Karen Guggenheim, A.B. ’93, M.A. ’03

Alumna shares journey to happiness through adversity.
Karen Guggenheim, A.B. ’93, M.A. ’03

Karen Guggenheim has taken an unexpected combination of psychology and communication to reshape the way we approach happiness. Guggenheim began her studies at the University of Miami, and the U quickly became a foundation of true happiness for her. After facing life-altering challenges, Guggenheim looked to her education and dual degrees to create a force for change, and shares that both were instrumental in helping her understand how to spread a new approach to psychology and work towards building a global movement.

In March, Guggenheim will bring the World Happiness Summit to the Coral Gables campus for a three day immersive workshop. 

“I could not be more proud than to bring the World Happiness Summit to the University of Miami, where so much of my personal happiness has taken place,” Guggenheim said. “I would like to remind my fellow ‘Canes who have faced or are facing hardships to remember that pain is a great catalyst for change. If I could grow from my experience, they can too. Let’s be disruptive and choose happiness, not because it’s easy, but because it’s a challenge worth pursuing.”

Guggenheim was immersed in a hands-on approach to learning out in the field during her studies at UM, providing experience as a journalist which helped her to quickly develop problem solving and entrepreneurial skills. 

In a recent email to the UM Alumni Association, Guggenheim shared her thoughts on bringing the Happiness Summit to campus.

"UM is a great place to share happiness! I have many happy memories of UM beginning with joining my older brother at football games at the old Orange Bowl and celebrating National Championships. I also felt joy sharing being a Cane with my husband, Ricardo Guggenheim, B.S. '81, M.D. '85 ,who did his undergraduate and medical degrees at UM. He then became a UM assistant professor of anesthesia and trained neurosurgeon and I remember fondly taking our children to have Christmas dinner at the UM medical campus because he was on call. My children still love cafeteria food to this day.

Needless to say the beautiful campus offers a setting that naturally presupposes you for happiness, as a smile does on someone’s face when they greet you.  The quality of professors and diversity of subject matters stimulates the mind, and generates interest in asking questions and satisfaction in finding the answers. Most importantly, the faculty, students and staff at UM form a collective that supports well-being by constructing relationships that are supportive of each other."

Karen’s story:

Four years ago, Karen unexpectedly lost her husband and father to their children. After 21 years of marriage, he was not only her life mate, but also her best friend and partner in crime. While she struggled to come to terms with life without him, she knew that she had to find a way because she was still mother to two wonderful boys. Yet, she struggled for several months adjusting to their overwhelming loss. Even though she wasn’t sure that she wanted to, she consciously chose to live happy because she did not want to be pitied, nor did she want to become a victim. So she began on her path by putting one foot in front of the other, with one goal: Happiness.

Karen had never heard about the science of happiness or of a happiness practice; frankly, she didn't know that she could be a protagonist in creating her own happiness. She had believed that it was outside herself, related to circumstances beyond her control.

Thankfully, she had been practicing yoga for over 15 years and has a spiritual practice as well as strong relationships with friends and family, which helped her survive. She also believes having a significant innate resiliency helped as well, but wishes at that time she would have known then that there are actionable tools to develop happiness.

Yet, how to start? And how would she deal with the guilt of pursuing happiness given that her husband would no longer be there to enjoy their children's graduations, marriages, career tribulations or simply be able to listen to a great new song. It was in finding meaning from losing him that she gained purpose in her life, and then happiness. But it first began with her decision, her choice to change her mindset.

So a couple of months after her loss, she started an MBA at Georgetown University, allowed herself to explore making new friends and began creating a new mindset. She kept showing up to her life and she began to feel happiness creeping in slowly and allowed it to blossom. “The pain comes and I feel it, but I choose not to attach to it, again and again,” says Karen. 

Upon graduation, she landed a successful job with great career prospects. She had success, yet was unfulfilled, stressed and anxious. She searched for purpose again so that she could protect her hard-earned happiness.

After learning of the idea to create the World Happiness Summit, she decided to quit her job and invest her time, talent and treasure to create a business around exposing as many people as possible to the practical applications designed to increase happiness, well-being and positive mindsets.  Karen states, “I never thought that I would become an entrepreneur, much less a social entrepreneur, but making other people happy gives me purpose and makes me happy. I am a better person because of it and it gives me a vitally that I have never known.” 

Learn more and RSVP for The World Happiness Summit.