Episode 67

Embracing Change After Job Loss Through the Sunflower Model

Losing your job can plunge you into a sea of uncertainty and stress. But what if this moment is actually a hidden doorway, opening to a path of self-discovery and inner peace? 

Losing your job can feel like a big setback. It's more than just losing a paycheck; it can shake your confidence and disrupt your daily routine. But it's important to remember that this isn't the end of the road. In fact, many people find that job loss is a turning point for something better. It's a chance to reevaluate what you really want from your career and life.

In this episode of the HAPPINESS SQUAD Podcast, Founder Ashish Kothari, shares simple yet profound practices through the sunflower model that could be your guide through this maze.

Things you will learn from this episode:

  • How to use your time after a job loss effectively
  • Importance of self-awareness 
  • The role of mindfulness in coping with job loss
  • Exploring purpose and meaning
  • Living intentionally

Tune in now to discover how these practices can transform this challenging time into a journey towards a brighter future.



Hardwired for Happiness: 9 Proven Practices to Overcome Stress and Live Your Best Life.https://www.amazon.com/Hardwired-Happiness-Proven-Practices-Overcome/dp/1544534655


Ashish Kothari:

Welcome to the Happiness Squad listeners. As promised, today is the second episode in our series about how you can use the sunflower model to achieve any goal you want or overcome any obstacles or unplanned events life has thrown your way.

Over the course of the episodes, I will help you think about how you can use the sunflower model, the nine practices, almost like petals of a flower, to navigate. We'll use a series of questions to do the work we need and get the support to achieve goals or navigate transitions.

We're going to handle questions about what to do if you've lost a job or if you're at a job and want to get promoted quicker. We’ll discuss breaking an addiction or building a new healthier habit to live longer and enjoy life in your later years with the same vigor and vitality as in your younger years.

We'll address how you can use these practices to find new love or a new relationship, overcome a breakup, divorce, or the untimely death of a spouse.

These practices can help welcome new life into the world, maybe as a new parent, and prepare you to navigate becoming empty nesters.

You can use these practices if you're starting your career, finding your first job, or if you're thinking about retiring and exploring what to do next. So that's what's coming.

We'll record one of these every month, tackling a different area. But let's start with today, tackling the question of how you can use these practices if you have recently been laid off or made redundant.

Dealing with job loss


There are many among us navigating this unplanned transition of job loss and wondering what to do next. Typically, it takes about 3 to 6 months on average to find a job. It might take longer if you're senior in your career, or it might vary depending on the skill set you bring, but on average, it's 3 to 6 months.

In this episode, I'll cover some practices that can help you shorten that time. More importantly, how can you make the most of this time you suddenly have? Usually, our work consumes 40 to 50 hours, if not more, of our productive capacity. Now, that's a gift you have over the next four to six months.

I want to help you navigate this transition in a much better way and really use this transition, this gift from the universe, even though it might not feel like a gift right now, and might feel more like a curse, or even raise questions of why this happened to you.

Trust me, in the grand scheme of things, if you use this time the right way, you will be more thankful for this time in your life than many other times before.

me. I myself was laid off in:

I faced the prospect of having to leave the country without finishing my MBA, into which I had already invested 30 to 40 thousand dollars. It was a scary time, but I am so grateful now for that to have happened because the next set of things that happened in my life would never have been possible.

I would not have doubled down, found an opportunity with another great firm called Charter Consulting, which then transitioned me into McKinsey. I would not have taken the opportunity to get healthier. Lots of great things came out of it. It is possible for you too, but in that moment, it feels really tough and really scary.

Using the 9 Hardwired for Happiness practices

Let's start by thinking about how we use the nine sunflower practices: self-awareness, purpose, gratitude, mindfulness, mastering your emotions, fueling up with compassion, investing in your well-being, community, and intentional living.


There is no one prescribed order. You can go in any order that works for you, but it's always helpful to start with self-awareness.

If you've just received the news or even a couple of months ago, you're probably going through a range of different thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. It's important to step back and create a bit of distance between what you're thinking, feeling, and fearing, so you can process them correctly.

When we lose a job, often, there are lots of anti-learning or non-resilient mindsets that come into play. You might be wondering, "Why did this happen to me?" or "How am I going to ever find another job?" These are moments when we also doubt ourselves. We all have a fear of not feeling enough. These moments our sense of worthiness really comes up, and we have extreme self-doubts because we were the ones let go.

Be aware of these thoughts and beliefs. They will come up. Write them down and look for evidence that suggests these are not true. Be aware of the emotions you're going through.

The most common emotions when we lose a job are fear, sadness, anger, shame, and anxiety. Start by naming them. You know, when we name an emotion, we start the process of taming it.

Every emotion is different. Notice how one emotion, just like a thought, rises and falls. We love positive emotions and are averse to unpleasant ones, but like them all, they all rise and fall. They're not going to be there forever.

