We get what we work for. Every time.
We are who we tell ourselves we are. Without fail.
There is infinite power between our two ears. More than we can even imagine.
I may have fallen off the running wagon over the past year, but I still remember all the work that goes into preparing for a half-marathon. Having worked my way through Couch to 5K and then Couch to 10K, I was ready to set new goals. After setting my sights on a half-marathon, I researched the proper gear, I read books on training, I incrementally increased the miles I ran every day, I set a regular routine, I managed myself mentally through self-talk during the run, I found music that best matched my pace, and I talked with friends and family about running to get tips from them. It was a lot of work, but without these steps, I would not have been successful.
We know that to accomplish a goal like running a half-marathon, we need to train. We accept that it will be a lot of work and take a laser-like focus.
Do we work just as hard for other goals? Do we train in the same way to create our own happiness? Or does happiness just fall into our laps?
True confession: Happiness does not come naturally for me.
I have to train for happiness just like I trained for the half-marathon. It doesn’t just fall from the sky for me.
I read books on happiness and living effectively. I set goals and I research the right tools. I talk about creating happiness with friends and family. I manage myself mentally through self-talk about gratitude. I find music that inspires me when I need a boost. It is a lot of work, but without these steps, I would not be able to create my own happiness. And, I would not be the person I want to be for the people I love.
Here are a few tips to help us on our Couch to Happiness journey:
- Surround yourself with people who also work hard to create their own happiness, both in your daily face-to-face life and on social media. My friends, my family, and my colleagues are sources of inspiration. They recommend songs, podcasts, and books and they share the strategies that help them so that I am constantly learning about new tools that help support my happiness. I have an incredibly uplifting PLN on Twitter, Voxer, Facebook, Instagram, etc. who help me think about things in new ways. In fact, a discussion about morning routines with my Women in Educational Leadership Voxer group lead to a new twist on the next happiness strategy.
- Be careful what you fill your head with when you wake up. To help me focus on the positive, to start the day out with light, to be grateful for the day ahead of me, to help me be the person who everyone around me deserves, my happiness work starts within minutes of opening my eyes. I listen to my favorite playlist, I listen to inspiring podcasts like “Happier with Gretchen Rubin“, or I listen to morning motivation YouTube videos like this one introduced to me by Lisa Dabbs in my #WELvoxer group. Getting reminded about the power of what follows “I am…” first thing in the morning is so empowering. Hearing that every day is a gift and that I get to chose to make it a good day helps me start the day with a positive mindset.
- Accomplish stuff like a boss. It might be pretty insignificant accomplishments like making your bed or helping your child set out clothes for the morning, but we feel so much better about ourselves when we are checking even small things off our mental to-do list. When I am feeling low, I turn on my uplifting music and get stuff done. It works like magic, soon I am feeling better and in control again. An example of this is Gretchen Rubin’s “one-minute rule“–if you think of something you need to accomplish and it takes just one minute or less to do it, do it right then. I timed how long it takes me to make my bed and it is about two minutes, but it is so worth it. There is just something about a made bed that helps us feel accomplished and disciplined, as we learn from Admiral William McRaven.
- Make a New Year’s Playlist instead of a New Year’s Resolution. This year, I made a New Year’s Playlist and I have never been as mentally focused on my goals throughout the year. My focus for this year is to take the road less traveled, and there are two parts to my focus…to be okay with who I am and to celebrate others’ successes as if they were my own. I shared my idea with family, friends, colleagues, and my PLN and throughout the year, they have suggested songs to add to my playlist. It is full of music that lifts my heart and soul and reminds me of the person I want to be every day. These songs literally change my mental disposition. I made a Spotify playlist with most of the songs on my playlist to share them with you.
- Do not feel guilty for feeling bad. Nobody is ALWAYS happy. Feeling bad does not mean that you are a happiness failure, it means that you feel bad for that moment or for that day. Part of the beautiful human experience is the spectrum of emotions that we are blessed to have. There are no incredible highs without desperate lows. So, allow yourself to feel bad, peel the onion to figure out why you are feeling that way, and focus on the parts you can control. If you are struggling to move past your bad feelings, see number 3. Try as hard as you can to give yourself grace and to not layer guilt on top of your bad feelings. Everybody feels bad sometimes, even our happiness role-models.
- Accept that everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have. We all are on this journey together and we have some of the same basic goals. We would like to feel good about ourselves and enjoy life, but we are all at different places in the journey. We each look at life with different lenses because we all have different experiences, different strengths and weaknesses, and we all have different information. We are doing the best we can to accomplish our goals with the information we have. Give the same grace you give yourself to the people around you and don’t take their behavior personally. 99% of the time it has nothing to do with you.
I stopped running about a year ago. Now that I am not training my body to run, guess what happens when I try to go for a run? I struggle. I have to start my training over with that same laser-like focus to get back into shape for a half-marathon. The same thing happens when we stop our happiness training, we fall off the wagon, we lose our habits, and we have to start again. Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life, and just like with everything else, it takes work, dedication, and focus. These strategies help us train ourselves to be happy every day of the year.
What strategies would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the comments so we can learn from you.
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.