“Don’t mess with happy.”

It was a phrase I had never heard before, but it made a lot of sense.

I was watching the NCAA Tournament last March when the play-by-play announcer had suggested the head coach of the victorious – and huge underdog – team had just set himself up for an open coaching position at a more prestigious and larger university.

The analyst quickly cautioned his partner that the open position was not necessarily a “better” job and then uttered the comment in reference to happiness. His opinion was the coach’s current position had many positives that would not necessarily be givens if he moved on to the new job, even though it was one most people would consider “better.”

What he was really saying was the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.

We often look for other opportunities – either at our current company or a different one – because we consider them better than what we are doing now. Or, we look because other people tell us the position is better. While it’s not a bad idea to stay apprised of other opportunities and we should always be appreciative of others trying to help us, taking a new position (or searching for one) must be evaluated on the basis of what it means for our own situation – and not what others might think.

I vividly remember a Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Board of Directors meeting some 10 years ago when the CEO of a large golf course management company addressed the group, saying his company would consider superintendents as candidates for better jobs such as general managers or corporate positions. Board member Bob Randquist, ever the diplomat, thanked the CEO for his belief in golf course superintendents, but cautioned the executive that those jobs were not necessarily “better,” rather they were “different.” Randquist reasoned that, while the general manager spot might be more lucrative financially, the superintendent position actually could be better for the individual based on skills, career aspirations and personal goals.

I appreciated Randquist’s comments because they took into consideration that individuals should define what is best for them – that a job higher on an organizational chart isn’t always better, and the role of the superintendent should never be undervalued.

This isn’t to say we should never look to better ourselves, nor should we avoid risks that move us out of our comfort zones. But the opportunity to take a new position or job should be considered only after a great deal of thought. What does it mean for my career? What does it mean for my family? What does it mean for my physical and mental well-being? These are highly personal questions that only we can answer.

Defining what constitutes “better” is difficult. We must not only evaluate the here and now, but what opportunities staying in a position or making a move could mean for our future.

At the same time, I believe we should never let ourselves become so content in our positions that we fail to push ourselves to become better in our roles and no longer add value to our employers. Being “happy” must include an element of satisfaction knowing our employer and customers appreciate and respect what we do.

A person might be able to hide complacency for a while, but it is rare when a person can skate by unnoticed for a long period of time without negative consequences. If you’re not “happy,” then it’s time to make a decision: Do I stay or do I go? The decisions are tough and can have long-term impacts. Gather as much information as you can and take the time for deep introspection. Then act, knowing you are being true to yourself and not what others may want or perceive.

Life is too hard to mess with happy.