How To Be Happy On Your Own Terms (Even If It's Not What People Expect)

Do you feel tethered? Tethered to your job, your home, your debt, your gadgets, your shoe fetish? Tethered to the same old you every day, the one that's busy in a whirlwind of activity but ultimately going nowhere? Just like a hamster on a wheel, your life is not going to change direction. Unless you start doing things differently. 

Most of us play safe. Consciously or not, we urge caution, hunker down, evade pain. We grow up dreaming of being astronauts and ballerinas. We dream beyond the limits of the possible. But at some point along the way, we succumb to a life of commuting and cubicles. We don't listen to our hearts. We quietly endure the things that make us unhappy in the slow suffocation of the comfort zone.

The reason? We are terrified of falling short. None of us are perfect yet we set cruelly high bars for ourselves. We worry that stepping out of the comfort zone -- changing direction, taking risks -- will set us up to fail. So we carry on doing the same old same old,  just to show that we are good enough. Even if it doesn't make us happy. 

The pressure to assimilate can be overwhelming 

One of the problems is that many people listen to outside advice rather than following their inner voice. They treat as gospel a laundry list of "shoulds" -- should go to college, should be married by 30, should stay in a decent but ill-fitting job. Should is a dangerous word. It sets up a real dissonance between what others expect of you and the things that truly make your heart shine.

Yet there is absolutely nothing in this life that you "should" do. The route to happiness isn't fixed, but a series of forks in the road. Like Frost, you might take the one less traveled by. Or you may take the popular path. It doesn't matter, as long as you follow your heart at every turn. Do that, and you will arrive at a happy place. 

Guess what - it’s a different place for everyone. 

Would you like to know the real secret to happiness? 

The reason why some people find fulfillment, abundance and love is simple - they believe their happiness is important. They give themselves permission to be happy on their own terms. At the risk of sounding like a L'Oreal ad, they think they're worth it.  

Happy people truly feel worthy of happiness. They make choices that reinforce their happiness and they pursue those choices whole-heartedly. They don't make excuses. When someone asks them why they haven't bought a house yet, they joyfully answer, "because right now I'd rather start my own business/commune with nature/take time to be a mom."  

Your whole life can be happier

You deserve to face each day with something more than quiet resignation. You deserve to love your job, your relationships, your journey. You deserve to feel that your dreams count. Because they do. 

Accept that happiness is a basic necessity. Give yourself permission to want the things you know can make you happy - and then figure out how to get them. Here are a few nuggets of knowledge that will help you on your way. 

  • Make happiness a standard to measure your choices against. Any decision that frustrates your happiness is a poor one.

  • Consciously invest in your own happiness. This takes time and effort. But once you start exercising that muscle, it will get easier.  

  • Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

  • Assume you will be just fine when you take a risk - you likely will be.

  • Learn to ask for help when you need it. 

  • Embrace the great things that happen in your life, no matter how small. These things don't happen by chance. They happen because you deserve them.

  • Who you are is enough. In fact, who you are is MORE than enough. Repeat as often as necessary. Smile broadly.