Are You Happy?

By Nick • November 26, 2013

What is success? Is it money? Is it a good job? These questions never really crossed my mind until recently. I’ve been through twelve years of school and four more years of college. Throughout high school, classes began to feel like an annoyance, and just a road bump for my life to get started. I figured I would just keep my head down and push through. I couldn’t wait to get out. After all the exams and standard tests, I applied and got into college.

Once in college, I was told to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. So, on a whim I elected to major in business and go from there. Throughout my years in college, we took many classes to be successful. No one explained what success really was, but we were all supposed to know what it means. Classes came and went, study sessions and late night cramming filled many nights, stressed filled exams were the norm and each semester became more agonizing than the previous. I kept my head down and pushed through. College became another road bump and was just another obstacle before my life could get started, or so I thought. I couldn’t wait to graduate and get a job. Near graduation, I went on a few interviews and got a golden opportunity to intern at a large global technology company in my field of study. I couldn’t wait. I figured I would keep my head down, do my job and then wait for life to get going.

But during that particular interview, my world was shaken to the core. The interviewer was an older man, grey splashes throughout his dark hair, and deep circles beneath his eyes. Back and forth we went; I provided my rehearsed answers and tried to sound as “professional” as I could. He gave me his background of all the previous jobs he’s hopped around. It was the standard stuff. Then he threw me a curve ball, something I wasn’t prepared to answer.

He asked, “You know what I like to ask young folks that come here? If money or work didn’t matter, not one bit, what would you do? What’s your passion? What makes you happy?” I stared at him blankly. He quickly replied that I didn’t have to answer, and that it’s a question that he likes to make young people think about. The interview went well, and I was hired later that week. But something changed. I had to think long and hard about that question. No one has ever asked me what I wanted to do, and what made me happy. I know this might sound dramatic, but I realized I had no answer… and it deeply bothered me. I felt like a horse with blinders on, and I was going through life just staring and dreaming ahead. I kept thinking about that question. What makes me happy? That’s what scared me. Everyone thinks they know themselves, but do we really? I couldn’t explain this euphoric moment of realization, but it was powerful. I became self-aware. I realized I wasn’t happy, and I basically was a zombie just cruising through life. Immediately, I began to notice all the little things; like how the wind tossed the leaves back and forth on my street. How they crunched beneath my feet as I kicked them up in the air. Food tasted better, the wind blowing through my hair felt stronger, and the sky itself seemed larger. Most importantly, I felt alive. I was a grateful human being on this earth, air flowed into my lungs, and I began to appreciate everything in my life.

I realized success was such a subjective word. Success really is defined by your happiness. It took some time to understand myself, to understand why I do the things that I do, and to answer that question. What makes me happy? Many things made me happy, and I now have been pursing those many things. For one, I realized I had a hidden passion in writing. I loved to write back in high school and even in college, but I put it aside so I can get a “real” job and to be an “adult.” I began to write again, short stories and am currently working on a novel and wow – does it feel great.

So, you probably think I’m rambling on and you’re probably saying, “Ok. So you’re happy. Good for you.” But what I really wanted to tell those reading this is this: Take off your blinders. Being happy doesn’t just come. It takes practice and self-awareness. So, here are three quick and helpful tips to improve your life.

1) Define happiness – everyone has a different definition. Think about it. It might instantly pop into your head or it might take days, weeks, or longer. But if you understand yourself and chase what YOU want and treasure, success immediately follows. I’m a firm believer in writing things down. Go ahead and put it on paper. Review this periodically and ask yourself by your definition – am I happy?

2) Write your eulogy – yes, seriously. A professor once told me this as an exercise to help better define my life goals. I blew it off. But it came back to me. At the end of your life, what do you want to be remembered for? The answer might surprise you and deter you from previous "goals". You get to find out what really is important to you.

3) List out what you’re grateful for – this really can shift your mood anytime of the day. One thing I have been doing each night, is whispering to myself all the things I’m grateful for. It’s a little practice just for me. After I’m finished, I always feel better about the day’s daily struggles. Yeah, your boss yelled at you, but you have a job and a car which is much more than most people have on this earth.

So in conclusion, my blinders came off during an interview and I'm so happy it did. Life is great. It's a gift. When you realize that, you realize how free and awesome it is to be walking this earth. We’re all visitors. We’re born and then we die. I’m sure as hell going to make the best of my time here. And to steal a quote from Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Good luck to everyone.

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