Notice what you might feel in your body. It might start with feeling like the world is ending, heaviness, tiredness, and a need to sleep. On other moments, you might feel euphoria. Anger can create a lot of energy. Just notice and also notice the movements in your body that might create a more positive emotion, creating more space for you.

Step number one is always awareness. Be really good at noticing. A journal can be a powerful way to write these down, process the thoughts, and process the emotions. Just start there.

This is usually a really good time to take a step back and look at our life dashboard, a tool I offer in the "Hardwired for Happiness" book. It suggests thinking about four domains in your life: wealth or work, health, love, and meaning.

Imagine you have dials from zero to a hundred, and you define what a hundred is. For some in the wealth dimension, it might be a million, for others ten, a hundred, or 150,000. It doesn't matter. Choose your number and take an inventory of where you feel you are in your journey, in your aspiration on the wealth dial.

Do the same on health. How healthy do you feel physically, mentally, spiritually? Do the same on love. Your quality of relationships with friends, family, and others in the community. And finally, meaning. Does your life have meaning? Do you feel your days are filled with something that matters personally to you, that you're in the service of?

In the busyness of life, we rarely get the opportunity to step back and do this assessment, so we can more consciously chart the second half of our life, the next chapter. You've been given that gift. Even when people do the assessment, sometimes we are afraid to make changes, the busyness keeps us stuck in patterns.

You've just been given the biggest gift. You actually have the time. So step back and give yourself the space to say, "This is where I am, but what would an ideal life look like for me?" As you think about your next job and the next stage, let that be an important invitation as you start to explore different opportunities.

Recognize that any transition, based on the work done by Bruce Wheeler, is not linear. Life is not linear. Transitions are not linear. Be aware that you're going to go through multiple stages and emotions.

He defines them as: number one, saying goodbye to the old life, which many of us find hard. The second is the messy middle, like the moment when a caterpillar goes into its chrysalis. It's messy, gooey, and not clean. You'll find a lot of emotions as you navigate this phase.

The third is new beginnings. Again, they're not linear. You might go from the messy middle to new beginnings, get excited, and then find a day when you're finding it hard to say goodbye and are feeling resentment, anger, or anxiety from the job you just left.

So just know, become aware of that and normalize it, because we often try to beat ourselves up and say, "Hey, I thought I went through that. Why am I going back?"

Awareness is a really big element, and if you do the work, if you assess how life is going and where you want to go, you might notice that there are certain areas where you suddenly have a lot of time. Things that you deprioritized or rarely got to.

For me, often between my jobs, it was in the health dimension. I worked too late, had too much coffee, didn't work out enough. This is the opportunity to start doing some of those things.

Take one or two things and start taking action on them. It might be, "Hey, I want to start running again," or "I always told myself I didn't have time to meditate. I'm going to start meditating again."

So start with awareness. There are a lot of questions in my book that can help you take a full assessment of where you are, and some tools that you can start to navigate through. One of the big ones is going to be removing mindsets that are no longer serving you.

Mastering emotions

From awareness, as I mentioned, there are lots of emotions present. That's the place to go next. Recognize that you are entering a period where you will have lots of these emotions. Transitions are emotional journeys.

Many emotions like anger, fear, resentment, shame, guilt, and loneliness are going to show up for you. Know them, and understand that there is a way to work through them that can be helpful, and a way that can make the effects worse.

All of us have our go-to strategies. These emotions are unpleasant, and we often default to one of two ways to process them. Eighty percent of us, myself included, without conscious thought, go towards numbing strategies, especially when the emotions are too intense.

What are numbing strategies? This is where we use alcohol, substances, marijuana, smoking, food, overeating, binge-watching, overindulging in sleep, keeping things shut, not getting up. All of these are numbing strategies. They numb the emotion but take a big toll on our body.

We can consciously recognize the effect these are having on us and choose strategies that are more nurturing. What are those? Everyone's nurturing strategy is different. When I feel down, one of the most powerful strategies I can deploy is to call a friend. I'm an extrovert, I like talking, and that allows me to break out of the funk.

For some, it might be playing music, dancing, going out for a walk, going for a run, pumping iron, going swimming, meditating. See if you can start to use a nurturing strategy to work through your emotion. It can be really powerful, and you'll find several of them in the book "Hardwired for Happiness."


The next step from awareness and recognizing emotions that are only going to help you is mindfulness. Now, 80 percent of people today know mindfulness is good, but only 20 percent of those meditate. The most common excuse is not having the time. Well, you've been given the gift of time.

Mindfulness is one of the most powerful habits we can build. It can help us live longer, think better and faster, sleep better, and is an antidote to stress and helps regulate our emotions. This is a wonderful time to start practicing meditation.

