Happiness is an Inside Job

Happy New Year 2014

(photo by Sridhar Gutam, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

The beginning of a new year is a time to look at where we’ve been over the last twelve months, and where we’re going during the next twelve. Was 2013 a good year? Were we happy? If not, what will we do differently in 2014?

Because happiness is the bottom line!

During my career as a psychotherapist I saw far too many people who were waiting to live, waiting to be happy, until they had achieved a certain goal. “Once I make X amount of money/become vice president of my company/raise brilliant, well-adjusted kids, etc. then I can be happy.” But life is not just about the final destination when we’ve achieved our goals; it’s also about the journey.

Those years of helping others figure out why they were unhappy and what they needed to do about it taught me that happiness is an inside job. Don’t get me wrong. Achieving our goals, obtaining a certain level of success–in whatever way we define it–is important too. But that alone will not make one happy.

The happiness or unhappiness caused by external things is fleeting. Ongoing happiness comes from within and is strongly influenced by two things. One is self-esteem–whether or not we feel worthy of being happy. This is a big topic that I plan to talk about more on this blog during the coming year.

But today I want to focus on the other factor–taking responsibility for our own happiness and making a point of  doing what we want to be doing on a daily basis. This is the one that was out of kilter in my life in 2013

pciture of a happy man

(photo by Geo Pradeep–self-portrait of a happy man)

I used to be really good about stopping every few hours and asking myself what I really wanted to be doing at that point in time. Note: I am not advocating shirking one’s responsibilities. What I ‘had’ to do was always factored in there, but I would try to balance it with periods of time each day when I was doing what I really wanted to be doing, i.e., what made me happy in that moment.

Another way of putting all this is that while we need to plan for and work toward our future goals, we also need to live in the present. But in 2013, I got caught up in living for the future. I kept thinking that if I could just work really hard today, I’d get enough of the pesky ‘haftas’ out of the way that I could have fun tomorrow. Sadly, the next day would have it’s own list of pesky ‘haftas’ and I’d find myself working long and hard again that day, and the next day and the next.

As 2013 was winding down and I finally got a major goal accomplished, it dawned on me that I’d spent an entire year of my life waiting to be happy. I know better!

Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I’d do a better job of time management, so I would have adequate time to write and edit–the parts of my job as an author that I really enjoy. I was fairly successful at doing that. I finished a novel and a short story, got both polished and published, and wrote the first draft of a novella. However, I worked 12 to15-hour days, 6 to 7 days a week to do it. I was so focused on the goals I’d set for myself in my writing career that I stopped focusing on being happy.

So this year I’m going to back off a bit on those goals. They’re still important and I’ll get them done. But I’m not going to be able to hustle for a few days or weeks or even months and get them all done and then I can relax and be happy. There will always be a new list of ‘haftas’ related to those goals, so I need to take some time to be happy, to stop and smell the roses more often along the way.

This year’s resolution: focus on one goal at a time, spend a reasonable amount of time each week working toward that goal, and every day spend some time doing exactly what I want to do that will make me happy that day.

picute of a rose

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES!!

There’s a reason why sayings like “today is the first day of the rest of your life” and “stop and smell the roses” have become clichés.There’s truth in them.

How about you? What are you going to do this next year of the rest of your life to make yourself happy? What’s your favorite way to ‘stop and smell the roses’ along the way?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

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11 thoughts on “Happiness is an Inside Job

  1. shannon esposito

    So true. I think this is why I’m happier in my forties than in my twenties, because I’ve slowed down and done the inner work to figure out what I need to be happy. This year, I’m going to pay more attention to my yoga practice and spend more time on the mat. I know it’s the foundation of contentment for me, but last year, between writing goals and health problems, it was almost non-existent. So, yes… balance and paying attention to your own needs. Namaste 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      It is so easy to get knocked off track by life, and especially health problems. So glad you’re getting back into what brings you contentment, Shannon!

      Reply
  2. Karen McFarland

    Why do we torment ourselves like we do Kassandra? We’re all guilty of it. We all pile endless things on our to do lists, make huge goals that are virtually impossible to keep and then we’re left to feel like a failure. For me it’s my health. If I wait to feel better then I’ll be happy. Well, I’ve been waiting a long time. But I like the one goal at a time strategy. And I am looking forward to your happiness and self-worth posts because I think we all struggle with this. Glad to have you back girl! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Karen. It’s good to be back!

      I have some chronic health issues too. It took me quite awhile to realize that I needed to let go of the body of the past and accept the body of the present, with all its problems. It’s tough, however, on those days when my energy is in the sub-zero range. (I’m thinking I should give myself permission on those days to just sit on my duff and read a good book! I can tell myself I’m resting up for the next day 🙂 )

      What’s the prognosis with your health problems? Is it going to get better, or is this the new normal?

      Reply
  3. Shan Jeniah Burton

    Kassandra,

    I love this post. It makes me happy that you are embracing happiness. =)

    2014 is my year of discovery. This winter, I am focusing on play. For each season, I’ll have a new focus, but all of them will be about joy, and peace, and becoming more freely me.

    I’ve tried to shift those ‘haftas’, by framing them as choices. I don’t have to wash dishes; I wash dishes so that we will have clean ones to eat from. I don’t need to write the homeschool reports; I do them because the way we live is amazing, and worth the effort…

    I’ve had trouble with accepting the inevitable chaos of our lives. So, this year, I am shifting my blogging focus a bit, to find and share the positives even in that, so that I can enjoy the process of my two now-big kids becoming adults, as these last years of their childhoods unroll before us.

    Sending you chuckles and grins and all the joy you can hold – and then a little more! =D

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      I do so love your perspective, Shan! And I really like the reframes on the haftas. Connecting them to the payoff for doing them definitely makes us happier to do them. Thanks so much for stopping by!!

      Reply
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  6. Lynn Kelley

    Hi Cassandra! Good post and so very true. I’m quite happy most of the time these days. Just always dealing with fatigue from caring for the grand babies full time. They keep me laughing. My middle daughter is here today, giving me a little break. I’m hoping to get back to blogging this week. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Hi, Lynn. Thanks for stopping by! ! I know what you mean about fatigue. It can definitely be an impediment to maintaining happiness. I’ve had a bit of a struggle learning to pace myself. Some days I’m pretty good at it, others…

      Reply
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