I don’t think I would have always been described as a happy person. When I was young, I was a worrier. I’d stress over every school assignment, over what my peers thought of me, over the way I looked and how I spoke and whether I was smart enough and had enough friends…
Over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin. I’d like to say I’m no longer a worrier, but I am. Sometimes we just have to accept those parts of ourselves and put things into place to manage it. One thing I have gotten better at, however, is figuring out how to be happy most of the time.
Happiness is a big picture thing.
Not every single moment of every single day will make you happy. There will always be moments of doubt, moments where we question a decision or a road we’ve taken. Those moments are often the ones that help to shape who we are. Happiness is being able to look at everything on the whole and know that we’re working toward what we love in life—whether that’s writing a book, seeing the world, learning a new skill or something else.
Happiness is the way we bounce back after a disappointment, and how we pivot when change is required. It’s the driving force that gets us to overcome the scary bits of chasing our dreams.
So here are the things that have helped me to protect my happiness.
Sticking to the facts: one great piece of advice I was given was to always go back to the facts. If something hasn’t panned out the way I want, then I write down what happened. No emotion, no judgement. Often whether something was successful or not comes down to our emotional reaction to it. After I’ve written it down, I go through each item and look it objectively. What would I change? What might still be a good result even if it didn’t meet my expectations? From there I make a plan for next time.
Letting go of shitty life advice: there are a lot of sayings that get passed around that sound good on the surface, but range from crappy to problematic when you look closer. A good example is “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” And no judgement if you’ve shared that one Facebook. I actually have it written on a board in my office. But I’ve found the opposite is true—when you do what you love you’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked before. You’ll also have to do the crappy tasks that all jobs have like filing and taxes.
Putting a job on a pedestal is never a good idea. Because your dream job is still a job, and thinking it should be #bliss every single day just isn’t realistic.
Leaning on (but not taking advantage of) my support network: I’ve written about the importance of having a support network before. People you can trust with your real, unfiltered feelings, who will love you enough to say what needs to be said, rather than what you want to hear. Those relationships are rarer than you might think. Because most people can pat you on the back and say “everything will be okay” and not many people can look you in the eye and say “I love you, but I think you’re wrong.” The friends who challenge you, who care enough to check in, who don’t let you get away with saying self-defeatist crap are the ones who’ll truly see you through the tough times. Look after those people, they’re diamonds.
Reducing toxic relationships: And on the flipside of that…let go of the energy vampires, the social climbers, the “woe is me” constant complainers. Stepping away from a relationship can be tough, but at some point you have to be honest with yourself. When they message you, do you smile and eagerly open the message…or do you think to yourself “what now?” There’s a big difference between a friend who’s going through a tough time, and someone who’s always dragging you down. I’m happiest when I’m surrounded by people I want to spend my time with. I feel like there’s another blog post brewing on this exact topic…so I’ll leave it there for now.
Finding balance: Like I said before, happiness is not a 100% of the time thing. That’s perfectly fine! Some days we’ll feel crappy and disappointed and frustrated. Some days just won’t be winners. To me, being happy means being resilient. It’s the ability to dust myself off and say ‘X didn’t go my way, but the next thing will be better.’ Some days it feels good to have a cry and let it all out. But knowing the line between letting yourself have a spectrum of feelings and wallowing is important. My career and my life have not been perfect—not by a long shot. But I keep writing because this job makes me happy, even with the tough bits. I know I’m working toward a life that’s full of the things I love—freedom, creativity, mental challenge. So, on the whole, I’m happy…even if I’m having a sucky day.
It’s something that I keep working on, because happiness is not an end-state. It’s a routine and muscle and a process. I wish you well in your own journey to finding what works, what motivates you and gets you through the tough times. Put in the work, it’s worth it xx