A few days ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a friend about what it takes to be happy. The conversation convinced me that we often make it more complicated than it needs to be. Of course, there are sometimes external situations that make the immediate experience of happiness difficult. But to the extent that we are masters of our own fate, our happiness is largely in our own hands.
The problem – or one of them – is that we sometimes over-think what makes us happy. Many of us have deeply rooted emotional issues that prevent us from listening to our intuition. We want to live up to the expectations of our families, for example. Or perhaps we are afraid of failure. Whatever the issues are for each of us, they get in the way of our ability to follow our hearts. In turn, our analytical brains begin working overtime, trying to rectify what we think we should do with our lives with what we authentically want to do. Suddenly, it feels challenging – if not impossible – to understand what it is that will bring us happiness and satisfaction in life.
In my case, I experienced a period in my twenties in which I was afraid to pursue a career as a writer. Being a writer is not as safe and predictable a career as, say, going and becoming a dentist. There is a lot of uncertainty that goes along with being a writer. So the part of me that was afraid of failure felt that I should pursue a career that was more predictable and “responsible.” The result was that I spent years analyzing – in painful detail – every career choice I made, trying to find something that was more fulfilling than many more stable career paths would have been for me, but was also more predictable than writing. Of course it didn’t work.
Finally, I realized that as long as I am making a significant portion of my income from writing – even if I still have a day job – I will probably be quite happy. It is as simple as that. Our hearts intuitively know what makes us happy, and all we have to do is listen to them. Though of course, that can be easier said than done.