Posts Tagged ‘pursuit of happiness’

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”– Confucius

All through primary school, it feels as though teachers, parents, counselors, and relatives encourage children to believe that they can be whatever they can want to be. They organize dress up days where they learn about, explore, role play different careers: today be a nurse, tomorrow a firefighter. There is rarely a limitation on those dreams- kids can dream without being the smartest, the fastest, or whatever gender. Students open their arms and their minds to all the possibilities without concern for if they are qualified or how much the career makes. So what happens? How does this change when we get older? Why do we stop dreaming?

Blame it on high school testing, possibly, and what college one gets into, and what programs within that college at that. Everything seems dependent on ability as well as experiences.  The author of Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell, says “We cannot be separated from where we are from.” Are we limited or blessed based on parental influences, type of community, or even the school we get into? Or can we bypass all these societal limitations and just follow our hearts to happiness?

One of the keys to happiness is just that: following our hearts, filling our lives with the things that we love, that make our days feel more like play than work. This was true when we were children, but why cannot this be true for us now as adults? I am thinking now of my goddaughter, in her first years of college, and wondering what is limiting her, what messages are being sent to her that she doesn’t deserve to have her dream life or “be” the person she has always wanted to be. As a child, I was told I could be anything…as long as it made good money and didn’t embarrass the family. To an extent, I still agree with this, but what dreams I followed were limited because the deeper message was this- that which you love to do (write!) won’t earn you the money you need, so do something else.

As I earned my undergraduate degree, I threw aside the scowls and went for a degree in English literature (with an emphasis on creative writing) and a minor in cultural anthropology. I love both immensely, so studying felt like exploring the world (and myself) and I know I became a better human at graduation than when I was an entering freshmen. And to add to this, I became more passionate about writing, reading, and human culture. I swore I wouldn’t be a teacher because my true passion was just writing. After a time I caved, I gave in to an ill mother’s request to do what the rest of the family did and I earned my masters of education degree. Overall the experience of teaching has been a blessing. Students, in general, are uplifting, a gift, funny, insightful, and inspire me with their hard work. I never had the chance to have children although I wanted them so badly: teaching is my way of having kids, in a sense. For that brief time I teach your child, I treat and love them as though they were my own. But there are times this career hasn’t been so wonderful.

At ten years of teaching, I knew I needed more, not only professionally but personally, too. I needed my passions to be reignited, my passions for writing, snowboarding, mountain biking, just being active and outdoors. I didn’t write much anymore since there was little time after coaching and grading and sleeping. Teaching creative writing classes helped, but the flame still sputtered and needed more air. Volunteering for ski patrol at the local hill helped ease my pain to snowboard all the time, but the desert isn’t the best place for a ski hill of great magnitude. Eventually, I moved schools and my life to Utah. Much to my dismay, I ended up at a school that as I say semi-jokingly “ate my soul.” I was miserable and tried to make it through three years of professional torture, all the while thinking about writing, obsessing over “someday.” Again, I was still tumbled in a world that didn’t really allow me to follow my passions, especially my passion for teaching. This flame was almost completely doused by weird expectations and commands that were devoid of educational purpose.

Someday finally came. I left the school (though not on good terms) and found a job as a part time teacher at a school that spoke my language (as the kids were all snow athletes), and started my own job as a part-time freelance writer. I teach April to November so my “summers” are actually “winters” off, which means my other great passion of snowboarding is really possible. Like, every day possible. I set my own schedule for writing so if I don’t feel like working, I don’t, or I might flip day hours for night hours if I want to mountain bike all day during the day.

Here is where my point is: my life as I wanted it to be finally came true, 25 years after I started dreaming about it. It would have happened sooner if I had just followed my heart. Though I have been reminded that all our experiences end up creating who we are at this exact moment, I know I would have enjoyed starting off with my dream life. All that said, I’m blessed to have it now. Though I do not make much money, I do enjoy and love the students I have, the ability to write for money, and the freedom to enjoy the life I have always wanted snowboarding, mountain biking, climbing, or napping almost whenever I desire. Living a life where I can follow and embrace my passions is what makes me happy.

Therefore, to have happiness, follow your heart, and dream big dreams. As the saying goes, “if your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.” Go forth and live passionately!


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Modern society has swallowed its own tail: in trying to make ourselves happier through modern advances, we have made ourselves instead the opposite. In a 2013 study of those adults who found themselves to be happy, only 55% of those interviewed of Gen X admitted to deep happiness, while other ages groups (like Baby Boomer and Millenials) scored quite similarly. In essence, only roughly half of the United States admits to happiness. Though in decades past happiness may have been measured differently, if measured at all, the greatest change is how happiness is defined. While statistics show that Americans are more glum, the questions remain: how do we define happiness, and how can we change our state of being?

