Finding What Makes You Happy

2 Jan

I hate, hate, hate in movies or books when this phrase is uttered.

First, one of these happens: someone dies, someone graduates, someone is rejected in love, someone is coming of age

Then, one of these people: mentor, elderly relative, parent, teacher, best friend

Gets in the person’s face and says “You need to find out what makes you happy!”

Cue the montage of these 9 words blowing their mind, changing their lives, and creating a positive trajectory of perfect moments.

Here is my issue with that sincere yet flawed sentiment.

Unless you are highly neurotic, obsessive compulsive, OR my Mom…the following things do not make you happy: cleaning your stove top, spraying down countertops, washing and folding laundry, sewing on buttons, wiping runny noses and dirty bottoms (even if you love the people attached to those noses and bottoms), grocery shopping, taking out the trash, paying bills & taxes, registering your car, wrapping stocking gifts.  You may find joy in some of those activities some or even most of the time. But happiness? Doubtful. Especially the paying bills part.

Yet all of those activities are necessary at one time or another. Achieving contentment or joy (admittedly higher goals) on a daily basis are possible. But finding happiness, as long as we are flawed emotional creatures, is not possible in every moment. Anyone who says otherwise is 1) lying or 2) never experienced loss or 3) never identified with Charlie Brown or 4) Spock.

A better way, it seems to me, is to acknowledge that there will be icky moments in life. In work. In school. In rush-hour traffic and pre-Super Bowl grocery shopping. And definitely in cleaning up after a party if you don’t own a dishwasher.

But when that’s all behind you…in the moments when you are not working or tackling a to do list or handling “life” and all its randomness, what  makes you happy? If you were to have an hour to yourself, what would feel fun and indulgent? What would you still be passionate about if you hadn’t eaten all day? What would get you so excited you would still happily talk about it during a 2 day hiking trip…what could you talk about non-stop?

I guess snappy movie wisdom can’t really offer “Find out what makes you happy in your spare hour and use your spare hour to do that” or “Find out what can still make you smile when you have been in a traffic accident and your kid had a diaper blowout and you have insomnia.”

Dream big. Then step back, realize that happiness is fleeting but joy can last a lifetime.
Dream big. Then zoom in, realize that each day contains moments of availability and work on fitting your dreams into those blank spaces.

(Cue the montage.)


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