I’m used to meeting people at the point where they’re done.
When someone decides to do 1-on-1 coaching, they’re usually pretty fed up with the way things are: the low energy, exhaustion, and boredom … the corporate mindset, lack of fulfillment, and inflexibility.
When I ask them what they want most, their answer is usually simple: “I just want to be happy.”
Which is good, because I know I can trust someone to put in the work when they’ve had a lot of experience being unhappy.
But unhappiness can be a double-edged sword. When I ask what they think will make them happy, I very often hear something like, “If only I could find a job I loved, I’d be happy” or “When I’m out of this situation, I’ll be good.”
And I tell every single one of them, every time: Happiness doesn’t work like that.
YOU’VE GOT TO BECOME QUALIFIED FOR HAPPINESS
I’m not interested in helping my clients get what (they think) will make them happy. Because A) very often, what they think they want changes once they start coaching, and B) getting the thing that they want isn’t actually going to make them happy if they’re not capable of happiness FIRST.
I tell them that I’m more interested in helping them become the kind of person who’s actually qualified for happiness and fulfillment.
Because truly, there is nothing — not a job, a relationship, a new house, whatever — that’s going to change you. You take yourself with you wherever you go. Which means that the unhappiness you think is situational … well, it’s very likely going to transfer to anything you do next.
Happiness is an ability, not a thing. It’s a muscle that you grow and flex, so that regardless of where life takes you, you can handle pretty much anything with grace and a good attitude.
HERE’S HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE QUALIFIED FOR HAPPINESS … OR NOT
Over the years, I’ve seen some telltale “markers” that make it clear when someone is (or in this case, isn’t) capable of being happy.
I want you to ask yourself …
- How long can I sit still, without doing anything? Can you sit and stare out of a window for 10 or 15 minutes? Seriously. The less comfortable you are with silence and stillness, the less comfortable you are with your own thoughts.
- How compulsive are my habits around technology? Are you constantly checking email? Can you NOT check Twitter or Instagram when you have a free moment? Or are you filling every second with distraction?
- How much do I care about people liking me? Is praise a “nice-to-have, but not a necessity”? Or is it more like, “I will literally curl up and die if someone gives me negative feedback”? The more you’re in it to please everyone else, the less you’ll be able to maintain your own happiness.
- How much of a perfectionist am I? Is “done” better than “perfect”? Or are you obsessed with making sure everything is just so?
- How good am I at setting boundaries and actually sticking to them? Can you actually say “no” to invitations, requests, and people … without thinking less of yourself?
- How dramatic is your reaction when things go wrong? Do you remember that most things are just temporary? Or are you pretty much freaking the eff out, trying to control every little detail because this is a big deal?
I could go on. But I’d rather explain to you why I think these things, in particular, have everything to do with happiness.
LIFE ISN’T ABOUT GETTING WHAT YOU WANT
Life is about how you feel while living. It’s not about delaying your gratification until you get some thing — a promotion, a new job, the perfect partner, or everyone’s admiration. The only reason we think we want those things, in the first place, is because we think we’re going to feel good when we get them.
Life (and happiness) is about feeling good … now. As much as humanly possible. Regardless of the “stuff” or what’s going on around you.
And if that’s what happiness is really about — feeling good as often as possible, regardless of the circumstance — then you have got to be the kind of person who can …
- Enjoy sitting quietly by yourself. What’s the point of chasing after happiness if you can’t ever just sit and revel in it sometimes? How can happiness flourish if you can’t even be with your own thoughts?
- Put your freaking phone down. And stop checking email compulsively. And just look up, people. How do you expect to enjoy anything if you’re busy distracting yourself in every spare moment?
- Believe in your own worth, regardless of people’s feedback. There is literally NO WAY that happiness can exist if your every move is about pleasing someone else. Not only that, but different people will expect different things from you. Pleasing them all means contradicting yourself left and right. Knowing that other people’s feedback doesn’t make or break you as a human being is HUGE.
- Become relatively OK with the unknown. I’m not saying you have to love it, but your entire future is basically unknown. If you’re constantly afraid of uncertainty, you will never get a break from your fear. And you can’t be happy if you’re scared literally 24/7.
- Let go of perfectionism. If you believe in perfection, you will never get a break. There will always be more, and better, and you will never feel good enough.
- Set kind, but firm, boundaries. No, you don’t want to go to that coworker’s baby shower. No, you really don’t want to take on extra work on top of everything you’re already doing. Setting boundaries means respecting your own needs as much as you’ve been respecting everyone else’s. And being OK with (gasp) disappointing people every once in a while.
- Have a sense of humor when things go wrong. Or at least keep your perspective and remember that most things are only temporary. Because life will go wrong, I promise. If you lose your mind every time, you can kiss your happiness goodbye.