You might find a local Sangha, a meditation school. We have tons of meditations on the Rewire app that we've designed. There are several meditation scripts in my book. You can go to YouTube, get Calm – there is no dearth of resources. The important thing is to start.

If you're a beginner, you can use the book. It defines a very specific path. One of the simplest methods I picked up from Potential Project Anatomy involves sitting straight with our back straight, eyes dim or closed, chin facing up, lips slightly open.

Then, focus on the breath, noticing it going in and out. We use breath as a way to bring mindful attention. Count the number of times you're breathing in and out, starting from one, going all the way to 10, and then counting down from 10 to one.

Start simply with that throughout the day, finding five to 10 minutes to just sit down and focus on the breath. The last part of the ABCD practice is D. Your brain will get distracted. Our minds wander, which is a core property of the brain.

When you notice you're distracted, make that a part of the meditation. Don't judge yourself for being distracted. Just bring the attention back to the breath and restart the count from one to 10.

Mindfulness will help you learn to be with whatever emotion you're struggling with. You won't need to numb it, and you won't need to act it out. You can bring the attention.

One of my teachers, Teej Nathan, says this beautifully: With mindfulness, you can bring the embrace of a mother or a big brother to a child. The small child in you that is feeling hurt, angry, or in pain, you can bring that embrace through your breath in the present moment.

Bring that loving kindness, that attention to the part of you that's hurt. Just that attention and being held is soothing. So, try with mindfulness, which is one of the core practices.

Well-being and consciousness

As I mentioned, when we are going through a transition, like losing your job, you have lots of time. One of the areas most people withdraw from when we are extremely busy, which many of us are every day, is in the space of well-being.

Mastering your well-being can be a really powerful practice. It takes somewhere between 14 days to 90 days to form a habit, with the most recent consensus being 66 days.

It's a beautiful period where you have the gift of time, where you can set your own schedule to build a set of morning and evening practices around well-being that’ll leave you nourished physically, mentally, and spiritually.

If you've never done yoga, you can sign up for a yoga class. You can start running. You can consciously choose to eat better. You might not have had the time before to cook for yourself. Now you can. Maybe join a cooking class to learn a new type of cooking. It'll also keep you distracted.

Mentally, aim for seven plus hours of sleep every day, sleeping and waking up at the same time. Start to build a habit and get into a circadian rhythm that feels natural.

Pick up something new. Start to learn something. Sign up for a course. It'll fill your days and it's a skill you can develop. We can start to learn something new at any point in our life, all the way into our 60s and 70s. Often, we don't find the time. You have the time now.

Maybe you want to take up dance lessons, start learning piano, or how to paint. Invest the time the universe has given you to pick up a new skill.

And then finally, spiritually, spend time in nature. Pick up a game, join a local team, maybe a sport you played when you were young and haven't played in a while. Spiritual reading is another great option.

Maybe there are some books you always said you would read but never had the time. What a wonderful opportunity to start integrating that. Mastering your well-being is one of the biggest drivers that allow us to be happier and help us flourish.

This is the opportunity to start building many of these rhythms and routines that will serve you well for when you do get a job. Because once they form habits, we start to do them unconsciously. So use the time, dear friends, to build those habits.

Purpose and meaning

We've talked a lot about awareness, emotions, mindfulness, and well-being. Let's talk about purpose. Even if you don't need to work anymore financially, most of us want to do something meaningful. Meaning is one of the biggest drivers of flourishing. This is a great opportunity to find a job or a career that is meaningful for you in addition to providing a paycheck.

If you've done the assessment and awareness around the life dashboard, you probably have a good feel for how much salary or compensation you really need from the next job.

Many people haven't done this assessment. They might be in their 30s and 40s and already have enough in the bank that they don't need to work anymore. Or they can choose a different job that might pay less but gives them more flexibility to be with a loved one, take care of an aged parent, be with their kids more, or find time to do something more in the service arena.

It's important to do that assessment and start to set some guardrails. In my book, I highlight the Ikigai model as a powerful way to find more meaning in life and infuse it at work. For those not familiar, Ikigai is a Venn diagram that intersects what you love, what you're good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

If you can find your Ikigai and integrate these into your next job, your job won't feel like a job; it will feel like life. You might choose never to retire from it. How do we do that? Resist the temptation to just get the next job. If you were in finance, don't just look for another finance job.

Step back and examine your last three, five, or ten years. What aspects of the job did you like or not like? What about the company culture, the pace of work, how you interacted and collaborated with others?

Go at the balcony and look at you on the dance floor through all of your jobs. Find those nuggets of what you really love, the elements of the job where you felt in flow. Find those moments, find the strengths that really differentiated you.

You can ask people or do assessments like the Gallup Strength Finder or VIA Character Strength. It's important to connect back to those strengths because once we look at what we love and what we are good at, we can start to generate a range of options.

