How can I be happy? It’s a question almost everyone asks at one time or another. Some daily. But so many of us hear a voice inside saying “I can’t” as soon as we even dare to think about happiness, and living life in a way that might truly lead us to being happy. I don’t have the talent. I don’t have the money. I could never make THAT happen for me!
Basically, we are saying “I don’t deserve happiness. I don’t deserve to dream so big.” And yet others dare all the time – and many many people get to do what some of us only dream about. Even if it turns out somewhat differently from their initial image of what happiness might mean.
Yesterday a friend asked me “What would you do if there was nothing stopping you?” Immediately I ran my list in my head. I have physical conditions that would get in the way. I don’t have enough talent. How would I earn a living? I’m too old. What if I got there and didn’t want it after all? Blah. Blah. Blah.
Do We Stop Ourselves from Dreaming of Happiness?
I couldn’t even let myself say the words of what would make me happy out loud to my friend! Good lord…is just dreaming so scary??
It struck me that I had nothing to lose by saying what I wanted. First thing out of my mouth was “If there was absolutely nothing to stop me (including myself) I’d be a character actress.” Hah. I said it. Why was it so hard? I majored in acting in college and dabbled with it at various points of my life. It’s something I LOVE to do. And yet I stopped. Because it felt silly. Because I wasn’t good enough. (As if I ever let myself go all the way with it.) And it wasn’t important enough. (On whose scale of importance?)
But wait. It didn’t stop there. After my friend left, I really let myself fly free. I love to act. And I love to sing. But I also love to produce. And write. And help bring hope to people. And make people smile. And coach. And help dreams be born. And of course, love and be loved.
Wow. That’s a lot of stuff to choose from. And there’s no reason to have to just settle on one. These are all pieces of who I am and what I bring to whatever I do. No matter where I am or what I’ve done in my life (even when I was an IT project manager and kept asking myself how I got there), I bring all of this with me. All the creativity. All the caring. All the beliefs in possibility.
And when I see myself as only the job I am doing, whether it’s taking on a role or label such as business process consultant or project manager or actress or work coach or writer, I am not giving myself enough room to breathe and shine. Whatever I do to earn money, I am always all those pieces – and also so much more. Sometimes I forget how wonderful that is.
Why am I Sharing All This?
Because I know many of you are a lot like me. And so I want to remind all of us…we are whole, full, richly-endowed beings who are much MUCH more than any job or label we take on. We bring our full selves to whatever we do. And usually, there are three basic things that stop us from getting to where we want to be: (1) our own self-limiting belief systems, including “I don’t deserve” or “I can’t”; (2) being bound by labels; and (3) a lack of imagination as to where our talents and skills can really shine.
Let’s go back to my desire to be an actress. That’s not the same as “I want to be a star.” I never did. But I do love to perform and entertain. I also love to help people and nurture dreams. And let’s not forget, I love to write. How can I do all that and still earn money?
Well, of course I could pursue any and all of them individually. (And I still might!) That would be cool. If something calls strongly, I believe we have to follow – or at least start to explore – the call. Other pieces we can’t even imagine will show up once we follow a path we love.
But sometimes, like with me, we hear more than one thing that calls to us and it gets confusing. What should we be? Isn’t there a “right” path for us?
Happiness Starts Inside
Well, maybe the “right” thing is simply to get to know who we really are and let each aspect come out to play and shine. In my case, for example, I’ve had a lifetime of pursuing things I love, and I encourage each of you to do that, even if you fail…and maybe to show yourself it’s ok to fail. And now, I am lucky enough to have a bushel full of skills and talents to choose from at any point, wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Those things we’ve gained stay inside, ready to come forward when called!
Honestly, I don’t think there is any ONE thing for me or anyone. I think there are many places we can land and still find happiness. Although some things do feel more right than others, and we might as well go after them. This is where trusting and honoring our instincts can make a huge difference.
Considering all my interests and skills, one thing I could decide to do is use them to create fun workshops that help people find their own dreams – and at the same time let me follow mine. This would also help me to get back to my book about work that almost got published (until I pulled out of the process when I heard I would need to get out there and sell my own book.) “I can’t do that!” I said to myself. Overcoming fear is a big theme in my life. I know I’m not alone here.
Hmmm…a way to do it all? Could this be??? And, by the way, there’s no reason I can’t still combine this idea with a more direct pursuit of any other thing I truly love. If the heart calls, why not answer? The actual shape will be determined once we start.
But what if I really can’t do any of that??? What if I’d be bad at it? What if I get stage fright? What if people hate my workshops? What if my book never even sells one copy???
But then again…what if I can?!!
Post script: I think the saddest thing that happens to us is closing off possibilities. Our educational system is notorious for this. And so are some parents, who mean well; they just don’t want to see us unemployed or lacking all the things they want for us. But what about what we want for ourselves???
I’m not suggesting anyone should follow their dreams to the point of being out on the street. (Although some successful people have done that.) Personally, I’ve found it very useful to have jobs that pay my rent. But when I see young people, just graduating college, already choosing to limit themselves by taking the higher paying job they don’t especially want just to be “practical”, well that makes me sad.
With all those years ahead of them, they are choosing to be “practical”. What crap! What a loss to society. Oh…I know they have loans to pay off, but this is their lives! If there is a choice of jobs, I would strongly encourage they take the one that calls to them the most.
Happiness Can be Larger than the Individual Parts
Each person who closes off a piece of themselves (and I’m not just talking about young people) is not only denying themselves happiness, but also helping create a less-vibrant society. I think it’s how so many workplaces got to be so GRAY and dull and rule-laden. People have much more to give than a lot of our societal designs allow for.
At least we as individuals can choose to live our own lives with a fuller, richer vision for ourselves and for what humanity can be. As for changing society as a whole, well…that’s a pretty big goal for us to take on, isn’t it?
On the other hand…what if we can???
Final thought: What would you do if there was nothing stopping you?