I’ve found myself thinking about and discussing the concept of happiness a lot lately. It’s a concept that I find super interesting because it is something that is so highly sought after, while also being something that can be so hard to attain. Unfortunately, there are many people in our world today who find themselves unhappy. More specifically, there are many 20 somethings out there who are unhappy, and are not really sure why. On paper, our lives might look great. Many of us have just finished or are in the process of finishing undergraduate or graduate degrees. Many of us are getting our first jobs and joining the workforce. Many of us are living on our own for the first time, with an abundance of new found independence. We may be in new places with new friends, having new experiences, and yet still somehow there is that feeling of lacking. This is a time to be filled with joy, yet for some of us, that feeling seems so far off.
I can’t even begin to express how many times I’ve heard some variation of the line “everything in my life is going so well, but still I’m not happy, I should be happy”. It’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in what we think our lives should look like, but it is so unreasonable for us to assume that just because we can check the boxes, means that those same boxes will bring us joy. Maybe you’re one of those people right now who’s thinking I’m finishing my degree, while having a successful season in my sport, and still I’m not happy. Maybe for you it’s I just secured a high paying job and am renting my own apartment, and still my life is not filled with joy. None of this is to say that being successful in school, or in work, or in life will not make you happy, but it is to say that there is no guarantee. This is because success does not equate to happiness. We can be the most successful people out there, and somehow joy has still managed to evade us. We can check all the boxes, degree, job, relationship, friends, and still manage to be unfulfilled. Trust me, this one I learned the hard way. So then what? If none of these things that we thought would guarantee joy and happiness bring us to them, how does one attain such feelings? This is certainly not a novel question. No, this is a question humans have been trying to answer for a while now, but here is my take. Prioritize.
These last few months have been really great for me. I’ve felt grounded, present, and happy. This has been really exciting for me after coming out of a time when I didn’t feel these things, but it was not without effort. In order to get to this place, I had to make some very intentional changes in my life. The biggest and most significant change I made was prioritizing my happiness, and every change I made thereafter stemmed from this one. I got to the point where I was so frustrated with not being happy that I made it my one and only goal. I made the decision that my happiness would come before all else. I decided it would come before long standing relationships, a high paying job and the pressure to “have it all together” right now. The changes I made in my life consisted of a job change, pulling myself out of toxic relationships and just learning to let go of the things that are out of my control. These changes brought with them new found time and freedom, but this was time and freedom that I needed to find a way to fill. With happiness being priority number one, I went out searching for new things to fill my time that would bring me joy. This my friends is the part that took some real effort. We sometimes get to a point in our lives where we’re not entirely sure what will bring us joy. I think when we reach this point we can start to get lazy. The “woe is me” mentality can kick in and it can be very difficult to find the strength to search for joy. If, and more likely, when you reach this point, please don’t give in. Instead, work tirelessly to seek joy and to find happiness. Happiness is not a guarantee; joy is not a guarantee. Society wants to fool us into believing that happiness is the standard and I truly believe that this is simply not the case. We don’t just get to go about our lives and get to be happy just because.
Search for it, seek it out, find it, create it
Joy is not given, joy is earned. There will be times in your life when it will come easily and there will be times in your life when it will be more elusive than you can ever imagine. So today I implore you, if this resonates with you, if you’re sitting here reading this and thinking “yeah I’m not happy right now” go out and search for something that makes you happy. Search for it, seek it out, find it, create it, and above all else be relentless with it. We work so very hard to get our degrees, to excel in our sport, to be successful, so why are we not putting that same effort into something as important as our own joy?
This is a message that has been on my heart for a little while now and I’m so excited to finally have the chance to put it into words. Prioritizing my happiness and putting it above all else is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I know that when I am happy I am at my very best. When I am happy I am my most productive self and I have the ability to give abundantly more to others. Research shows that it is not success that breeds happiness but rather happiness that breeds success. I’m sure you would not be shocked to know that as of late, I have been more successful in every facet of my life than I have been in a long while.
If you’ve stayed with me long enough to get to this point, I encourage you to find what makes you happy and do more of it. If you’re not sure where to start your search try reading a book, journaling, going for a run, or doing yoga. If any or all of these fail, make a new list and try again. Be relentless with it. Search for and find what makes you happy to be alive, because at the end of the day we are all living, but only some of us are happy to be here.