This is the third post in what has turned out to be a mini-series of lessons I’ve learned – particularly over the past year. You can find part 1 and part 2 here, and I’ve decided there’s going to be a 4th because while writing this, I realized there was more to say than I thought. Stay tuned for that one.
You’ll probably think “well, obviously” after reading this next statement, but making big life changes – in my case, moving across the country and changing jobs a couple of times – has a big impact on one’s view of the world. Big change, as exciting as it all was and continues to be, has led me to spend a lot of time in my head getting all deep and reflective on life. While the lessons or epiphanies I’ve shared in this series likely aren’t anything you haven’t heard before, they’re what’s on my mind now.
It seems a big topic of conversation amongst so many circles today (at least the ones I hang out in) is finding happiness. Finding passion, finding bliss, finding purpose… I think they’re all very related. Happiness in particular is something we all want, and after having consumed countless blog posts, podcast episodes and books on the topic, I’ve learned one thing:
You don’t chase happiness, you choose it.
Above any of the other things I’ve learned recently, this is the truth that I’ve found to be THE KEY to turning any day into a great day.
Living in one of my favourite places in the world and working in a job I feel so ridiculously passionate about might sound like a perfect way to live life, but truthfully, there are still crappy days. We all have them.
Sometimes it feels like every email flooding my inbox was sent because something is wrong and I need to help fix it.
Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter how many hours I put in, I’ll never have enough time to complete everything exactly the way I want to.
Sometimes I know that every last minute of my day is going to be packed, and that I’ll probably feel exhausted by the end.
And all the time, coming from that scarcity mindset is exactly what turns what could have been a great day into a stressful and overwhelming day. It’s all about the choice to be there.
Truthfully, on what I’d call my ‘weaker days’ – perhaps one where I’ve gone to bed far too late the night before – I might wake up and groan as my alarm goes off because somehow, I’m already thinking about the squillions of things I need to do. If I let it, that thinking stays with me through my workout and makes it feel harder than it should. It’s in the car on my way to work, sticks around in meetings, on calls, and while I’m working at my desk. I don’t imagine it makes me the friendliest or most approachable-looking person (the term ‘resting b*tch face’ comes to mind), and it’s not a fun feeling on the inside either. The scarcity mindset just makes everything an unnecessary struggle.
BUT…. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose happiness instead.
This is what I’ve been practicing recently. My favourite time to do it is on days when I know there’s a ton on my plate. In part 2 of this series, I talked about the question of ‘who are you committed to being?’ and first thing in the morning is the perfect time to decide that. It’s sort of like entering a race. You know things are probably going to get a little ugly. After all, you don’t enter races because you think they’re going to be easy, but because you want to put yourself to the test and see how well you cope with the challenge. So you commit to doing your best.
I don’t want to think of each day as an extreme test of abilities because that sounds like an utterly exhausting way to live life. However, hitting new athletic PRs involve a mix of hard work and fun, and the person you become in the process matters a lot more than the result itself. I think that’s how every day should be too.
So how do I practice? I pick those fully-loaded days like I mentioned (but you don’t have to – moderately challenging is fine too) and try to fill my first couple of hours upon waking up with as many wonderful things as I can. These include a great big starfish stretch before I roll out of bed, a workout, watching funny Youtube videos while I do my hair, the smell of Refresh wafting through my condo, delicious breakfast, and singing along with songs on my way to work.
All those little things – especially laughing – put me in a great mood. I think about how I want to show up for myself and everyone around me that day, and who I’d feel proud to be. Ideally, that someone is fun to be around, honest and trustworthy, a creative problem solver, a supportive teammate, a good listener, a strong contributor, and while working hard, can still laugh in the process. Those things are in the back of my mind all day, and when things start to go south, I try to notice and think about how this ‘ideal me’ would deal with it. Going in with a decidedly-happy mindset makes this shift a million times easier.
This brings me to an experiment for you to try this week – we’ll call it the ‘decide to have a good day’ challenge:
- Wake up tomorrow morning and think of 3 things you’re grateful for.
- Move your body for at least 10 minutes in a way that feels good – it could be running, walking, yoga, or dancing to Shake It Off in your jammies with Taylor Swift – anything you like.
- Watch something that makes you laugh (if you need ideas, I recommend this or this or this)
- Go to work and think about who you’re committed to being on the way there. Tell yourself it’s going to be a great day.
- Throughout the day, don’t try to control your thoughts or anything crazy, but just notice when you start slipping into a scarcity mindset and ask yourself what the person you’re committed to being would do. Look for little things that are great, and if you need ideas, read this.
- At the end of the day, list 3 things you’re proud of – big or small.
I’m willing to bet that if today is feeling like the Mondayest of Mondays, doing the ‘decide to have a good day’ challenge tomorrow will feel very different, in a good way. It’s unbelievable how much deciding to be happy changes your mental and physical state. You breathe easier, stand taller, smile more (even if you fake it, soon you won’t have to), and become someone people want to be around. Who wouldn’t you want that?