Growing up, I was told there would be hard parts of my life; bumps in the road that we just have to continue on over.Like the prodigal potholes and other various inconveniences we all face in life, we are stronger for them. It’s said that resilience will make us better people, but what else will?
People love to tout the all encompassing piece of advice; “Do what makes you happy”.
A friend of mine recently brought up the fact that sometimes we don’t even know what it is that will make us happy. Despite living in such an age of freedom to be, we sometimes still live so disconnected from ourselves. We lose sight of our goals and dreams, and we lose touch with what keeps us grounded. We get caught up in the minefield of paying taxes and going grocery shopping and finishing assignments and meeting deadlines that we just forget.
I had a long time to think about that on my 2 hour drive home, and sitting alone in my car I wondered about choices we have and how they or even if they put us on this road to happiness.
I have always been one to support living in the most hedonist way possible. If I was to say what made me happy, it would be simply being happy. My journey has brought me to the point that I can’t bear to do anything that doesn’t make me happy (homework and laundry aside – those are necessities). I could be thought of as lazy, or unreasonable, but I was happy.
I remember seeing a bumper sticker once, that said “If it’s not fun, why do it?”. It was from the Ben and Jerry’s factory, and I bought the same one. Again, ignoring the obvious not-fun, unavoidable activities like going to the dentist or standing in lines at the post office, this quote changed something in me. It flicked a switch and all the cogs fit together and started to turn.
Why do we put so much pressure on trying to fit ideals and standards that ultimately make us miserable?
I could say that I want to get a business degree because I want to make money, but still hate every class on managerial accounting or sustainable profit strategies. I would be lying to myself, tricking myself into thinking that maybe the money would make me happy. But money doesn’t equal passion, and I’m sure we all know the anecdotes that prove it doesn’t equal happiness either.
As hard as it is sometimes, its difficult to know when we are doing things because they give us purpose, or simply because we are going through the motions. Other times, its difficult to even know what our “purpose” is, or if we can have more than one.
Some tips on finding what makes you happy:
- Go for a walk– Smell the fresh cut grass, or coffee floating delicately out of a café. Walk down streets you have never walked down before. Turn left where you normally turn right. Get lost and find your way back, noticing all the details around you and how they make you feel. Take in the sights of crunchy looking leaves dancing across a parking lot, or kids playing in bright raincoats on a colourful metal playground. Notice the smell of breakfast foods being cooked for hungry brunch goers, or the smell of flowers that have recently bloomed. Feel the surfaces of old wood buildings or smooth marble benches.
- Find people who inspire you – Make a list of all the people who inspire you, or who you resonate with. Maybe it’s a photographer, or a journalist, or a girl in your French class. I’m not saying you should try to emulate everything about them, but I find watching people passionately pursue their own interests makes me so much more excited about my own.
- Try something new – take a painting class at the local community center, or enrol in a French class at your school or university. Take something that you have previously written off by saying “I could never do that” and try it anyway. Be fearless, and laugh when you fall down.
- Express what you love with others – I’m sure there are people who think my blog is dumb, or don’t understand it. And that’s fine. It makes me happy to share my writing with whoever stumbles upon it. I like telling people what I’m working on, and letting them inspire me. Share your passions with your best friend, your mom, or a stranger on the bus. I’ve found that talking about what you love reaffirms it in your mind, leading to a much happier mindset.