What we do, have, say and experience that creates happiness in our lives is different for everyone. The trick is to get clear on what you want and then choose that. Here’s one path to help you get clear about what you want and how that ultimately leads to a happy life.
I started thinking about this sometime around mid-marriage when I had checked off all the boxes I thought would get me to a place of happiness. Man, house, dog, good job, nice car, perfect life. The problem with it was I was checking off boxes created by an idea given to me by other people. When I started making and following my own rules and listening to the beat of my own heart, I got very clear about what I really wanted; freedom, love, creative expression, laughter, relationships that felt mutually nurturing.
Happiness is a feeling we choose at any given moment. I’m not the first to tell you this. But we’ve been taught happiness has conditions. If we have the right partner, the best job, the most tricked-out car, a baby, a vacation home, a sufficient amount of income, friends and family who support us, Starbucks three times per week… we’ll be happy. No, we won’t. Because happiness doesn’t come with a perfect life. Happiness comes with a conscious one.
In childhood, we’re taught what should make us happy, even though we were already pretty darn happy before all that nonsense got shoved into our little malleable brains. We learned to do life right meant we should go to college, get a high-paying job, get married and have babies. This mindset is changing, thank goodness.
I don’t remember being given alternative happiness options. I remember being given the option to choose my vocation and that’s about it. The rest was laid out pretty plain – follow these check marks, and you’ll be happy. Who made up these rules? I don’t know. I just watched what was happening around me and assumed. I never even contemplated stopping for a moment to really think about what I wanted. I thought I knew until that wasn’t working. Then I threw my hands up and went back to the happy drawing board and doodled for a while. And I bet you expected me to blame this on my parents. But I’ve come to realize they never approached me to say, “This’s what you need to do to be happy.” They were just all following the formula they learned. In my follow-the-leader kind of way, I thought I knew what I wanted because I was watching everyone else go after these particular things.
My doodling was a good plan. A picture started to form. It included helping others heal and long, slow walks in the woods. There were three dogs in that picture and a couple horses too. And writing weaved its way into my masterpiece. Helping people by being brave and writing my story – that was part of what I wanted. Seeing my kids laugh daily was in there. Feeling deeply loved was an un-negotiable part of the painting.
I had to become acutely aware of what things lit me up to know what I really wanted. I had to give myself permission to experience joy at a level I didn’t know I was allowed to feel; that I was taught was a little too much. I had to get wild, crazy, bad, and unapologetic to even begin to sort out what I wanted. I had to push my limits, test the waters, lose a few friends, and question my marriage to know. I had to grab hands with my soul and dance a bit. I had to go balls out and be myself, no matter what anyone else thought or said. I had to become a badass warrior of self-love and exploration.
I had to be okay with failing and making mistakes and changing my mind. I had to realize that nothing I did, or said, or wanted or dreamed of could fuck this up. I just had to feel, stay present to what was good, and act on the “Hell Yes!” kind of stuff. Sounds simple, right?
But it’s not, because we don’t get Intuition 101 in school. We don’t get Self-Love or Self-Worth 101 in school. We don’t get Healing from Trauma 101 in school. We don’t get Overcoming Fear 101 in school. We are lucky if we’re eventually given these gifts – but we don’t necessarily get them, until much later. The journey is wild, unpredictable and divinely orchestrated. All we can do is stay awake for it.
Happiness comes with a conscious life.
It’s this one thing that makes all the difference, no matter what you want. It’s this one thing that creates the choices we have. This one thing is how to do happy.
Living a conscious life is an adventure. If you take it on be prepared for the ride of your life. Be prepared to be thrust into healing, big love, and badass transformation. I hope you will take it on.
And here are a few steps to using awareness to get clear about what you want so you can go after true happiness:
I don’t care if you meditate, breathe, or do Tai Chi. Find a way to slow down and be present to everything you feel. This one practice will be the foundation of this journey.
Speak up your thoughts, beliefs, and questions and make the stuff in your head out loud. That creates an opportunity for more awareness, which is the one thing that will make a difference in really knowing what you want. Be brave. Be out loud.
Practice not labeling
Don’t judge. Don’t add meaning to a situation either. And then after you do, be aware you were judging or adding meaning. We can’t help it, but we can watch our own behavior. Be curious about why you’re judging. Be open to it. And the most important person to practice this with is yourself. When we start seeing things as they are, without labeling or adding any extra meaning, the mind stays clearer, and we can move more easily toward what we want.
Practice finding gratitude
Set your default setting to gratitude, and you’ll have a badass awareness skill that changes everything. There’s always something to be grateful for, even in the direst circumstances. This is not Pollyanna. It’s necessary. It’s not being unrealistic. It’s a powerful manifesting skill. It’s the compass pointing you in the direction of what you want.
This is one of the most important steps of a conscious life. You have to give yourself permission to feel everything; the painful and the blissful. When you take your feeling to another level, you will begin to experience super powers in the realm of intuition, communication, and awareness. You’ll be able to respond instead of reacting. You’ll be able to suspend judgment, release hurt faster, and move on with your amazing life. When you feel everything, you’ll begin to feel what really ignites your soul, turns you on and makes you get up in the morning. When you feel – you’ll know what you want.
Would love to hear what you all think about happiness; when it’s been there, when it’s absent and how you’ve surfed the waves of it in your life. There’s no right way. There’s only your way, and you can’t mess it up! Be brave!
Laura Di Franco, MPT is an intuitive writing strategist, holistic physical therapist, published author, poet and third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do with over two decades of experience in healing. She teaches transformational tools and powerful strategy for nourishing and inspiring your fiercely alive whole self. Learn more about Laura on her website.