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From Atta-Girl to Happiness & the Key to Life

What makes you happy? It’s a question I’ve come to realize is the primary guide for many of us as we make choices, both big and small, in our daily lives.

Sometimes the happiness we seek is found through immediate gratification, such as when deciding whether to have just one more glass of wine (knowing we’ll pay for it later). In other more mindful moments, we recognize happiness is the long-term outcome of perhaps less enjoyable tasks we must first complete. (ie. Tackling the sink full of dishes right after dinner in order to enjoy a clean kitchen the next morning … or reorganizing the nasty storage closet so we can find what we need later.)

Happiness - The Key to LifeOn a deeper level, the pursuit of happiness plays an important role in how and where we choose to focus our life’s work, particularly in the choice of careers. The trick is to figure out just where that happiness is coming from, preferably at a young enough age that we still have time to experience it.

Sounds easy, but I know for me personally, this has been a lesson that’s taken a big chunk of my 40-plus years to figure out. I’m now beginning to understand that this process of defining what really makes me happy was behind my multiple changes in majors back in college, followed by a string of interesting but quite varied career roles, and even mostly likely my choice to divorce and remarry.

Throughout the process, I’ve made a transition from doing what I think would make other people happy to figuring out and pursuing what truly makes ME happy. It’s a process, however, that requires conscious effort to keep feelings of guilt at bay resulting largely from that misguided notion that doing what’s best for yourself is somehow an act of selfishness.

Yes, putting your own happiness ahead of others CAN be selfish if done at their expense. But as Gretchin Rubin points out in her awesome book, The Happiness Project, seeking and actually finding happiness for ourselves benefits everyone around us, provided doing so doesn’t directly harm others in some way. Think of it this way… would you rather be around someone happy? Or someone who seems miserable with life and everything in it?

I’m happy to say that my own pursuit will soon result in a change to my current employment situation – beginning next month, I will drop down to half-time in my position as an employment specialist with the State of Montana, freeing up more time for Webtiste, my latest entrepreneurial venture and so far, a source of a great deal of personal fulfillment and happiness. The creative process of putting together a new website or marketing plan generates a ton of happy feelings for me … and sharing the results with others, especially the person for whom I did the work, makes me even happier.

Atta-Girl PostcardIt also makes me happy to share that I’ve finally taken action on something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a teenager. As a seventh grader, I took second place in the county spelling bee and as a result, had what was probably my first achievement-related photo in our town’s newspaper.  That alone felt pretty cool, but the part that made it especially memorable was the “Atta-Girl” postcard and clipping I received in the mail a few days later from a local businesswoman.

I realize now my special delivery was probably at least partly motivated by a smart marketing plan, but nevertheless, it made a huge impact on me as a kid and it’s an act I’ve always wanted to replicate in my own way. When I discovered John Lennon’s quote about happiness and life, it resonated with me so strongly that I decided to design a postcard featuring that quote. I now have a stack of those postcards sitting near my desk. When I hear or read about someone taking courageous steps toward their own pursuit of happiness, I grab a postcard, jot them a message and send them their own personal “atta-girl” (or boy). It makes me feel happy when I do it … and hopefully brings a smile to the face of the recipient when they receive it.

Do you know someone who might enjoy receiving one of those postcards? Email me their story and mailing address and I’d be happy to send one their way on your behalf!

I’d also love to hear YOUR thoughts on the pursuit of happinesswould you like to share?