If you’re not the kind of person who can do all of that, here’s what will happen:
You’ll rarely be able to enjoy anything.
I’m serious. You’ll get what you want … but you won’t feel excited. Something great will happen, and you’ll immediately wonder when you’ll get the next thing. You’ll never enjoy a minute of victory or peace because you’ll be filling your time with worrying, scrolling through your phone, and obsessing over the next move.
You’ll be too disconnected and anxious to experience any kind of peace or happiness.
SO, I’LL ASK YOU ONE LAST TIME
Please, focus more on becoming a happy person (internally) than chasing happiness (externally).
The best thing I can promise you about becoming the kind of person who’s capable of happiness is this:
You’ll finally experience true freedom.
The kind where … regardless of what’s going on in your life, you know everything will be OK. Where even when things go wrong, you’re not all that bothered by it. Where you can sit quietly and still feel exhilarated by life itself, instead of anxious. Where you don’t need people’s approval to make you feel good … and where you’ve finally given up control (and doing so feels like peace instead of fear).
Freedom is being happy to your core.
Which of the “happiness muscles” do you need to start flexing to become qualified for happiness? Let me know in the comments!
Rachel (+ Kristen)
SPOTLIGHT ON … THE PASSION PROFILE SHORT COURSE
This week, we’ve got something good coming up that we want you to know about!
If you haven’t heard, we’re really close to re-launching a brand new Clarity on Fire website. To celebrate that, as well as the holiday season, we’re doing something special:
Starting NEXT WEEK (Tuesday, December 8th through December 15th), we’re giving EVERYONE a $50 discount code for the Passion Profile Short Course. AND … everyone who signs up for the PPSC is also going to get an hour-long bonus video called “How to find a job you LOVE.”
If you don’t know much about the PPSC, the (mega-short) story is that it’s a completely online, do-it-yourself, 5-hour-ish long course that you can finish in as little as one day … all about how to connect your career to your Passion Profile.
So, if you took the Passion Profile Quiz and loved your result, and you’ve been wondering how to have a career that aligns more with your values and passion … this course is where we recommend starting.
Here’s what a couple of PPSC enrollees have said about their experience:
“I was immediately sucked in and have finally found excitement and motivation in me that I haven’t felt in a long time.” — Dana S.
“When I started the PPSC, I hated my job. Even though I had a ‘cool’ job, it was a horrible fit for me, and no one had ever told me that it was OK for me not to like it! I made such HUGE progress that I found a new job within a few weeks at a great company. And it’s SUCH a good fit for me!” — Lindsey P.
No need to mark this on your calendar. This is just your head’s up! We’ll remind everyone about it next week. 🙂
Wow. Seriously, wow. This post is so relevant, and it really struck a chord with me. I definitely need to implement these tips, as I’ve been finding myself getting more and more distracted, and getting back into some perfectionistic tendencies (harder to shake off than you would think, haha!).
I’m bookmarking this to reread whenever I need a reminder. Thank you!
Stop giving a crap about people and start living the way you want. For me is hard working, doing something really big and pass on something which learned or experienced
This post was a great way to start off the month of December! Thanks for writing!
This past year and a half, I’ve definitely been struggling with the whole, “Everything would be so much better if I was just doing [you name it],” mentality, and I know I need to work on it. I’m constantly on my phone, scrolling through nothingness AND I’m always trying to plan out my future, which is causing me to rely on those plans and then freak out even more when life doesn’t end up the way I had documented in my excel spreadsheets 🙂
So, if I’ve learned anything from your posts it’s that I need to become comfortable with the unknown – embrace it, even – and just work toward finding contentment with myself and my surroundings, all the while validating the fact that I do want more.
I never realized I was distracting myself from my life until I read this; I’ve got some work to do!
Loved this post, Rachel! It’s such a great list, too, to think through as to what might be acting as blocks or ways to improve your capableness of being happy.
Some of the items on the list I’m really “good” at (if that’s the right word — maybe “qualified” is better?). I can sit still and stare and think for hours. I don’t keep a count but I know the number of times I check my phone is relatively few and I’m not on the comparison-prone social media feeds. I can set boundaries like a pro and I don’t have too dramatic of a reaction when things do go wrong.
Where I struggle is people pleasing and perfectionism. I’m okay with not being liked, but for the people I really do love and care about, I often take on their dissatisfaction as my own and will make it my mission to change or fix it (a losing battle if there ever were one). I also give my best at everything I do which can come across as very perfectionistic (although I don’t really consider myself a perfectionist as typically defined). I’ll definitely practice flexing those muscles and toning better for happiness.
Also, loved this line: “The only reason we think we want those things, in the first place, is because we think we’re going to feel good when we get them.” Brilliant!