I was recently struck by the realisation that this is the happiest I’ve ever been.
I could even go so far as to say that I’m contended, satisfied and, dare I say it…happy.
Such a state of mind may be entirely natural for some people, but I was initially puzzled by the lack of melancholy and the absence of cynicism and anger that have tainted most of my life. Ever curious, I analysed the evidence that led me to this unexpected, yet long awaited moment.
I discovered that it all started with a decision I made over ten years ago – that the definition of a successful life was to be happy.
And it seems that at long last, I’ve reached my destination.
The journey has necessitated a combination of hard work, commitment and soul-searching, with personal growth only made possible by learning from the many mistakes I’ve made en-route. But to summarise, here’s the formula that has enabled me to finally create happiness:
- A decade of dedication to my day-job has landed me a rewarding role that allows me to use my strengths in research and writing, to be financially independent and to manage my own time.
- I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to spend my own time doing the things I love (creating music and words, and seeking inspiration everywhere), and that the people I love don’t make demands on this fundamental space.
- I’ve resolved the issues holding me back in life (negative ruminating) and have discovered that positivity and energy abounds in its place.
- One of my most enlightening moments was the discovery that my personality type is ‘INTJ’ – providing an explanation for being a highly driven introvert who needs abundant ‘alone-time’ to recharge my batteries. (And finding out that female INTJs make up less than 1% of the population certainly cleared up my confusion about why I find myself on a totally different planet to most other women…)
- Most importantly, I’ve dedicated the last decade to self-improvement by seeking the wisdom of others where I had none. I’ve learned the five habits for happiness (gratitude, exercise, meditation, reflecting on happy memories and practicing random acts of kindness); I’ve improved my time management to avoid burn-out and stress; I know that awe-inspiring experiences foster hope and happiness; I found out that I’m a nicer person when I avoid caffeine and alcohol. (Oh, and I also know how to tell when he’s just not that into you…ha, just kidding!)
Jokes aside though: through concerted effort, I’ve created happiness. Of course I have set-backs: days where the negative thought patterns of old creep back in. But overall things are good, and I now believe Abraham Lincoln’s statement that ‘most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be’. I think I’m proof of that. I’ve succeeded in my life goal.
I’m feeling the itch.
The need to progress, to achieve more.
It turns out that of the 16 personality types, INTJs have the highest need for continuous learning. INTJs thrive when they’re progressively working towards higher levels of excellence for themselves and the world around them. That’s the INTJ’s definition of success.
I now understand that my happiness level is directly related to continual progress and achievement, and why I feel the need to move on just as I’m arriving at my goal.
But I’m now at a cross-roads. My progress over the next five years is likely to involve promotion, starting a family, or both. Yet it’s unimaginable to me how I’d combine a demanding day-job with care-giving, while making time for my creative projects and restoring my energy levels.
My happiness was hard-won and I don’t want to risk losing it.
But should I just accept that happiness is ephemeral, and feel grateful that I’ve already been the happiest I’ll ever be? In the words of Thomas Hardy, ‘happiness is but a mere episode in the general drama of pain.’
Or have I managed to successfully embed happiness in my psyche, creating a base-level of joy that’s resilient to whatever I’ll encounter in life? After all, if my personal definition of success is perpetually changing, then so may also be my acceptable parameters of happiness.
Will I henceforth always be about as happy as I make up my mind to be?
I hope Abraham’s right…
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