You can use a tool called mind mapping, which I picked up from Dave Evans and Bill Burnett from their work. They're two amazing designers who run a course called "Designing Your Life." It's a concept from design thinking that they applied to defining your life. It's a powerful concept you'll find in my book as well.

It's important from those two elements to start generating a range of options, not just the linear, immediate next, and give yourself the opportunity to get curious about how you too could design and find your next job or career that has some of those elements you might have been missing in your prior job.


Community, the practice of community, can be a really big one. Actually, it's one of the most essential ones when it comes to finding a job. An interesting statistic you might not be aware of is that 70 to 80 percent of all hires are through referrals for jobs that are not even posted. It's called the hidden job market.

So, it's really important to reconnect with your community, your friends, and your network. This is when it will really come in handy. But even if you haven't invested in it, it doesn't matter. Start now, talk to your friends, talk to your colleagues, find others in the community, connect with them, share with them.

If you did your mind mapping and came up with a range of options, find people who are in those jobs. People are always willing to help. Ask them for their story, not for a job. Ask them what they love about their job. They will talk to you about it, and your passion, expertise, and experience in that area will start to grow. So community is a really big deal.

I spent most of my life out on the road three days a week and didn't have a chance to invest much in my local community. Maybe that's true for you as well. It's a great opportunity to get involved.

Maybe there are organizations where you can volunteer your time, or local schools where you can mentor. You might be looking for a job, but mentoring others could be a great opportunity for you. You never know how some of these volunteer opportunities might be the doorway to your next job.


The next practice that can be really helpful actually builds off community, and it's fueled up with compassion. As we volunteer, we serve others and invest our time to play our part in being part of the solution. It's also equally important to be compassionate to yourself.

These are moments when you might doubt your self-worth or fall into numbing ways of navigating difficult emotions. Maybe you'll drink too much one day, have a Netflix binge, or have an outburst at a loved one because you're feeling down.

Practice self-compassion. It can be a really powerful practice to lean on. Dr. Kristin Neff's work on self-compassion is quite powerful. You can find more about this in my book, "Hardwired for Happiness," where I bring in the practice I picked up from her on how to be compassionate to ourselves. Compassion can be a really big one.

Living intentionally

Last but not least, living intentionally. As much as we sometimes hate our jobs, we appreciate the structure they provide. As much as we complain about running too fast on a treadmill, that treadmill takes us from one day to the next.

When we lose our job, that structure goes away. Our friends might still have jobs, and we find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. In these moments, the practice of living intentionally can be really helpful.

Setting our intention, setting up our structure around the eight practices I covered, can bring back some of the structure your job offered.

Every morning, set an intention for how you want to meet the world today. There are beautiful practices around the sunflower that I highlight in the book. You can choose to start with curiosity, kindness, mindfulness, or compassion.

Second, choose what you want to focus on. When we are afraid or feeling scared, we might try to do 15 things at once, and there will be days when we want to do none. Prioritize and be intentional about how you spend your time.

Hardwire those practices and habits you want to do every day, like meditation, journaling, being in nature, spending time with friends. Build that time into your calendar, so you can make the most of the three to six months, maybe longer or shorter, the gift of time the universe has given you.

At the end of it, and I know you will get there, my friends, because very few people are unable to find something once they've lost a job, you will find it. It might not look or feel like what you want in the moment, but you will get there.

This time will never come back. Use this time to rewire yourself away from fear and scarcity, too much focus on self, to love, other, service. If you build these habits now, you'll be thankful for it.


I hope you found this podcast helpful. Please share it with others who might have lost their jobs and could benefit. It'll be my pleasure to connect with them on LinkedIn, to help answer any questions they might have.

They can join our Rewire community. We meet once a month and will do our best to support them through the transition, through the power of community, through the micro practices that can help them build habits to be happier, healthier, and have more love and meaning.

Thank you for listening. Have an amazing day and God bless you.

About the Podcast

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The Happiness Squad Podcast with Ashish Kothari
Unlock your full potential with the Happiness Squad podcast! Host Ashish Kothari, Founder & CEO, brings leading experts to help you live with more joy, health, love, and meaning. Discover the art and science of happiness to live and operate at your best.

About your host

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Ashish Kothari

Ashish Kothari is the Founder and CEO of Happiness Squad, a company focused on democratizing happiness and touching a billion+ lives over the next 20 years and helping them live with more joy, health, love, and meaning.

Prior to founding Happiness Squad and writing his best-selling book “Hardwired for happiness”, Ashish spent 25 years in consulting, including the last 17 at McKinsey and Co, a premier management consulting firm, helping thousands of clients and their organizations achieve breakthrough performance by building new mindsets and capabilities.

Ashish is a trained ontological coach and a lifelong student of human thriving.