PBS published happiness as “…the good life, freedom from suffering, flourishing, well-being, joy, prosperity, and pleasure.” But what does this mean? Perhaps the definition ultimately comes down to the individual and his or her situation, but one might venture a guess that true happiness begins with the most bottom tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of need, so once we have safety, food, and comfort, we can begin our journey to happiness. If we feel successful in some manner (either professionally or personally), have self-esteem, laughter, and are able to participate in things we enjoy, we will find happiness. This still seems a superficial answer, and I intend to take the next few weeks to investigate what truly makes us joyful and happy.

This search began after several conversations with friends recently, both instigated by myself and the friends, regarding our state of well-being. One friend offered that he had lost the will to do any of the activities he once loved, which was a heavy load to hear since he was the man who taught me how to love the world around me. Another friend found herself several times either in a fury or in tears because she found herself in her mid-forties and childless. There are more still, those who have found sadness dwells in their souls instead of the burning excitement for life they once held.

When I began my research, one very common theme arose multiple times: do not compare yourself to others or to an unrealistic expectation. We will begin here. Happiness is your own journey, as is life. Our paths may be different, but one is never more important or successful than another. High school reunions too often spark such feelings: that perfect kid in high school is now president of the world? Worse yet, we become consumed with images on Facebook of these perfect lives of our virtual friends, and instantly we see ourselves as failures because we haven’t had the apparently required two kids, gotten engaged, gotten married, bought a new car, went on a trip around the world…twice. Whether or not social media virtual friends are honestly showing their true lives in irrelevant; what is relevant is your true life.

If you find yourself a bit glum these days, here is your step one homework for happiness: count how many times you honestly check social media sites each day. Do this for a matter of days, take the average, and now cut that number in half. So, if you pop online 20 times during the day (mostly at work when you don’t want to do that report, I suspect), half of that is obviously 10. For the next two days, go online no more than 10 times. Then, cut it in half again. Two days you may only check 5 times a day. Then…you got it…cut it out completely. Go for a week without checking, if you can, and then limit yourself to one time a day at most after that.

Here’s why: staying off social media first will make you more productive in general. You will be more focused at work, and more mindful at home. Mindfulness is an incredibly important part of our happiness. Without comparing ourselves to other people, we can focus on each moment of our day, which is essentially what the makeup of our lives really is. Spend time noticing the world around you: the colors of the room, the temperature of the air outside, the shapes of the clouds, the way your lunch really tastes, the way your favorite lotion smells. Be present in each experience, without judgement of good or bad, just observing life. Observe your own life and ask what makes you happy, what makes you feel good. Honor your sadness or whatever emotions you may feel, embrace it, speak to it, and start to let it go. Most importantly, remember that you cannot compare yourself to anyone else because you are unlike anyone else. This is your homework. Step 2 will come shortly.

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Who wants to go to work tomorrow? Sadly, today’s economy has turned the American passion for hard work into hardly caring about work. The Conference Board research group found that “[i]n 2008, 49 percent of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.” Sad facts, of course, but wait, there’s more: the same research group claims job satisfaction has dipped even lower recently, “according to a new survey that found only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work.”

What, then, is the answer? For many, it’s to start your own business. Though such a move has obvious risky results, there are plenty of reasons to follow through with your dream that may outweigh the risks. According to Inc.com, there are at least 10 of these reasons to get out and take a risk. First, owning your own business gives at least a feeling of controlling your own destiny. This said, keep in mind that markets and environmental factors could demolish an otherwise sound dream. But small business ownership allows type A personalities the freedom they need for true happiness.

As a small business owner, work/life balance becomes something you DO have more control over. In this same vein, you have more say over those people you work with as well, thus ending the frustrating battles of personalities or even mutinies.

And yes, there is a great amount of risk, but he who takes the risk, also reaps the rewards. This gives one the challenge so many seek! The challenge is what is exciting, especially if this relates to a field you are passionate about. And when there’s just you taking the risk, things get done faster than going through red tape or another’s hemhawing. Last, working alone also gives you more opportunity to bond with those you work with, including your clients.

Once successful, many small business owners feel a sense of pride, of accomplishment, and pass this positive feeling back into the community it serves.

Kiplinger.com offers advice on how to get your business started. Though their 6 steps are not new advice, nor are they greatly detailed, what it does offer is a concise, and not overwhelming page of advice. The best advice? Start with a solid business plan after gaining experience.

Of course, the above business plan should also involve a marketing plan that details who might be interested, where is the best location to start, and what time of year is best to get into the game.

All this said, I have pondered the idea of a small business for years. At one time it was a coffee house/ book store with live music. At another time it was photography. More recently, though, two ideas have become constant images in my head: an extreme sport tour company for women, and a licensed nutritionist.

I have not yet begun my official journey, but the idea of both simultaneously seems bountifully fun. I would love to give back to others who share the same passions I do. And to help people stay healthy and live longer lives? I know I would feel as though I am giving back to my community every day.

All this said, it takes a great deal of guts to start your own business. I think it would be easier if I didn’t love my currently job as much as I do! But some day, I’ll love my two business ventures even more.

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