Happiness is more of a mystery than most of us would like it to be. Navigating life as a dad and an entrepreneur has had me take a long, hard look at my happiness and the things that fuel it or rob me of it.
Being a dad is an adventure all on its own. While it isn’t easy, I believe that’s the way fatherhood is meant to be. Having children is a privilege and so far, raising them is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
I used to think my kids wanted “things” from me like toys, bikes, vacations, and kittens. It turns out I was wrong. Actually, they did and still do want some of those things but they’re not nearly as interested in having material items or furry friends as they are in having a happy, healthy, fun-loving Dad.
I’ve heard so many people utter the phrase “I just want to be happy” and I imagine I’ve likely said something similar in the past myself. Once, while going through a rough patch, I’d had enough. I wasn’t in the depressed, feel sad and sorry for myself, down in the dumps type of phase, I was simply done with the feeling and decided to dig into the drivers and thieves of happiness.
As a constant learner who strives for self-improvement, I’d always felt like I was trying to add to my life. Adding can get exhausting and it felt like I was simply repeating the same steps on auto-pilot; it felt like Groundhog Day. I’d build a better morning routine, eat better, exercise more, drink more water, get more sleep, practice gratitude more often. I’d do all of the things the happiness hackers tell us we’re “supposed” to do.
While these are great things to do and they do improve life, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a giant waste of time.
There needed to be something to rock the boat and shake things up a bit. Rather than focus on what might be adding to my happiness, I wondered what would happen if I took a look at the things that were robbing me of my happiness.
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The strategy was that it’s usually easier to ignore and offload things than it is to take on new things. See how many of these thieves of happiness you can relate to.
The one is uber easy to fall into given our hyper-connected social media-driven world. I’d see people who were smarter, more handsome, wealthier, had better homes and I’d compare myself to them. Comparison is the enemy of progress.
This one gets a lot of entrepreneurs, and it still gets me sometimes. If I just work a few more hours, maybe I can get ahead. Let’s work a bit on the weekend to see if that moves the needle.
Overworking steals from other possibly more important areas of our lives. Our bodies and minds need to have downtime to reflect, relax, and recharge.
You know who I’m talking about and they’re not all Nancy’s. These positivity vampires exist to suck the joy and happiness right from your soul. They thrive on whining and don’t want to see you get ahead. Kick them to the curb.
This is why I never watch the news. How many positive stories do you see on the news? I dare you to keep score… negative vs positive. We both know how the scorecard would turn out. It’s a constant barrage of what’s wrong in the world and tons of people feed off the negative.
Being a Yesaholic
This sometimes falls into the overworking category but this affected me more on the personal side of life. I hate to let people down and I want everyone to win, achieve their dreams, and be happy so it can be tough to say no.
Trouble is, saying yes to everything is the equivalent of saying we’re willing to make half-assed attempts at a bunch of things rather than bringing our best to just a select few things.
Focusing on Lack
It’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve done this but I have. Life in North America is pretty decent. We’re covered in opportunity most of the time yet we line up to get the newest model of phone, constantly searching for the next thing, and throwing away items that others may never be so lucky to even own.
We ignore what we have and focus on what we don’t have. It’s extremely dangerous behavior and puts us in a never-ending loop that can be tough to get out of.
No wonder ideas like those of The Minimalists and Marie Kondo catch on. They make us wonder how much less we could really get by with. My guess is that we could get by with far less and be just as happy or maybe even happier.
Celebrating what we’re fortunate enough to have rather than dwelling on what we don’t have has brought me a lot of peace.
This one is a doozie and given the time this article is being written; it feels very important that it gets covered here. We were not created to live in isolation. We’re social creatures and we need each other. We need a community to belong to and be with.
While there is value in having the ability to just be alone with ourselves once in a while, isolation for extended periods of time can be very draining.
Isolation causes the mind to run amuck, freely considering thoughts and options that I don’t believe would have existed in the company of others. It leads to loneliness which can lead to despair and that’s a slippery slope.
I once heard a business coach say “hope is not a strategy”. At the time and in the context given, I agreed with her. She was a coach to ladies in a skincare MLM and she was basically saying that they couldn’t just hope to be successful and all their dreams would come true which totally makes sense.
The trouble was, this young lady was about half the age of the average beauty consultant, and the ladies she was speaking to were smart, had life experience, and didn’t need to be talked down to about something as trivial as hoping for success.
All these years later, I would have liked to have seen the talk reframed as “hope is a requirement”. The ladies joined this organization because they hoped for a better life for themselves and their families.
They began their journey full of hope and excitement for the future. When things got tough, their hope faded and they eventually quit. Hope IS a strategy and I’d wager that it might just be the fuel of life.
As long as we have hope, we can look forward and see there’s more for us. We need hope to fuel our dreams and passions, to give us something to strive for, and to know we’re still working toward something that matters.
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Photo Credit: @marcojodoin on Unsplash