Prioritizing Happiness vs. Pursuing Happiness

Shailvi Wakhlu

ex-Head of Data at Strava



When I was deciding to move to San Francisco I recall being stuck in a dilemma -- I was working one of the best jobs I have ever had for already six years but there were things in my life that were causing me so much stress like a very long commute. I knew I had to change something. Both my partner and I felt that our life was fairly hectic and tiring and we wanted to prioritize our lifestyle, learning, and personal growth above anything else. Before then, I thought you take the job and you figure out the rest of your life around it and I wanted to approach with the same scrutiny my own happiness.

Actions taken

Around the time when we were deciding to move to San Francisco, I became curious about a decision-making process that would ensure that I would make the best decision in terms of my happiness.

Before we decided on San Francisco we came up with a couple of cities we were considering and had made an Excel sheet where we would put a few things that really mattered to us; for example, air and water quality, job opportunities, lifestyle possibilities, etc. Then we rated these things based on their importance and we created a matrix that helped us evaluate each option (city).

This was the first time that I thought of happiness through a framework, as something to reflect on and evaluate by comparing different rational choices. I started with awareness about what I highly value, calculating what could work and what could not, and then mindfully accepting a compromise as the best outcome of juxtaposing different criteria. The result was a framework of what I value in life, how to evaluate that, and make my decisions based on that. Later on, when I was deciding on switching to another job, I used that framework again.

Most people would in a similar situation use a pro and con list, but I found a list with, for example, five pro items and two cons items, unsatisfactory as it was not rating the importance of each of those items. Perhaps something on a pro list was not that important or was enormously important that it would overshadow anything on a cons list. In addition, this became a universal framework that I could apply to any life situation and could help me maximize my happiness on a daily basis. I try to be disciplined about it and instead of taking a gut call, put things in my happiness framework.

Lessons learned

  • I find self-awareness to be very important in different aspects of my life. Be honest with yourself what you want and that will allow you to explore different options.
  • Social awareness is also important as we as humans interact with other people. Also, some other people that could be affected by your decisions should also be included in your framework. For example, if I care about my professional growth I could have my own ideas on how will I grow, but if I am misaligned with my manager on it it won’t work. Therefore it is important to articulate clearly your thoughts but be mindful of other people boundaries

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Shailvi Wakhlu

ex-Head of Data at Strava

Decision Making

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