Welcome friends to Episode #155 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. While we know that life isn’t always unicorn and sparkles, we also know that sometimes we feel out of the flow for longer than usual. Maybe you’ve hit a point in your life where you’ve got so much going on that you are barely making it through the day. Maybe you’ve created a life that you love but you’re getting bored and wondering what’s next. If you’re feeling like you’ve lost some of the magic in your life and you’re looking to find that spark again, today’s podcast on finding more happiness in your everyday life is for you.
Oxford dictionary defines happiness as “the state of pleasurable contentment of mind; deep pleasure in or contentment with one’s circumstances.”
The reason I want to define happiness first is because if we are searching for happiness and spend so much time working towards it, we want to know what it is that we’re trying to achieve or find.
When you’re not sure of what happiness means to you, you’ll keep wondering is it something that you have? Is it missing?
Most of us don’t go around asking to find happiness, but you find the lack of it when people say, “I’m not happy. I’m not happy with my job. I’m not happy with my health. I’m not happy with how much money I’m making. I’m not happy with how I still feel like I’m doing all the work. I’m not happy with how they’re treating me or behaving.”
Presence over happiness
Why happiness matters is that we humans are goal-oriented. Whether we like to think about things in terms of goals or not, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to close gaps in our lives. We see problems and try to fix them. Yet, real happiness is about an enduring sense of content and the ability to find joy in the process of living, right now.
The problem with goal-attainment is that we are normally unhappy or dissatisfied when we think about gaps or problems. We feel discontent with the status quo. This discontent isn’t wrong, but what we call negative or positive feelings are natural reactions when we are shown contrast in our lives. Contrast of what we want versus what we don’t want. Contrast to show what we prefer versus what we don’t prefer.
When you’re struggling with figuring out what to do next in your life or what job you want to take or if you should say yes to an opportunity, many times that comes from discontentment. We think, if I take this job I’ll be “happier” with my work. What does “happier with my work” actually mean to you? It’s generally a feeling of getting what you want. Yet, it doesn’t last without some effort of reflection. The honeymoon period wears off at some point for everything. This means you can look for happiness but you might not have it for very long without going back to finding it again.
Have you ever tried to hold a positive emotion in your body for a long period of time? How long can you hold it for? I want you to actually think about this question because most of us feel it for a very short amount of time. We feel it and another thought comes and we move on. Whether it’s sub-par or higher states, we humans can get used to anything. Even our emotions and thoughts will come and go, constantly.
This means that if you’re trying to find happiness in your everyday life, what’s more helpful than happiness alone is presence. Happiness will feel like it keeps moving past the cognitive horizon while presence can be thought of as a practice. Presence is the baseline and foundation to our feelings of wellbeing. When you’re more aware of what is currently happening right now, you can bring more attention to it so that you can find contentment right now. What is working for you, even though there are many things that aren’t working for you?
You’re going to notice that you move away from things you don’t like and towards things that you do like. It’s a very human response, yet even there can you be present and content knowing that you’re seeking something different, more or deeper? Can you still be able to say, “Yes, I don’t like it but this is how it is and reality wins. I have to work with what I have in order to move towards what I want.”
Happiness during stressful times
How you find happiness during stressful times will be a factor of you deciding that this work of finding peace is your job. You have to go to the place where you allow yourself to see what is working for you. You have to accept what is happening because you cannot eliminate all sources of stress in your life.
Our lives will have ups and downs with events out of our control creating potential stress and problems. For example, I had the opportunity to do some pretty cool work and I was pretty excited and said yes. Then, after the initial excitement wears off, I wonder how I’m going to get an opportunity like that again. I wonder if I will be able to do a good job. I start thinking about how to prepare and how to make sure I do a great job. Then I see that I have other things that also have to be done in the coming weeks and as I get closer to it, I see how it’s going to be a large volume of work. A litany of thoughts, ideas and stress along with the excitement.
There is the stress of having something and the problems and work that comes with it. Whether we’re in control or out of control of the situation, we will have stress. How we deal with stress is going to be how we create some moments of pleasure or contentment in that period versus having chronic stress that comes with feelings of anxiety, overwhelm or frustration over longer periods of time. This kind of chronic stress is what affects your emotional and physical health.
One of the things that you can do when you’re in those moments is to find small moments of stillness. To come back to a place of clarity or perspective to see how this is the perfect problem. I actually meditate even more when I have times that I need to be doing something. Meditation is a pattern interrupt that helps me move out of the chronic stress cycle. Not because I’m avoiding doing work but because if I enter my work with clarity of thinking and a more resourceful state of being, I’m more likely to be effective, productive and resourceful. What you put in is what comes out.
I’m less likely to doubt myself when I can create a break in the chronic stress cycle. I’ve seen myself increase my productivity and do work that used to take me hours in minutes. Movement can also do the same thing to break you out of your overthinking and rumination, and bring you back to the present where you can see things more clearly.
