship that this new life presented, we had no choice but to unconsciously contrast it against the familiar, comfortable and safe life in New Jersey we’ve only known up to this point.

Reflecting back, now almost a year into our new settlement, I think it is safe to say we are happier than we were a year prior.  This should in no ways discount the continuing difficulty of being separated from our family and friends back east- there is no replacing that.  Instead, it’s an honest assessment of how my wife and I feel on a day-to-day basis.

I would conjecture that happiness should be assessed on your daily mood, fulfillment and excitement levels– rather than facts that people typically associate with happiness (nice house, well-paying job, big family).

A time where our day-to-day grass was of a yellowish hue.  Both my wife and I worked in New York City every workday and battled the onslaught of the morning commute savages.  I had a particularly demanding accounting job that left me working 12-14 hour days.  A typical day was —-us getting up at 6:00am, almost missing the train and as a result- drenching ourselves in sweat by 6:50am, then choosing which middle seat on the train will offend the outside patrons the least, power walking to the subway and comically packing in like Black Friday at Walmart at 7:10am, walking the garbage-ridden, always somehow wet New York to our jobs- arriving at 8:30am, to only be greeted with a solid 12 work day, culminating in us doing the same aforementioned God-forsaken commute in reverse at 8:30pm, stumbling defeated into home at 9:30pm with the silver-lining of enjoying a glass of wine and dinner prior to calling it at 10pm.  5 days a week.  Every God damn week.

This would have been completely fine given we were fully subscribed to the ‘New York motto’- work like an absolute animal from your 20s through your 40s and eventually, magically, you will have gotten so successful you buy away any of your troubles.  Not to mention the bragging rights at social events.

The reason we weren’t fine is because we felt stressed, unfulfilled and unhealthy on a day-to-day basis By the Metropolitan’s definition of success – all external facts would lead you to conclude we were heel-clicking happy– impressive jobs, good pay, nice house, members of an exclusive wine-club, I could go on and on.  But that continuous-dread we both felt on Sunday, peering over the impending week, was telling us otherwise.

So we took a leap of faith, grabbed the chalk eraser and wiped our chalk board clean.  Then we clenched the chalk, nervously, and started writing down the greener life we wanted. We wanted to eat better and exercise more.  We wanted flexible work schedules that allowed us the ability to be more mobile and spontaneous. We wanted more sun and less stress. We didn’t know what would lead us to all these so we went searching.  Needless-to-say this search took a long, often uncertain, nerving process.

The answers came in the form of moving to San Diego and each starting new careers.  Everything else fell into place from there. San Diego can be summed up in two numbers: 75 and 6. It’s always 75 degrees and 6-pack-abs can even be found on the babies.  With SD’s native salt-of-the-earth hippies and never-ending sunshine, it’s a haven of healthy food and plentiful exercise.  Also, despite eye-bleeding house prices, no one apparently needs to work; half of all San Diegans can be found biking, running or surfing mid-freakin-workday.  This attitude and weather were exactly what we needed to cleanse ourselves from our work-obsessed past.

After we moved we needed new jobs, badly. This part was very tricky and took a lot of soul-searching, trial-and-error, patience and optimism.  The process made us evaluate what we were good at, what made us excited, and what potential careers fit our greener grass goals.  In the end, I went from a Controller to a Salesperson.  I now sell accounting software to CFOs and Controllers of companies which leverages my passion for accounting-nerdiness and public speaking BUT I don’t have to do any actual accounting work (boom).  My wife went from Fashion Research Consultant to Yoga & Wellness Instructor and Entrepreneur.  She is leveraging her 10+ years of yoga training, her love of great food and cooking, and her wanting to provide meaningful value into people’s lives.

This is the beginning of our journey- a journey that is not perfect, that will have its ups and downs, and will surely change many times over.  But that’s ok, because our day-to-day lives are filled with quality time together, laughter, exercise, healthy eating, and with jobs that excite and challenge us.  There’s also surfing, lots and lots of surfing.

Going forward we will use our daily excitement, laughter and health as our barometer of happiness- rather than the dollars in our pockets or the titles next to our names.  Let’s call it The Daily Mood Happiness Barometer®**.   In this way, decisions about where to live, who to work for, and how to live our lives become much more straight forward.

The goal for this post is to provide you a new perspective on how to measure happiness, which is much different than my previously held beliefs. Consider assessing your mood on a daily basis- are you upbeat, laughing, stressed, or irritated?  Happiness, I now believe, is the sum of these daily measurements.  Don’t fall victim to sacrificing the enjoyment of the journey for the perceived delight of the destination. Chances are if you’re climbing sh*t, once you get to the top, you will be still be standing on sh*t, albeit with a view.

It is also to provide you our story, an example of what happens if you chase after the values and lifestyle that makes you happy.  It has helped my wife and I become sillier, healthier, calmer and undeniably more tan.  If you think the grass might be greener somewhere else, and it’s the right kind of green, it may just be worth checking it out.


*I’m actually a god-awful surfer
**If you steal this million dollar phrase and make said millions, I probably won’t do anything, because I won’t have any legal recourse.  But I will be really sad.  Think about THAT.