It came to me one day. Not in a big flash, but just a subtle realization that “this is it.” This was what I had been waiting for. I finally made my way and this is what it looked like. It just was a little hard to recognize…
So I’ll back up a bit. Like most Americans I’ve been in pursuit of happiness for most of my adult life. In fact, I may have the largest collection of books on happiness of anyone that I know. The interest in the subject started in late adolescence, when I had been researching mood and illness. It just fascinated me that there was an entire science related to the study of positivity. And I was fascinated by the fact that being able to experience happiness is something that escaped many people. Luckily, I didn’t have this struggle. In fact, I was crowned with the title of “Happiest” of the 8th grade class, an achievement I never tried to claim but was bestowed upon me. Despite my optimistic nature and sunny disposition, I continued to pursue my path to happiness.
Clues to Happiness
Most of us get caught up in the rat race for bigger, better faster, more. For whatever reason, we equate these characteristic with feeling happier. So naturally, I tried to improve everything around me. I was always striving to do a better job, get the bigger paycheck, run farther and faster. Setting personal goals and achieving them became my new mode of operation and it was quite fulfilling for awhile. The pros: it kept me focused, kept me out of trouble and kept me looking forward to a future full of possibilities. The cons: chronic goal setting was constant work. It never feel like I ever really “arrived” even when I was able to achieve a goal. Inevitably the question lingered, “what’s next?” There was some happiness in the pursuit of the goal, but the happiness was fleeting, it never lasted like I expected to when I hit the big goals.
Then I realized I was going about it all wrong. I thought that pursuing a goal with a greater degree of difficulty, challenge or worthiness would make me happier or more proud, but it all felt the same after the pursuit and achievement was over. It was through the work of Danielle Laporte, author of the book The Desire Map, who helped me to understand that what I was actually chasing was the feeling that pursuing these goals was giving me.
What I was Really After
When it came to improving fitness goals, I was seeking Pride. When I wanted to start my own business I was chasing Freedom. When I did my first craft show I was looking for Inspiration. When I hiked Mount Washington I was trying to feel vibrantly Alive. It all made sense when I took a new perspective. It wasn’t about choosing or reaching lofty goals but the life experience and feelings that pursuing these goals provided. Things became much simpler after that insight. I realized I didn’t have to keep constantly challenging myself or working harder to be proud, just to be happy.
How my Work Changed
Because one of my strongest desires is for Freedom, it was perfectly logical for me to want to quit my job and work for myself. And when I did, it was one of the greatest feelings of freedom, even though it took awhile for the feeling to sink in. I was still highly driven and determined to challenge myself to start my business with a bang and make more money than I ever had before. But I saw myself getting into the same old mindset trap. I was creating more and more products & programs and striving to get more and more clients by improving my marketing techniques, strategizing to expand my reach, trying to perfect my “niche.” Something got lost in the pursuit of happiness. It was my true self. The person who valued freedom and inspiration suddenly didn’t feel so free or creative. Then I realized, “This is it.” You are happy now. Your current job is ideal. You are working half the hours you used to without the commute or the travel. You control your own schedule and take time off whenever you like and you are paying the bills. Wasn’t this the point of it all? In that moment I relaxed a bit. I realized it was ok to give myself permission to enjoy the moment I had created. I could stop pushing and striving for more. Enough became enough.
How my Life Changed
Have you ever been asked, “If you never had to worry about money again, what would you do with your time?” It’s a strange question because it seems so improbable. When would that ever happen? After winning the lottery? So we don’t allow ourselves to explore the answer. But If you had all the time and money in the world- how would you spend it? Getting clear here will help you reconnect to the values in your life you have have put on hold. I realized that I didn’t want to spend all my newly found free time expanding my new business. I wanted to dedicate some of that precious time to my hobbies and spending time with family. I was perfectly satisfied to work enough to pay the bills because I was still able to travel home over a long weekend to celebrate my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. I finally could say yes to getting a puppy, because I would be home more to take care of it. I had more patience with my step-children because I wasn’t being drained by working and commuting 10-12 hours a day. I could take art classes again. I could pay better attention to my bees. This was what I had in mind when I thought of my happy dream life. Being able to do what I wanted to do, but with a focus on the things that held the greatest value to me.
What’s the Whole Point?
Be careful what you wish for. But be clear on exactly what you really want. And then, how will you know when you get there? It’s so tempting to get wrapped up in “more, better, best” but will that truly make you happier?
- Identify what you care about most and how that makes you feel.
- Chart out how much time you spend on the things that make you feel good- note where any imbalances occur.
- Strategize to correct imbalances. Start with baby steps- spending more time dedicated to one area at a time until larger shifts are able to occur.
- Notice the difference in how you feel as you better incorporate your values into your life.
Finding your happiness takes deliberate action, but it also requires an honest look at yourself and your current circumstances. It also takes an open mind to conceive of dramatic changes. I never believed I would be able to leave my salaried job and “make it” on my own. But once I did have that belief, it took less than a year to see that become a reality. It just takes the first step to start the process. Your happiness is out there, I’m a believer you can find it too!