Last night, I received a phone call from a rather distraught friend. Despite the fact that it was after midnight and I was asleep; of course I took it. (1) She went on to explain that despite trying her hardest, following all “the rules,” and working non-stop?? She couldn’t reach her destination: happiness. Despite all the aforementioned effort & achieving all of the goals/dreams she made for herself… she wasn’t happy.
After making some coffee & thinking for a bit; I told her that the way I saw it; she had two basic problems:
- There isn’t a destination for “Happiness.” Happy is something we feel along the way – not the end of the journey.
- From what I could hear, she was so focused on doing things “the right way” that she wasn’t doing it HER way. Are you really doing it ‘right’ if you lose yourself in the process??
Several months ago, while dealing with ‘THE break-up’ of 2011 (2); my friend Sam made the statement he didn’t think Happiness was a destination. That people lose ‘content’ in their search for ‘happy.’ I wrote about it in from a relationship perspective; but the impact that statement/related discussion had on me went much further & since then, I’ve focused on.. well, keeping focus on all that I have to be content about in life.
To some, that’s going to sound like a heightened awareness on staying in the present; my first & probably most impactful mentor, Jeff Wittenberg, told me back in 2004 that my biggest challenge was that I needed to BE present wherever I was… meaning at work, focus on that so that when you’re home? You can fully focus there. It’s great advice & extremely challenging. But I work towards that every day & it really does help with my contentedness… and cuts down on the distracted mentality that those of us who are ADD-tastic tend to suffer from. This ability to be fully present is happiness, of sorts, I think…
To others, the journey of focusing on being content instead of chasing happy is going to look more like a focus on gratitude. Which is fine, because it is. And that is happiness; or at least where/how I think we find it. For me, I try to load my day intentionally with little moments I’ll find gratitude in – from the first moments I wake up. That doesn’t always fit in with the “status quo” or “conventional wisdom” for things, either. For example, take my morning coffee – I love how, when you go to Starbucks, they put whip cream in it. However, I also love not being in double-digit clothing… so, I found an alternative that works for me: Sugar Free Redi-Whip. It’s 5 calories/serving; so 15 calories later? I’m in business; and grateful not only for my caffeine fix… but the little bit of fun I get to have with it as well.
Which leads into the second point I made to my friend last night: be willing to be brave enough to dance to the beat of your own drum. (3) We’re conditioned that there are ‘right’ ways & ‘wrong’ ways to do nearly everything; but truly, there is no one right rhythm to happiness. Of course, that’s in direct conflict with the social education we receive in our primary years. Children, by and large, intrinsically crave the homogeneous. There’s comfort with things being similar. Unfortunately, the structure that ‘like kinds’ provided for us as children often stops being as fulfilling at some point in adulthood.
(http://youtu.be/i8StRAJCork is my preferred intro; but it wouldn’t embed)
This holds true for both “sides” of our life – personal & professional. My current theory is this: A lot of being content & discovering happy is finding your personal style & figuring out how to ‘work it,’ so to speak… it’s in our differences, as adults, we’re actually appreciated others & feel more content within ourselves. It’s funny to me that we teach embracing diversity in others; but not within ourselves. The checklist for discovering happiness within our own diversity is pretty similar, though:
- We can translate the guideline of “respecting others” into ‘Respect Ourselves.’ Take the time to know who you are – and be okay with that. When it comes to the “song” that is your life? This is your bass line.
- The universal translation: Be flexible. If you’ve always been part of the cookie-cutter assembly line; it’s going to take a bit for people to get used to it when your notes stand out like during an impromptu drum solo. Have patience; but be true to who you are.
- Know & understand your surroundings – & how you ‘fit in, while still standing out.’ Ever notice how a lead singer will take a stanza of a song & tweak it to fit their voice? It still fits the song; but it’s different from what’s expected. When we are dancing to the beat of our own music; we do that, too. But, it’s important to understand how that affects the other people in the band & work within the same key.
- Have a sense of humor. Sometimes life is just gets off-key. When you stop trying to move exactly like everyone else does; you’re bound to flub up now & again. That’s okay. There’s a serious sense of contentment that comes with being able to laugh at yourself & make the best of situations you find yourself in… in fact, like lead guitarist Slash? It just well might be the thing that wins over the crowd.
(1) As an aside, I’m always kind of surprised when friends call ME for life advice – I’m neither a guru, nor a picture of perfection in my own life… I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have it all figured out. Fortunately, it’s always easier to look at someone else’s life & hand out pointers than it is to perfect your own. :p
(2) I seriously think the end of the relationship/subsequent processing was more painful than my divorce. The whole thing was profoundly painful. I do not think this says anything good about my marriage; & probably highlights the emotional inequity in the relationship that ended last year – but whatever.. done now.
(3) Within reason.