“There is no path to happiness. Happiness IS the path.”
– Gautama Buddha
When was the last time you took a minute to really think about what makes you happy?
For me, the past two years included a lot of time spent contemplating life and happiness, as I began making my decision to stray from the traditional path most doctors take after medical school and instead build my own path to create a career that I want and that reflects who I am and what I love.
So far, it’s been a scary but exciting process trying to knock down all the weeds, briers, (and even a few trees) that exist just off the smooth, paved road to residency and beyond (not that residency is easy by any means – believe me- my fiance is a first year resident! Nonetheless, it is a fairly well-laid out, step-by-step process). At times, I’ve even gotten really stuck, pricked, and down-trodden; however, I recently realized that those times tend to occur during a single mindset: when I lose sight of “my happy” – the picture of what I really want for my self and my life.
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our day-to-day lives and just keep going with the flow, without much thought beyond what needs to get done and how much there is to do, that we forget to take care of ourselves in the process. However, if you never even make time for you, you certainly won’t be taking time to assess your goals, path, or happiness –> which is crucial to your health, well-being..and well, your happiness!
Along with getting caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life, it can sometimes be difficult to separate society’s version of happiness and what your life “should” be like from what you, at your heart and soul, truly desire. Society tends to project this image of happiness that is full of:
- enormous wealth
- unattainable beauty and body size
- lots of expensive stuff
- fame and attention and ego
- power, and
- often as having one talent or passion that basically defines you
Although I’ve gotten much better at recognizing when lose sight of adequate self-care and what I want vs. what society says I should want, it’s still quite easy to fall into that trap. This is one reason why I feel it’s very important for each of us to contemplate our own answers to questions like:
- who am I?
- what is my truth?
- what is my version of success?
- and what is my happy?
You need to define happiness on your own terms.
And while it’s vital to work towards your goals and toward future happiness, we still need be happy today. This is a lesson I’ve learned through the process of my education – on the pre-med and med-school treadmill, it became second nature to just keep my head down and worry about whatever came next, thinking happiness (and actually living) should just be deferred until I reached the end. Big mistake. I feel like I missed out on a lot of my early-mid-20’s. Besides, how do we know if we have tomorrow, much less years down the road? We each need to cultivate happiness now, in addition to working toward a smiling, content future.
Happiness has been said to be the key to life.
- Write a “My Happiness Note” – take an active, participant role in your happiness. Take 10-20 minutes and write out the core things that make you happy and that you need (and even what you want to be able to say you did/lived for when you reach your later years).
Mine include: constant world travel; a solid, close family life; a flexible daily/weekly career & routine to allow for my many (and always evolving) passions; a need for daily self-improvement…and helping others to do the same; and adequate financial security to allow me to help provide for family, get quality food, a decent roof over my head, healthcare and other essentials (like paying the essential bills), and to let me travel and see the globe.
You can also include other things like activities or hobbies that make you feel good – for example, I know I need to make time each week for exercise and to relax by myself in order for me to stay sane and centered.
- Accept yourself, in all your flaws and amazing-ness. You are who you are meant to be and where you are meant to be in this moment. Stop thinking you “should be further” than you are. Tell yourself that you are enough (because you are).
- Ask a question. When you’re struggling to make a big decision or with not having something you want, ask yourself: Will getting that thing (or saying yes/no to that decision) make me happy? Then ask yourself: Can I be happy if I don’t achieve/do/have that?
- Practice gratitude. You will be happier. By focusing on bringing a sense of gratitude into my life each day, I realize just how much there is to be thankful for. Try keeping a gratitude journal – I like to keep mine by my bed and write down a few things I’m grateful for each day before I go to sleep.
- Share it. Others want to see you happy and will actually feed off of it. Have you ever noticed how much happier you become when you hang around others who are joyful and smiling? It’s probably the best thing that’s contagious.
So, as we begin to fully transition into autumn, now is a great time to reflect on the seasons past and assess where we are now. Take some time for you this weekend to get yourself feeling refreshed, light, and grinning from ear to ear. You deserve it.
What is YOUR happy? Do you have any tips to cultivating a greater sense of happiness in your life? Share below!