WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
I’ve had a thing for New Year’s Eve since 1981, when as [ahem] an embryo, I was allowed to stay up late and see in 1982.
It quickly became my favourite day and night of the year; easily surpassing Christmas and even my birthday. As I got older I started to become more reflective than usual, as I reviewed the year past in my mind’s eye, before setting my goals for the twelve months ahead. And this year has been no exception.
Now, as a Life Coach and Mentor I don’t go in for all this New Year New Me guff. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to make a change you should start now, rather than waiting for some arbitrary date set in deepest mid-winter. Who exactly decided that? Why should I obey? Pah! You can stick your New Year resolutions where the solstice don’t shine, because every second of every day is a chance to begin again if you’ve fudged it up.
But having said that, I see no harm in a quiet spurt of self-reflection from time-to-time, and certainly no reason why one of those times can’t be around New Year’s Eve, or even a few weeks into January. So here’s my question to you: What Makes You Happy? Do you know, or do you just think you know? Please think carefully and consciously before you answer. Please also resist the temptation to answer reflexively, blithely or with some politically correct, socially acceptable offering you think others will approve of. Your answer must resonate in the deepest recesses of who you are. Why? Because when you clearly define what it is that makes you happy, you will know what you have to do to become, or to remain, happy. Let me give you a couple of my personal examples:
Yes, connection, not love, specifically. Of course love makes me happy, but it has also broken my heart in more ways than you can imagine. But do you know what makes me happy without breaking my heart? Connection. A true, deep, often soulful connection; and this can occur with anyone at any time, whether in an intimate relationship, platonic friendship, working client partnership or a fleeting meeting of the minds. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here; when someone just gets you, the kind of people who hear what you’re not saying, or who know instinctively what to say, when to say it and how – or even when to leave you the hell alone for a while because that’s how you process.
When there’s a connection of any kind, sparks fly. You don’t know where it all came from, or how you’ve survived this long in your life without it, but you know it when you feel it. I know that when I feel a connection like this I feel charged and energised, positive, unstoppable and… happy. Truly, madly, deeply, happy; whether it’s platonic, romantic, familial or transient in nature. It’s powerful stuff!
As a Type A personality, I am often deemed “too much” by a certain section of the community. Worry not, as I am fully reconciled with this, and have no need to belt out Gloria Gaynor’s I Am What I Am in karaoke bars across the land, but (to paraphrase Tina Fey) you know something about those of us who are considered too much? We get stuff done!
I may have something of a Tasmanian Devil energy at times, but I have learnt in more recent years that results make me happy, so boo-hoo for you if I exhaust you in the process. Please kindly step aside and let me get on with it. If I can collapse at the end of the day, amazed by how much I’ve achieved, I feel a powerful surge of happiness, right through to my core. This drives me. Now, the results of which I speak can be anything I’ve identified as my NILG (Next In Line Goal), which can be something as mundane as scaling a biblical pile of ironing, or it can be a bucket list goal like publishing a book. Mastering a new skill, or seeing a life changing revelation compute in the mind of a client all equal results in my mind and send me to sleep deeply happy.
This whole theory is self perpetuating you know. For example, if I master a new skill, particularly something I had previously dismissed as “impossible”, my self confidence grows, and with more self confidence comes more happiness and less future stress. This will be true for you too. Think about a time when you thought: “Bloody hell, I really didn’t think I’d be able to do that!” Do you remember how proud and happy you felt? Quite a feeling, wasn’t it? This is why it pays to actively look for ways to step out of your comfort zone, because there’s no growth without challenge, and growth feels great!
Ooh, was that a sharp intake of breath I just heard? Are you stunned by my shameless audacity to write such a thing? Well, let me clarify. Money is nothing more than a commodity, and it really doesn’t float my boat. In fact, if you have more than you need and you aren’t helping others, I’d like you to explain that to me please, but I digress. I need money like almost everyone else. Sadly my fridge doesn’t magically restock itself, nor do my children’s shoes miraculously appear on their feet, so I earn money to pay for these things.
I wouldn’t sell my grandmother, if I had one, nor would I stab my best friend in the back to get what they have, but I do also recognise money gives me freedom, choices, opportunities and experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have. And this is what I work towards, not to have money for the sake of having money, what’s the point of that outside of ego fluffing and pissing contests? No, I want to achieve results. I want to make things better, and for that I need money. It’s a sad fact of life for sure, but it’s a fact of life all the same.
Only with money can we eat better, live in life enhancing homes, drive safer cars, enjoy better health and protect what we love. I’m not talking obscene Zuckerberg wealth here, just a degree of disposable income which will afford us holidays and other periods of rest, away from work, which in turn, helps us to maintain our overall (mental) health.
Happiness can only be seen and felt when we get off the treadmill from time-to-time and smell the roses. That’s not to say those of us living hand-to-mouth never experience happiness, of course they do, but there sure is less happiness-sapping eroding stress when you’re in a position to press Pause for a while and enjoy life, rather than just enduring it. When you’re living hand-to-mouth, if you don’t work you don’t eat, which isn’t exactly a generator of happiness, is it? So that’s why money makes my list, and will probably make your list too. Own it, you’re being unapologetically honest.
So there are just three of mine. Obviously I have a few more; some obvious and some not-so-obvious, but you get the gist as to what your What Makes Me Happy? list will look like and why. Also, please consider this wise Lewis Carroll quote: When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Yeah, you’ll be lost, drifting aimlessly.
Don’t panic, I only want to talk about the Ten Commandments in the broadest of possible terms, to illustrate my point – whether you believe and live by them or not. As a concept and broadly speaking, the Ten Commandments form the basis of our laws (e.g.: don’t kill, don’t steal, play nicely with each other etc). Whichever way you you look at them as either a believer or non-believer, religious texts like this provide us with guardrails within which to live; a User’s Manual… sort of… if you tilt your head and squint.
If we scale this down a bit to apply to our individual lives, and we’re able to define what makes us happy, we are effectively creating our own personalised stack of commandments in which to live by. So before you e.g.: accept that new job, marriage proposal or otherwise up sticks and relocate to a new area, check in with your personal commandments and make sure the proposed changes will align with what makes you happy. Because – somewhat obviously, which is often overlooked or dismissively disregarded – if it doesn’t make you happy, it’ll make you unhappy – and usually via an extended spell of meh.
Let’s say you’re thinking about marrying someone, but not because of a deep, secure and genuine feeling of connection, but because having someone is better than having no one. Okay, now be honest with yourself, is this quality of fear-based decision-making likely to bring you long lasting and authentic happiness? Equally, you may accept that job because “… it’s a job at the end of the day”, but how long before gnawing unhappiness starts eating away at your peace of mind, and negatively impacting upon other aspects of your life?
If we are able to live mindfully enough to check in with our personal commandments before making larger decisions, we can only be more successful in sidestepping at least some of the obstacles and adversities life has hiding behind the curtains for us. Don’t do things simply because they’re quick, easy and on the path of least resistance. Of course we all want to reduce friction in our lives, but a little friction in the noble pursuit of happiness is what polishes us into our best selves.
Once you have your list, please remember you’re free to revise and amend it at will, as this is your life after all. What used to make you happy, may not warrant a place on the list any more, and that’s just fine. Nothing lasts forever, so be a grown up and revise your list accordingly. What’s most important is that your list is as accurate as it can be on any given day. Check in with yourself regularly to ensure you’re living in alignment with what makes you happy.