How to Be Happy? Answer This Simple Question
This isn’t a gimmick. Give me five minutes and I’ll change your life forever.
Here’s the question: What do you value?
It’s astonishing how many “experts” and “gurus” claim to hold the answer to the question, “How to be happy?” So many self-help books laid out like instruction manuals for being better at life. $700 for a Tony Robbins seminar.
It’s silly. I think all of us inherently know it’s silly. But we continue to chase it anyway… happy, happy, happy.
Now, what if I told you the real key to happiness can only be found inside YOU?
What I’m about to say might furrow a few brows, but hear me out: I think some people throw around the word “depressed” and take it too lightly. This is an injustice to people who are clinically diagnosed, people who suffer with chemical imbalances, hormone imbalances, etc. Some people who feel they are depressed actually have perfectly healthy brains and they’re suffering for a different reason:
They’re not living in alignment with their values.
People like this are suffering from a lifestyle imbalance. They feel depressed because they are settling for a life they didn’t necessarily choose for themselves, or one that was handed to them without their consent. And they see a better way. They’re just not living it.
Imagine this: you’re driving on a highway and the traffic is so bad, you’re stuck at a complete halt. Most people in this predicament would seek an alternate route (registered trademark of Marissa LaRocca ;-) ). But let’s say there isn’t one. OK, so you have no choice but to accept that you’re stuck. And maybe the fact that you have no choice makes being stuck a little bit less bad. So you turn on the radio and start jamming out to 80s love ballads. You’ll be fine.
But now let’s say there is an exit about 300 yards ahead of you, it’s completely clear, and you know it will take you where you need to go. But, for whatever reason, you aren’t going to be able to take it. How do you feel? Frustrated? Defeated? Depressed?
It’s like you’re Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, capable of solving the most complex mathematical equations and yet, you’re working as a janitor. You’re mad about it. You know you can do better.
Living against what you see and what you believe in leads to hopelessness, despair, and even illness.
For many years, I worked full-time at an office in New York City. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. But every morning, as I squeezed myself onto the crowded subway train, something in me just didn’t feel right. Well, nothing about the subway feels right and I’m not unique for saying so. But each time I’d reach the 28th street stop, I’d have a very distinct image of myself as a sheep, following a herd, as I stood in a sea of people and waited to ascend the stairs. I didn’t like working around other people all day in an office, either. I’m a highly sensitive person and it all just felt too stimulating for me. Not to mention, it took a toll on my immune system. I’d get sick, awfully sick, every 2 months or so.
Since then, I’ve moved to Nashville, Tennessee, a city that feels friendlier and more my pace than New York. I like being able to drive to go get groceries in my car. And I’ve had the privilege of working from home here, which has afforded me feelings of freedom and ease that I definitely don’t take for granted. I enjoy my work and I show up for it fully. I appreciate having the flexibility (at least to some degree) to work according to my own productivity cycles, rather than being forced into a specific shift that matches everyone else’s. And I love being able to work in comfy pants when I want to.
“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
― Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost
Often, we get stuck in a rut of doing things we think we “should” be doing — things our friends and family tell us to do, things our peers are doing on social media. We do things out of obligation and tradition. We do things because “that’s the way they have always been done.”
But sweetheart, you have a choice.
When we are guided only by external influences, we sacrifice our individuality and inner wisdom. We become puppets on strings, without souls.
Okay, so what does living in alignment with your values actually mean? It means living in alignment with the possibilities you imagine for yourself and the things you value as important.
Figure out how to do this and you’ll be set for life. Happy and waving your freedom flag. It’s really that simple.
I’m going to start you on your path by asking you to complete the following exercise to help you get to know yourself more intimately (awareness is the first step, sugar bun).
Go grab yourself a pen and paper (don’t be rebellious, I promise it will be worth it and far more valuable if you actually write your answers down).
THE WHAT DO I VALUE EXERCISE
What qualities do you value most in a romantic partner?
Example: loyal, playful, passionate, generous, reliable, witty sense of humor, intelligent, self-aware
What do you value when it comes to your career?
Flexible schedule (getting to work according to my own productivity cycles)
Remote (work better in my own chosen, comfortable space - being in control of temperature, wearing what’s comfortable, etc.)
Doing work that contributes to a good cause / makes a difference in people’s lives and/or the world
What qualities do you value most in friends?
Example: fun-loving, authentic, honest, bold, open-minded, can have deep conversations with me
What makes you feel the most spiritual and at peace?
Example: candles, calming music, massages, being in nature
What are your creative outlets? Things you “get lost” in, like pure joy?
Example: writing, playing guitar, karaoke with friends
How do you really feel about money?
I want enough to always be comfortable. But time, relationships, and my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing are more important to me than material things.
I want to be able to afford traveling to new places 1-2X per year, and a few bougie self-care treats like monthly massages and shopping at Whole Foods.
I want to always have a savings cushion in the bank so that I can feel that sense of security, and so that I don’t have to ever feel like I’m “stuck.”
I don’t feel the need to spend money frivolously, like on designer things. But I like buying things of high quality when it makes sense to do so, and when those things will improve my quality of life.
What forms of physical activity make you feel alive?
Example: kayaking, biking, boxing, yoga, walking or hiking through nature
What are your favorite and most nourishing forms of self-care?
Example: yoga, journaling, massage
What is most important to you in your home environment?
Example: peace, harmony, predictability, order and cleanliness
What is important to you about the location where you live?
Example: culture, open-mindedness, independent restaurants and businesses (not tons of chains), small city feeling, live music, cafes and bookstores, easy access to needed things (grocery stores, etc.), feeling like I am somewhere where there is a rich history, and also, where new things happen
All done! How did that feel? Are you currently living in alignment with most of your values, or is your current reality not serving your soul?
I recommend that you keep this exercise handy and refer back to it often. Even repeat the exercise once per month so you can watch your values evolve over time.
I promise that the clearer you get on what you value (and the more you reinforce your values to yourself), the more confident you will feel in who you are. And the more empowered you will feel to experiment with new possibilities.
Remember, your thoughts create your reality. And awareness inspires change. You are in the driver’s seat. So don’t be afraid to take that exit, even if you are the only one who sees it.
Please share your thoughts and epiphanies in the Comments section below.