How happy are you?
It’s the most simple and most complex question anyone can ask because it often involves evaluating more than one part of your life.
For example, you may be happy in your marriage; but not so happy with your job. You may be happy with the friends you have; but not so happy with the relationship with your teenagers. You may be happy at work; but not so happy with your health.
You see…not as simple as it sounds, right?
Maybe I’m making it harder than it is. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman.
After all, a guy may think: Money in my wallet, beer in the fridge, food on the table. Yep, I’m happy!
But women. Well, we pay attention to the details as much as we understand the bigger picture.
And to be fair, so do the guys. I think they just don’t sit around and agonize and analyze over it as much or as often as some of us do.
I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t it be great if we achieved a high level of happiness in every area of our life? Why should we be okay with one area and settle for ‘eh’ in another because somewhere along the way we were told that was the only way? Or we have gotten so used to the status quo we really don’t realize life has anything else in store for us if we are just willing to reach out just beyond our comfort zone and grab it.
I say “YES!” Let’s go for that.
But here’s the thing: Happiness doesn’t happen on its own. The more you ignore what your heart wants… what it really wants…the more you go along with your day-to-day to-do list… the less you find what you’re really after.
You get the blahs. You start sleep walking through life.
I agree with James Altucher in his book “The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth” when he says:
“Being scared and lonely happens in a cycle. It affects all of us. Watching the river go
into the ocean sparks a little bit of that loneliness. But I think we’re meant to often
feel lonely and scared. It allows us to recalibrate where we are and ask the important
question, is this what I’m supposed to be doing right now?”
Recalibrate. I like that word…don’t you? It suggests things aren’t broken beyond repair; they are just little bit off. There’s hope.
To be clear, Happy doesn’t mean everything will be perfect all of the time. In fact, I believe striving for perfection can get in the way of happiness.
You may not be at your ideal weight, work in your dream career, or have a Gilmore Girls sort of relationship with your daughter right now; however, you can still be happy. How? Because where you are is only one point, one moment in time, on your journey through life.
You may not be at your ideal weight now, but you make the decision to make a few small changes consistently that will get you there.
You may not by in your dream career; however, you’re working something on the side to give you the experience and ability to move on.
You may be struggling with those teen years; however, you have set aside time every day to do something to build that relationship.
You are happy because you know you are working and taking action towards what you really want. You’re not just thinking about it. You’re not just talking about it. You’re actually doing something each day to keep you moving.
This is important because, as it’s been said, nothing happens until something/someone moves.
Someone recently asked these questions in terms of happiness:
• What are you doing today?
• Why are you doing it?
• Does it make you happy?
Too often we settle for the way things are simply because it’s the way it’s always been. It’s what everyone else is doing. It’s what’s expected. We forget that our life is meant to be pursuing our dreams, not the dreams of someone else.
I’ve found that throughout my life, I’ve wanted different things. There’s nothing wrong with that because when you’re 20 years old, you only know what you know. What you want usually reflects that. Then, when you’re 30 years old, maybe you’ve learned a few things, have been exposed to things you weren’t aware of before, and you are at a different stage of life. Then, when you’re 40 years old that pattern repeats. Your life has become fuller, perhaps your kids are older, and new opportunities present themselves.
And the cycle goes on. It’s wonderful and exciting to realize that in your lifetime you really can have it all even though it comes to you in delicious bite-sized pieces spread out like a celebratory feast that lasts a lifetime. Each stage of life brings a new course.
The challenge for us, is to recognize when it’s time to change and then have the courage to make the change. Courage because we have to break our routine, embrace some new habits, and emerge into our new phase of life.
When it’s just you, this can be easy. The only one you have to get permission from is yourself. However, when you have other people in your life who you love, who love you, and are comfortable with how things are, that change can be confusing.
But I’ve learned if you avoid becoming who and what you want to be because making changes is scary for other people, everyone loses.
You have to be confident the important people in your life are there because they love you. When you take the time to communicate your goals and dreams with them, they are more likely to encourage you and less likely to feel threatened.
If you’re married, it helps a lot to plan your goals and dreams together. That doesn’t mean you’ll both do the exact same things; however, when you know the direction you want your relationship to take, each of you can be sure every decision you make alone and together, supports that ultimate goal for your marriage.
For example, if you both want to retire by age 45 and move to another country, then every career and financial decision you make can support that goal – even amidst the everyday, ordinary things like raising kids, paying bills, and building a home.
So step one, I suppose, is identifying what you really want. Because how can you get from here to there if you’re not really sure where “there” is?
Think about all areas of your life. Some people call these the four pillars:
• Relationships: examples include Love, Intimacy, Friends, Family
• Health: eg Nutrition, Fitness, Overall Wellness
• Career: eg Job, Business, Education
• Faith: eg Spirituality, Awareness, Gratitude, Fulfilling your Purpose
Do you feel like you are doing and being everything you want in each area?
When you ask those earlier questions, do you like the answer?
- What are you doing today?
- Why are you doing it?
- Does it make you happy?
If not, that’s okay. Because, you can make adjustments at any time based on what you want for yourself, your family, and the people you love.
You don’t need permission to change things for the better in your life. You just need a plan…and a little courage.
So, how do you come up with a plan?
There are a lot of books out there with advice on how to stay organized, focus, and get things done. One that I’ve done can be found in the book, The Power of Focus” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt.
I’ll warn you in advance: It’s a very involved process and will require some time and thought from you. However, if you choose to go through the exercise they describe I’m confident you can really get some clarity about the life you want to live as well as discover the daily habits and “tasks” you’ll need to embrace in order for you to succeed.
Because, a surprising thing happens when you are working on what you want to work on, and doing things that are moving you closer to the life you want to live. You will be happy. Even if you’re busy. Even when things don’t go as planned.
I highly recommend reading the book because there is not room in this article to fully develop the idea and process; however, the broad strokes are as follows:
Step 1: Explore the top priorities in all areas of your life. This is important because everything you want to do should be aligned with your top priorities, your core values.
Step 2: Go Crazy – make a list of everything you want to do, think you might want to do, want to do but don’t think you’ll ever be able to do in each area of your life. Don’t hold anything back. Be outrageous! (It’s easy to be no-holds-barred crazy on paper!) Try to come up with at least 101 things you would like to do.
Step 3: Put a date on those “crazy” goals. 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years. There is an important reason for this which they discuss in the book.
Step 4: Take action. Through their process, you’ll discover which are the most important goals for you through a process of elimination. You’ll work on those first and they give you great ideas for how to implement and excute them.
In other words, once you are clear on your most important goals for the next one to ten years, you’ll be able to easily structure your days and weeks to meet those goals. Deciding what to do each day is easy because you have a plan. You’re moving. And, it’s hard to be unhappy when you’re moving in the direction of your dreams.
So why is this important? Because when you are happy, everyone around you feels that positive energy and feeds on it. If you are a parent, your entire family benefits. If you’re married or in an important relationship, your partner will feel it and the relationship can thrive.
At the end of the day you will put an equal amount of energy toward being happy or being unhappy. Toward reaching your goals or resisting your goals. So, why not choose happy? Why not choose accomplishment and that sense of fulfillment and purpose?
I’m sure you’ll discover it’s a lot more fun!