by Kassandra Lamb
(Note: I first posted this at the beginning of 2014. I’m re-posting it while I’m on vacation, with an update.)
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 it a good year? Were we happy? If not, what will we do differently in the coming year?
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. I plan to address this topic next week.
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 a couple years ago.
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 (2014) 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.
2014’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.
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.
Update: I did much better in 2014, and 2015 has been a great year so far!!
How about you? What are you going to do “the rest of your life” to make yourself happy? What’s your favorite way to “stop and smell the roses” along the way?
(Note: because I’m traveling I won’t be online every day, so it may be a day or two before I respond to your comments.)
Also, I have my new book available for preorder. With two quick clicks now, it’s ordered and it will pop up on your ereader when it’s released on October 27th.
It’s on sale for a reduced price during the preorder period. Just $1.99 (goes up to $3.99 after the release).
SUICIDAL SUSPICIONS, A Kate Huntington Mystery, Book 8
Psychotherapist Kate Huntington is rocked to the core when one of her favorite clients commits suicide. How can this be? The woman, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had been swinging toward a manic state. The client’s family blames Kate and they’re threatening to sue for malpractice. She can’t fault them since she blames herself. How could she have missed the signs?
Searching for answers for herself and the grieving parents, Kate discovers some details that don’t quite fit. Is it possible the client didn’t take her own life, or is that just wishful thinking? Questioning her professional judgement, and at times her own sanity, she feels compelled to investigate. What she finds stirs up her decades-old ambivalence about the Catholic Church. Is her client’s death somehow related to her childhood parish?
When she senses that someone is following her, she wonders if she is truly losing it. Or is she getting dangerously close to someone’s secrets?
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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series and has started a new cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries (coming soon).
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Vinnie HansenSeptember 29, 2015 at 12:59 pm
Happiness is indeed an inside job! My “attitude” wrench gets used a lot!
My husband and I “practice” happiness. Part of the practice is to take time at the end of each day to acknowledge three things (each) that made us happy, or if not exactly “happy,” then any “sub-genre”–content, satisfied, appreciative. One of my yoga teachers was fond of saying that happiness starts with gratitude.
Kassandra LambOctober 12, 2015 at 6:09 pm
I love that practice, Vinnie! And yes, gratitude for what we have is a good reminder to stop and be happy about that, instead of just griping about what went wrong that day.
K.B. OwenSeptember 29, 2015 at 9:24 pm
There’s a lot of truth in this! Having kids really helps to adjust your focus.
I’m always striving for that balance between working hard for goals and enjoying the journey!
Kassandra LambOctober 12, 2015 at 6:12 pm
It’s a tough balance, Kathy. i liken it to walking on top of a thick stone wall. It’s easy to keep putting one foot in front of the other while enjoying the view, but if we get too distracted by life or those pesky goals, we can fall off the wall. Then the view’s not so great!