What is Happiness?
Some years ago I realized I was wasting my life. My businesses were quite successful, but the years were slipping by and my workaholic schedule was tearing me down. Things I loved were beginning to be too much effort. I was starting to seize up and get old.
I asked myself, what did I want from life? I knew I wanted to be happy, whatever that meant. Accumulating money and spending most of my waking hours in that pursuit wasn’t my happiness goal. I aspired to be a travel and adventure writer but couldn’t because I wasn’t traveling or adventuring. Living in a city, even one where the country was only a few minutes away, made me feel bottled up. I lost my temper easily and even though I loved my customers, I didn’t care for dealing with employees and their personal problems that boiled over into my life. When those disagreeable items came up, I asked myself, “Is this how a happy person would feel?” What was I waiting for? I had my health, all my hair, at that time, and a sailboat tied to the dock on the Oregon coast.
I decided to keep a log of what made me happy. It soon became apparent that selling my businesses and adventuring were very important items on that list. One of my longtime customers was a realtor and, thanks to her, my last business sold a year and a few months after I decided I needed to make some real changes in my life. We didn’t have pots full of money and mattresses stuff with dollar bills, but we did have enough to adventure. Maybe, if all went well, a little work here and there would allow us to fly back to visit friends and relatives from anywhere the boat was moored, and do it without dipping into our savings.
I didn’t find it necessary to do daily meditations, attend classes or answer deep and soul searching questions. My daily routine changed from daylight to dark, from work to seeing and learning new things. Being active, eating healthful food, exercising more, getting a good night’s sleep, and occasionally going beyond what I thought I was capable of, were all part of the blueprint.
Other big changes I hadn’t foreseen were in store. I thought what had been discussed over a period of years were our dreams, only to find they were my dreams. Some people are enablers and, no matter what, telling how they feel sometimes doesn’t fit their concept of reality. If we want long-term happiness, everyone needs to know the real game plan. Sailing and adventure soon wore thin for my partner of twenty-four years and we parted ways. Wonderful things happened after that, and now I find enjoyment in lying next to the one I love, listening to her peaceful breathing, planning our next adventure together, and in the knowing I’m getting the real scoop, the true feelings. Changes can’t be made if you don’t know there’s a problem.
Somewhere over the years I discovered feeling sorry for myself only made matters worse. Not that I’m up all the time or that I don’t need to vent it off, but hanging on to feeling bad only makes things worse. Carrying a grudge is the same. Get over it and get on with it.
No one is an expert the first time they try something new and challenging. The challenge can be physical, mental or spiritual. Doing well isn’t the important part, doing is. Establishing new neural pathways in the brain helps keep us from slipping into the fogs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Nowhere in my list of things to do is sitting in a room, staring at a wall and not knowing I’m alive.
Many people won’t consider going anywhere unless they can stay in the best hotel or resort, which leaves more space and places out there for me. I know I’d have missed a lot of adventures if sleeping on the ground wasn’t in my bag of things to do.
Exercise has been proven to lift the spirits and boost energy, short and long-term. The less we do, the less we feel like doing. Getting started can be difficult and staying with it can be even harder… old habits die hard. Overdoing causes burnout, start slow and work up to a comfortable place before even considering going to the next plateau.
I nag myself, that’s my prerogative, but nagging others only causes problems. If something needs to be said it should be, but going on and on creates hard feelings.
We’re all different, and so is our definition of adventure, happiness and reality. In order to find out what works for us, we may have to do something that’s out of our comfort zone. If it works, the hard part begins because we have to let entrenched habits go and get rid of our unnecessary material, physical, mental and spiritual stuff before we can continue down the new path.