In my many incarnations as a Big Four auditor, a controller, a consultant, and a coach, I have met and worked with hundreds of CPAs. I can report that there are all kinds of CPAs out there: some tired, bored, flustered, bossy, loud, and some – why, yes – happy! My amazing discovery is not only that happy CPAs exist (which by itself is a pretty big deal), but that they are not singularly defined by industry, job title, age or gender. Rather, what sets them apart from the rest of the grouchy crowd is what they do differently.

Here, in no particular order, are the ten things that I have consistently observed happy CPAs do.

  1. They nurture relationships.  Contrary to the public perception of a “nose stuck in the spreadsheet” accountant, a CPA’s true expertise in accounting, audit, tax preparation, and consulting is all about people. By building and nurturing relationships, whether with co-workers or clients, CPAs can create a social and professional network that feeds their referral machine, supports their professional efforts, and helps them bounce back after a tough day.
  2. They stay in the flow. “Flow” is that amazing mental state of being immersed in what you do. When in the state of flow, one can feel joyful, centered, focused, and completely absorbed in the task. When was the last time you felt that way at work? Happy CPAs feel that way frequently, partly because their jobs are intrinsically rewarding to them. In other words, they love what they do.
  3. They take care of their bodies. It can be difficult to feel happy when one is achy, tired, hungry, and stiff from hours behind the computer. The happy CPAs I know eat well, have a physical practice, and are serious about their sleep (and naps).
  4. They clear their space. Clutter in the office can muddle one’s ability to think clearly. While far from the immaculate looks of the Pottery Barn catalog (surely no human being actually lives that way?), the desks, cubicles and offices of the happy CPAs I know tend to be fairly well organized. Plenty of natural light and a comfortable feel usually complete the picture.
  5. They set boundaries. Contrary to the popular belief that personal boundaries alienate and separate, effective boundaries can actually create the space to work, grow, prosper, and build relationships. They can also eliminate grudges and the simmering frustrations from having your tail stepped on – figuratively, but no less painfully. Happy CPAs know where to draw the line, and they do so consistently, firmly, and clearly.
  6. They have a life outside of work. Hobbies, family members, a physical movement practice, and charities have one thing in common – they can give you a reason to leave work at work. Happy CPAs I know coach their child’s basketball team, cook fearlessly, read voraciously, explore waterfalls, practice yoga, and rescue dogs.
  7. They give their efforts a meaning. The reality is that if your goal is big enough, you will encounter big challenges along the way. Happy CPAs I know keep their eye on the ball, so that they can remain focused and keep moving. Do you remember what your ball looks like?
  8. They have clear priorities. Clarity on what is important frees up your brain processing power by simplifying decision making. That can mean higher productivity, more satisfaction at work, and less internal struggle.
  9. They have a spiritual practice. One’s spiritual practice may involve a place of worship – or not. In fact, one may be an atheist and still connect deeply to the world and the people around. That connection can be a powerful source of strength, insight, and energy.
  10. They know (and use) great coping strategies. Stress is the function of life and growth; being able to cope with it, recognize and repair the damage, and emerge stronger and wiser is the goal. Happy CPAs encounter stressful situations just like the rest of us do – but they see stress for what it is, have tools for coping, and recognize the perfect outcome in every situation.

None of these require superpowers, an initiation, or expensive special equipment. And that is great news, because you can simply choose to do one of them today. You will probably find it easy enough to add another one tomorrow. It is my hope that they improve your day, give you a reason to smile, and perhaps even inspire you to come up with another point for the list.

What did I miss?