Surround Yourself with What Makes You Happy
What Really Makes You Happy?
It took many years (like, more than 35) to realize I'd rather be happy alone doing what I want than be unhappy doing something someone else chose for me with someone who makes me miserable. The hardest part though, figuring out what I really want.
Everyone wants the same thing: a decent job and a family who loves them, maybe a nice car and a home. But those things aren't enough to create happiness in the long run. That’s because they’re all external. They’re exactly what I thought I wanted, what I was supposed to want but it wasn't until I let them go that I really began to feel at peace with myself.
Last year I started to think. What if I never find someone? What if I never have a family of my own? What if I never buy a home or a fancy car? What would things look like then?
So I decided to fill my life with other things, things that make me happy whether I have someone to share them with or not. Things that don’t cost much. Things you can’t always physically see but mean a lot. Healthy habits. True friends. Experiences. Rest.
Some of my most valuable “lessons learned” about creating happiness emerged through endless tears and soggy tissues (thanks to Laura, a therapist-in-training at a local University in Chicago). So here goes:
You only have control over yourself and no one else. You are the one who let's people in to either better your world or tear it apart. You have the power to say no and the power to speak up for what you want. It's cathartic to feel and then let those feelings go. Feelings are temporary and often misleading (but healthy). And finally, a good cry never hurt anyone.
With these lessons in mind, I developed an important value system:
Only let people in to my life whom I value and who value me (including friends, family and lovers).
Observe my feelings as they ebb and flow but don’t make sudden decisions based on my emotions.
Push myself to try new and terrifying things as often as possible (valuing experience over possessions, "looking good" and comfort).
Stand in my truth and express myself however I choose (whether others approve or not).
After setting up these values, most of my decisions come pretty easily. Do I want to stay in a negative relationship when I feel controlled and manipulated? Do I work so hard my life falls apart by missing workouts, eating unhealthy, skipping vacations and losing time with friends and family? Do I conform to who society thinks I should be and what I should look like? Not a chance.
Authenticity & Accountability
The hardest moments come when something (or someone) shows up that doesn’t align with your values. It's challenging to stick up for yourself in a positive way and say, "No, I don't like this and it's not going to work for me," but that's where your power lies. That's what will make all the difference.
Holding yourself accountable is also challenging. How many times have you told yourself, today is the day, only to be too tired or sick or lazy or forgetful? Keeping promises to yourself is extremely important. How do you expect someone else to respect you and your time when you don’t?
Another incredibly helpful take-away from therapy was developing a self-care philosophy. After focusing on big life decisions affecting my happiness (like my career, partner, home and friends), I thought there might be something said for self-care. You know, a daily routine helping you boost your mood and confidence. To keep things light, I created an alliteration: Beauty, Brains and Body (the last one may have been Booty).
On a daily basis, I take time to focus on these three areas. To feel beautiful I keep up on haircuts, paint my toe nails or stay in Saturday night for a facial. To keep my mind sharp I read books or study a foreign language. And for my body, I adhere to healthy eating habits and a fairly intense workout routine (see #glutenfree and Wellness & Weekly Workouts). Now, if I have an “off” day, taking a little “me” time lifts my spirits right away.
Search Outside Yourself
There’s no shame in looking for support. Some of my greatest revelations occurred by being open and vulnerable to others. Connect with others. Call your dad up and ask for advice. Voice your dreams to your friends. Listen to others. Search for knowledge. Expand your circle. Try something new.
Speak your truth. It sounds odd but there’s something about speaking out loud. As you voice your thoughts they become clearer and more focused. You also gain accountability for your words. They mean something because someone else heard them.
If you’ve got some extra time on your hands take a look at my two favorite books:
The Alchemist - a humble search for love, life and purpose
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - a real lesson on what’s important in life
Happy reading and namaste.