When things are clear, you don’t just wonder if it’s right and wrong and hesitate in analysis paralysis – it’s easy to do and take action. This is why some people feel that time allows them to make more clear decisions. Time is a natural break away from something that’s on your mind. Over time, you’ll eventually be distracted by something or another and not have that same kind of acute focus on what’s going wrong. It breaks the pattern and returns your body and mind to a place where you know you can figure it out and it’s doable.
If you’re stressed, take a moment to find peace and create more clarity for yourself. This is something that might not come naturally to you but if we grip so hard to what we think just has to be done and forget why and the purpose, we might as well not do it at all.
When you feel like you have to do something and you don’t want to
One of the things I’ve noticed more and more is that when we hide behind rules or what we think we “should” do, we lose our sense of identity and inner guidance. We don’t always do it on purpose. We actually believe we can’t and shouldn’t do something but we resent the fact that we’re following the rules. When we do something we don’t believe in because it will make other people happy, and we resent doing it – it’s a form of people-pleasing. People-pleasing will often feel like you have no choice and you will resent the person, place or thing for doing it. Why do others get to do this, but you don’t?
When you lose that feeling of choice in our lives, the more playful, possibility-filled and magical part of our lives diminish. We can’t just do what we want anymore. Instead of questioning what we can do instead, we might just keep playing by the rules and fall into line, resenting the entire way. Yet, where you’ll find the most peace and enjoyment is in the feeling of choice. If you want to feel that happiness or contentment, you will need to know why you’re choosing to do what you’re doing instead – not because you have to, but because you want to.
For example, I remember a time early in my career when I was mad at someone for sharing her political views at work. Years later, I realized I was frustrated because I thought I had to behave a certain way by sitting quietly, not sharing what I think, while this person gets to share their full opinions. I was frustrated because there was a part of me that wanted to also share my full opinion unabashedly, but thought I wasn’t allowed. This is an example of how our reactions to things often matter more than the thing itself. I could have reacted by thinking “wow, even though I disagree, I am inspired or I am aware of exactly why I wouldn’t do the same thing.”
What if you’re allowed to feel unhappy, mad or frustrated and the point isn’t that we avoid this but understand it? If we only seek happiness we might find ourselves unwilling to break the rules thinking that making other people happy is the only way to make ourselves happy. You have so much more choice than you realize.
When following the conventional path diminishes happiness
The conventionality of life causes us to compare. This comparison to what others are doing versus us often diminishes happiness because we tell ourselves that we’re not doing as much or as good as other people.
If you notice you’re feeling disengaged, stressed and wondering what’s the point of life/work, this is your opportunity to diverge. Instead of looking for a single straightforward path, do what feels uncomfortable – see how life isn’t a straight line. If you don’t think you can move, change jobs, go to a different organization, learn a new skill, simplify your life, exercise, eat differently, focus on your mental health or take a different path – think again.
If even contemplating these paths feels strange, that’s a good thing. It means you’re thinking differently. Thinking differently will create new feelings and new ways of living. When I started thinking about changing careers, I had to consider moving, going back to school, taking a pay cut, taking a pay raise, changing my identity as an entrepreneur vs employee, the list goes on.
You can actually notice how many small places in life you have the choice to do something unconventional. You don’t need to be contrarian just to be different – but because you actually think what you’re doing and thinking makes sense.
How do you find these places? There’s likely a place where you think you have to do something because that’s how everyone does it, but you actually have a better alternative. Try doing the alternative instead. Maybe you are the one person who doesn’t do what other people do in your community – what if that was ok?
I remember even when I started the coaching work, it felt like doing the corporate work at the same time wasn’t as good. I was comparing myself to people who said that you should only do one or the other. It took some living of my own life in my own lane to see that I had reasons I loved to do both at the same time. If those reasons changed, then I would change what I did but until that happened, I was going to do both. In my unconventional choice, I gave permission to others who saw what I was doing and realized that they too could still love two things at the same time and do them both in integrity.
More happiness in our daily lives looks like seeing how we are uniquely positioned to live a life of our own choosing. To be less judgmental and more curious about why we do what we do, and to make choices that feel like they make sense to us because we don’t have to do what others do.
Happiness will often find you when you stop looking for it, as you create more places where you are present and at peace with your life. Do the small things well, retrain your brain to seek peace over pleasure, take care of what you know to do and actually love your life and yourself no matter what is happening. This isn’t easy, but entirely simple and possible for you to do every moment of every single day.
If you like this blend of both practicality and mindset, you will love coaching. You can schedule a consultation at www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more about working together and joining this community of like-minded, open and curious seekers. It is the powerful group and private coaching hybrid experience for achievers who want to expand their vision of what’s possible and figure out what’s next. You will have 12 months of support, individualized guidance, community and retreats to finally make the time to plot out your next act. We will help you build your confidence to make the moves, trust your intuition, design your life and make decisions you love.
I’ve also just created a free masterclass for you. If you’re ready to figure out what’s next, you’ll want to sign up for the replay of my most recent masterclass, “Figuring out What’s Next.” Go to the link here in the shownotes to sign up and learn the 3 phases of where you’re at in your career/life crossroads and what to do in each phase.
That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.