My mother-in-law is an incredible inspiration to me. She has an accomplished list of honors, publications, speeches, and other accolades I could go on and on about. When I have the opportunity to speak with her, we often talk business. As our conversation meanders, she challenges my current line of thinking in the best of ways. One of my favorite questions she often asks me is, “Compared to what?” This is truly a profound question that has undoubtedly changed the outcome of several situations in my life. It is relevant to ask and answer under so many circumstances. Today, I’m asking you about happiness— an elusive and subjective topic.
Happiness in Simple Terms
At its very simplest definition, happiness is “the state of being happy.”
Are you happy? Are you truly, really happy? Whatever your answer is, I challenge you to ask yourself, “Compared to what?” So simple and yet…not.
I read a quote many, many years ago that resonated with me deeply that said happiness is a journey, not a destination. I believe this, and I remind myself of it daily. As an overachiever who pushes hard and drives fast in life, sometimes it feels unattainable. I have evaluated my state of happiness often throughout my life. As I reflect upon it now, my twenties were my happiest, most carefree days. I was single, had plenty of money to do what I wanted with, and, relatively speaking, very little responsibility. My career was flourishing. I had a ton of friends. Life was fun. And then, I got married.
Test of Faith
It took me a long time to figure out I wasn’t happy in my marriage. Choosing to leave was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. It was a decision made in the ultimate test of faith, as ironic as that may sound. I made it on the belief that while I could have believed I was “happy” in my marriage, I thought I could be happier outside of it. There wasn’t someone else. There wasn’t something else. There was only faith. And as the universe would have it, I was right. In fact, I had no idea how much happier I could be.
Happiness from Within
At the end of the day, the only person you can truly make happy is you. As women, we tend to be people pleasers and try to make everyone in our world happy, often at the expense of ourselves. We try to make our parents, grandparents, children, friends, spouses, neighbors, employers, and employees happy. We try and try, but if we are not happy, we cannot live our best life and share the gifts we have to give. There is a whole lot of truth to “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.”
When you are truly happy, all those people enjoy your company much more. When I am at my best, I spend more time with those I love and am more relaxed. I don’t yell at my children and am a kinder and more compassionate leader. I am a better human. Are you living your best version of happiness? If you’re unsure, ask your best friend who’s known you for 20+ years. Ask your mom. And ask them the same question - are they happy?
One Step At A Time
Are you the happiest you could be, or are you just “happy enough?” What if you were even just 10% happier each day? It’s amazing. Think about when you lose 5 pounds and how much better you feel. Just 10% more joy. That little bit can make such a difference!
Find Your New Happy
Sometimes, happiness is chosen for us. And it doesn’t always feel like it at the time. Things happen, life is hard, and events that challenge us strengthen us. Often, we have no idea how strong we are until strong is our only choice. If you think back to the times of your life when it was dark, did you eventually see the light? Was there a brighter side after the smoke cleared? For me, the answer has always been yes. However, it has taken years, perhaps even decades, for me to understand why I had to go through particular events or experiences to extricate the power and strength from them—the lessons learned from pain. We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond. Choose to come out on the other side bigger and better, not bitter. Find your new happy. Look for the light, and you will eventually see it. Have faith that there is a plan; someday, it will all make sense.
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