What does it take to be happy?
What does it take to feel good about where you’re going?
Is it finding the right job?
Is it meeting the right person?
I don’t think it’s either of those things.
Being happy is a process, and happiness will find you when you least expect.
I’ve learned that I am least happy when I only focus on the outcome that I want to achieve.
Sure, setting goals is important, but it’s not going to lead to happiness.
When I was younger, I had a bad habit of writing down everything that I wanted to achieve.
Then I would map out a timeline of exactly how the events would play out.
Now I know that the farce I was putting myself through was an extension of my anxiety. It was an effort to control thoughts and feelings that were spiraling out of control.
No great changes have ever happened in my life because of a detailed map in a journal.
What it actually took to change my life was action.
Anxiety is inaction.
Anxiety is the crushing feeling and cascading thoughts that I need to do it all before I die.
Anxiety is the visceral monster that awakens within me and tells me there is no way I can ever do what I hope to accomplish before I die.
It’s fear and dread and the monstrosity of being overwhelmed by my thoughts.
And the only way I’ve ever broken through my anxiety is by action, which is precisely the course that anxiety does not want me to take.
But that’s how it goes.
I found it impossible to change my life until I decided to take action.
It didn’t matter how many books I read or videos I watched; if I did not act on what I was learning and thinking, I had no chance for personal growth.
Because the thing is, once I started to move, I started to find happiness more often.
Happiness was never wrapped up in my thoughts, encased in the anxious musings of a restless mind. Happiness was within my very being, but I had to focus on the process enough to cajole it to come out.
What do I mean by the process?
I mean giving it a shot, whatever it is. Giving it a real, honest effort.
Fear is the price that you pay to grow as a person. If you’re not scared, you’re not growing.
This is how I’ve learned to write. It’s how I’ve learned to speak in public. It’s how I’ve learned to sit with people during times of great distress.
I’ve always had to step through my fear to get to the other side.
So, in a way, anxiety is a beacon of hope.
It shows the way forward but then rears its ugly head as you ponder whether you have what it takes to cross the frightful boundary.
I still get scared all the time.
And I think that’s because I’m committed to learning and growing. If I’m not scared, I know that I’m stagnant — and that’s a terrible place to be.
In the end, this much I know to be true: anxiety can be a great gift.
But only if you punch through the suffocating wrapping paper that is holding you inside your all-too-perfect, worst-case scenarios, the ones that seem shockingly vivid when you imagine them — but burst to pieces when you take action and reveal the great power that you always had lurking just beneath the surface.
And on the other side?
That’s where you’ll find happiness.
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This post previously published on Nerve 10 and is republished with the permission of the author.
Photo courtesy Unsplash.