Happiness is entirely in the hands of the individual. The choices we make determine our happiness or lack thereof. To find daily fulfillment at home or in life comes down to the choices we make and the paths we walk. There’s no escaping the fact that we get just one life, no matter what cats might try to tell you, so we might as well make the most of it! If you do not feel fulfilled, the only way to change is to look in the mirror, be open and honest with yourself, and make the changes needed to get to a place of contentment. You can drive from New York to San Francisco. But when you set out on that road, you don’t see California; you only see the road immediately in front of you. Don’t let the long journey intimidate you; just take the first steps on the road you are on and if you need to make a few right or left turns, have the courage to go off the beaten path and try a new road. It’s your life; make the most of it.
There are 168 hours in a week. Of that, we typically dedicate at least 40 of those hours to work; inevitably more when you include preparing for work and the two-way commute. If we’re lucky, we get at least six hours of sleep per night, although eight would be nice, so let’s allot another 50 hours each week to sleeping. That’s at least 54% of our time spent working or sleeping. If we have 168 hours per week to live our lives, and we dedicate at least 90 hours to work and sleep, that only leaves us with 46% of our time to do what we want to do. That doesn’t leave a lot of time left over to travel the world, climb that mountain, run a marathon or save the world as we said we would when we were younger, more optimistic versions of ourselves.
With this reality staring us in the face, we have two options. We can essentially give up and live in defeat or we can take life by the horns and live it the way we were meant to live it! If there’s something you truly want to accomplish in life, start by writing it down. See what it looks like on paper. Once you see your idea written down, ask yourself if this thing is doable. If the answer is yes, create an action plan. Doing a little something every day toward your goal will eventually result in your arriving at your destination. It takes awhile to drive from New York to San Francisco, but the only way to get there is one road at a time.
Part of this self-awareness process is figuring out what’s important to us. Since we’ve already figured out that we spend the majority of our time at work and at home, start by identifying if these two places are energy givers or energy suckers. If you dread going to work, or you don’t like the house or neighborhood you live in, then it’s time for some serious introspection. The key is matching your drivers, also known as motivators or values, with the things you do most. If you do things you enjoy doing, it will give you energy rather than take energy from you. The more energy you get, the more productive you will be. It becomes a positive cycle.
Here are some considerations to think about as you dive deeply into self-awareness.
- Freedom versus structure: If you are someone who appreciates freedom to make your own schedule and chart your own course and you find yourself in a very structured job, maybe it’s time to update that resume. Some people thrive on routine while others despise it. Which sounds more like you?
- Harmony versus function: If you love the outdoors and simply can’t get enough sun on any given day, but you work in a windowless building, you may be in the wrong setting. The opposition between these two forces can cause stress at work, at home or even internally. If you value the experience rather than the functionality of a situation, be sure you spending enough time in that type of setting. Even if your job doesn’t provide this outlet, you need to be sure you make up for that during your non-work time to keep internal balance.
- Need versus necessity to learn: Some people can’t put down a book; they just love to learn. Others are driven to learn only what they need to in order to successfully execute a project or do a job. Though these are totally different ways of addressing knowledge, you want to be sure you are in a job that favors your preferred style. A professor will want to learn as much as they can about as many things as they can while an air conditioner installer may be content to become a master of all things relating to the air conditioning unit, but not have any drive to dive deeply into the study of English literature, for example.
- Performing tasks versus return on investment: Are you driven by the satisfaction of completing a job for the sake of completion or are you always thinking about the bottom line? A stock broker is probably not interested in the amount of clients they speak with in a given day as much as they are interested in what return on investment they were able to provide for their clients. Whereas, a machinist may have a goal of producing a certain amount of pieces and their entire workday is predicated on completing that task and meeting that goal. On which side of this “utility” continuum do you find yourself?
- Purpose versus general: When it comes to others, do you look to help people for a specific purpose or do you just look to help people? Do you hope for some sort of future return because of the help you provided? While a social worker will get their satisfaction helping as many people as possible, a tradesman will find satisfaction in helping an apprentice, for example, knowing the apprentice is learning for a specific purpose; a purpose that may benefit the mentor in the future. Which side of this continuum does your job represent?
- Collaboration versus control: When you think about your work environment, do you find yourself happy being part of a team and contributing in a meaningful way, without the need for public recognition? Or, do you tend to take control of a situation so you can control your own destiny and create your own personal freedom? Do you like recognition for your accomplishments? If you prefer control, you will likely not be happy long term being a collaborating member of a team. The same can be said for the team player who doesn’t like the spotlight or prefers not to be in charge. Take a look at your current role and decide whether or not you are properly aligned with the drivers that determine who you are and why you are that way.
Our society continues to move at a faster and faster pace. We rarely take the time to slow down. But taking time every so often, especially time to do some real introspection, will help us determine if we are on the right path. Taking this time will help us find balance and happiness. Think about the six examples above, and how each topic has two very different sides, and figure out where you fall into each of those areas. And, if you find that your work, home or social life is not aligned with the things that drive you, it may very well be the reason for stress, unhappiness and lack of productivity in your life. Only you can control your own destiny, and if you aren’t living the life of your dreams right now, you have the ability to take control and change that outcome. Take your first step toward change today.