Wow, that is an ambitious title if I have ever seen one. The truth is – well, I don’t know. I just do not. Knowing what makes us happy and why it does, and where it all comes from is probably one of the biggest mysteries of life; and one for neurobiologists on top of that. But during all the years I have spent struggling to realize who I am and what I want (still a work in progress), I have found two very good ways of telling ‘I think I want something’ from ‘I definitely want this’ and it would be a shame not to share this trick, wouldn’t it?
After all, we’ve all been there. Fooling ourselves into thinking that we have just found our be all, end all goal in life; or aspiring to a dream that was never ours in the first place. Thinking we know what makes us happy and knowing what makes us happy are two very different things. One could argue all this time pursuing false desires is not wasted after all – it teaches us valuable lessons, right? But then again, we could actually be chasing the rabbit we want to cuddle. Just saying.
Step 1: Enjoying the journey
I have been in denial on this topic too, trust me; everyone has been guilty of a little misunderstanding of what our dreams actually are. Because, you see, we often run towards vague goals, telling ourselves that once we’re there, all the bad will be past. 9 out of 10 times it just doesn’t.
I think I told you guys the story of a guy I used to know that really wanted to be in a rock band. I tell this story all the time, like a broken record, but that is simply because it is such a good one (and none of my other friends are crazy enough to provide more examples). You see, once I met a guy who really wanted to be a rock star. Like crazy. It was his life goal, something he wanted more than anything. So he joined a band, as one would expect him to do. There was a big but, of course. He hated it.
And it’s not like at the end of the road, after years of being in a band one hates and performing, and working hard for one’s success, all that is left are groupies and cocaine. One day he could be a rock star – but he’d be still in a band. Being a rock star IS being in a rock band of a sort. It IS performing. Sure, there are some bonuses to that, but if it is the extras that you are in it for, not the process, well, you don’t want it.
Exercise is a good example as well. Lots of us crave being fit; we want to feel healthy and in control of ourselves and good looking too, if that’s something you’re into. But some of us also hate exercising. I’ve seen people pushing themselves through days and days of running, for example, and hoping than one day, when they’re fit, they will have a rest. Surprise, everyone – physical fitness is not something one achieves once then can rest, being forever fit.
I guess that’s why we describe some of these dreams as lifestyle choices rather than goals; the journey towards them never ends. Fitness is more-or-less recognized as such by most of us; yet there are still so many of these dreams, these wants that we believe will suddenly change our lives forever… So many it can be quite a minefield to navigate through.
Step 2: Not looking for excuses
Let’s put it out straight from the start – I am a master of excuses.
If there were an Excuse Olympics, I wouldn’t even have to go; they’d email me my reward beforehand as they would realize I’d be too lazy to get out of bed. I wouldn’t care for the award. I’ve never been an award kind of person. But bed – that’s a different story.
If someone offered me a full chill and do nothing afternoon in bed – nothing would stop me from accepting that. The world could fall apart around me and someone could release a wave of zombies in my back garden (and I don’t even have a garden!), and I swear, I’d be taking my chill afternoon in bed anyway. I would. NOTHING could stop me.
That is precisely how I detect whether I want something or not – I check if I have any excuses not to do it.
When it comes to things irrelevant or vaguely nice, I am often too tired, or too ill, or too busy, or too unhappy, or… When it comes to things that I really really want, I can push myself through anything.
I believe that’s the way for all of us: what makes us happy jumps straight up to the top of our priority list. Sure, I push myself through plenty of things I would rather not do – but I always find myself trying to, at least in my mind, weasel myself out of them at the first possible opportunity. Things I want? No way.
I remember one not-very-sunny Friday afternoon when I got home rather… ghoulish and barely moving any of my limbs at all. One of the things my boyfriend said that day stuck in my mind till know. He kind of looked at me half-disgusted half-worried and went: You really do like ballet, don’t you? And you know what? I really do.
Ballet makes me happy.
I think I’d walk through a lava lake to get to a ballet class – so although that same week I got myself out of a few other commitments because I felt very unwell, I kept this one. Through good and through bad, right?
What makes us happy makes us do the extraordinary. It makes us push our boundaries. It makes us try even if we are too tired to continue. It gives us motivation to move forward. And although, to put it bluntly, it is probably like re-discovering America (I really need a blog post on Polish sayings, they are wonderful), it is a simple truth that took me so long to wrap my head around.
Far too long, if I am to be honest. There are things I have been talked into abandoning before because apparently they were just bleeding me out. Maybe at that time and that place, yes, they were too much on top of my other duties. But they were the ones that kept me going. They were the ones that made me happy. They were the ones to stay.
I guess one question remains – what makes YOU happy?
On an unrelated note – it is almost my birthday! I am going away to Malta for a bit, and although I planned to have something prepared for the blog while I am away… well… I kind of got ill and fell behind on everything; sorry! I hope to see you again on the 8th of October, a year older and a year wiser as well (a girl can dream)!
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