I know, I know. This is such a big question, but also one I find so intriguing. When you’re grounded in what truly matters and what you need to be happy, your life becomes transformed. When you can start to understand how to change the levers in your life to become even happier, then anything is possible. It came to me when we were in the process of putting in an offer on a home. I remember thinking how much I loved this house we were putting in an offer for, but at the same time knowing that I can’t imagine our family being happier in a home than we are right now. Even though we’re in a smaller home that we’re renting, one that’s not fully renovated or updated, I truly coudn’t imagine our family being happier. If that’s the case, then what’s the point of us putting time and money into things like a different house or renovations? What I started to realize is that family wasn’t the reason we were putting an offer into a home. I am so happy with our family life. What was behind the decision to buy a home was something deeper. It was the desire for stability and certainty, one that didn’t exist as we were renting. What drives you to do something? A gap between what you want and what you have. So how then do you start to become happier? Let’s start first with what you want.
Your stories matter.
We have stories about our lives. We have a story about how much disposable income we should have, who we’re supposed to be in a relationship with, what kind of education is ideal, what our physical health should be like, how many kids we have, what kind of jobs and careers we should have, what our family lives look like, what we should be doing in our free time – and all of these things drive our happiness. This is what we believe life should be like in order for us to live and thrive. When are we not happy? When the reality of our life doesn’t match up to our stories. We thought we should have made this much money by now but we didn’t. We thought we were supposed to have kids already, but we haven’t. We thought our free time would be ours, but it’s not. We thought we would have a certain kind of relationship but we don’t. We thought we should have a certain kind of body and that’s not what’s there.
When you think about an area of your life where you are happy, you’ll realize that your reality matches or exceeds your stories. You thought you would be making a certain income and you’re making more than that. You thought your friendships would be strong, but they’re even stronger. You thought you would exercise and eat healthy and you do even more to take care of your body. Whatever it is that you’re happy with – your life is meeting or exceeding your story.
But if I should be happy, why am I not happy? I have a great job, healthy kids, and a supportive partner. When this happens, there’s likely an area that will appear underneath that first surface glance of your life where you are unhappy. Similar to my desire to buy a home, it wasn’t the family – it was the stability. Maybe you have a great job, but you’re burning both ends of the candle and you’re no longer as present as you’d like to be with your family. Maybe your kids are healthy, but you’re bored and want more adventure. Maybe you’ve seen success in terms of your health, but you know your finances are out of order. Whatever it is, there’s a gap between here and there. My job as a coach is to close that gap.
So how do we close this gap?
There are people in life who “shouldn’t” be happy, but they are. They may not have the white picket fence and the outsized bank account, yet they seem to be happy. What gives? Are they lazy? Do they not care? What is going on with these people? Let me tell you a secret. They’ve changed one of two things. They’re either progressing in the area where they want to make an improvement or they’ve changed their story of what makes them happy.
Your stories can change.
Why can you be happy one day with something, but not happy with it the next day? When we were thinking of buying a home many years ago, we made the decision not to because we had a story about wanting to be debt-free – paying off both our MBAs, car loans, the whole shebang before taking on house payments. We also had a story that we weren’t ready to settle. So were we happy at that time with our decision – YES! Then we paid things off, saved for the downpayment and felt more certain about the community we wanted to live in. Suddenly that feeling crept up about wanting more stability and certainty – and before we knew it, we were off looking for homes. Our stories had changed. The story became “now we’re ready and we want to buy”. This drives you to take action.
What if I don’t want to change my story, but I’m not happy?
I get it. You have high standards and expectations and you don’t want to lower them just so you can feel “happier”. What then? Make progress. What keeps us feeling motivated to continue our healthy eating regimen and exercise routines? Seeing results. We notice our energy soaring, our mental health improving, our bodies changing shape and even though we’re not at our ideal yet, we are still pretty ecstatic. Your ability to laser into your vision and see yourself making progress towards that vision is everything. It means you know what makes yourself tick and you’re doing it every single day. I don’t care if that means you’re going to start taking classes in an area you’ve never explored before or if that means you start a side hustle making lemonade – feeling like you have some type of control over your life and your ability to achieve in the direction of your desires gives you life. It gives you patience, drive, and compassion in areas beyond that one area of your life that is changing. If anyone here has lost weight, or changed careers or found a spiritual path – you know what that feels like. Suddenly, possibilities exist everywhere. You find out that you’re stronger, kinder and smarter than you’ve realized and that life can be so much more benevolent than before.
If you’ve ever felt the depths of depression or have gone to dark places where you feel like your life isn’t worth living anymore, this is important for you to know. This small step in the direction towards healing this area in your life can save you. Instead of blaming the world or the situation, take that energy and let it propel you to take an action to move forward. If you’re in a situation where the life circumstances cannot be changed, then you have one other option.
Change your story.
Can you find meaning in where you are in life today? You can’t change certain things about your life and if that’s truly the case, ask yourself, “what am I to learn from this?” What is the purpose of this in my life? How can I become better, stronger, and create goodness for myself and others. In the last post, I wrote about how to let go of the past and what happens when you can’t seem to get over a traumatic event in your life. Guess what? You’re allowed to take the third path; the one where you get to grow, learn and be even better than before because you decided that this is the new story of your life. You get to make meaning in your life no matter where you are and what happens. This is the decision about whether or not life happens to you or for you. There are so many people out there who have had way worse things happen to them and live life with so much less, yet have somehow thrived. You’re not at the end of your story. Perhaps you’re at a low point, but this is not the end.
Ask for help, ask for guidance, ask for courage but above all be willing to let there also be good in your life or at the very least a vision of goodness coming into your life. This life is a journey and your ability to create positive change is not determined by the size of the gap between where you are and what you want. It’s determined by your ability to believe that what you want is possible.