One of the most difficult periods of my life was the two months surrounding my graduation from graduate school. I was so proud of my decision to return to school. I researched extensively to find just the right school that aligned with my beliefs and the work that I wanted to do, and spent two years there working toward this goal. Countless hours in the classroom, seeing clients to accrue the necessary hours, and getting the supervision I needed to become the best possible clinician.
But as I approached graduation, I found myself battling this incredible sense of disappointment. I had worked so hard for this, yet there I was standing at the finish line not savoring every moment or enjoying my work. I ended up skipping the graduation ceremony. I didn’t see the point of going and celebrating something that wasn’t bringing me joy.
This had been such a major goal for me, and all I felt was let down and confused.
What I realize now is that I saw my graduation as this magical moment of transformation.
I thought that once I held that degree in my hands, everything in my life would be perfect. Clients would be lining up to work with me, I would have the time to always look polished and glamorous, and I would be surrounded by close friends and family. Sound familiar?
I was convinced that once I graduated, it would be all sunshine and roses.
But it wasn’t.
And that was hard to accept.
I think a lot of us cling to this instant gratification mentality early in our careers and it’s hard to come to the realization that life will never be that simple, it’s always a process.
So, there I was, goal accomplished, yet still feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.
What did I do next? Immediately enrolled in a doctoral program. Because getting my master’s hadn’t fulfilled me, that obviously meant I wasn’t done with my education yet? Right?
I spent so much of my life and early career chasing happiness in exactly the same way.
When I make this amount of money, then I will be happy.
When I have children, then I will be happy.
When I weigh this amount, then I will be happy.
I couldn’t allow myself to be happy just as I was in that moment. I was searching for some outside external event that would just somehow transform me into happiness.
My constant mentality was, I’ll be happy when ________.
I was depriving myself of so much joy and happiness year after year, without even realizing it.
I didn’t see myself as worthy or deserving of happiness just as I was. I thought happiness would come as the result of some big accomplishment.
But it never works that way.
The moment we accomplish one goal, we instantly set our sights on the next. Then the next and the next. There’s nothing wrong with this never-ending cycle of goals. That’s just who we are as creators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries. We master one thing and then we immediately want to see what else we’re capable of. That’s part of the thrill of life!
But if we’re always chasing the next thing, waiting for something outside of us to make us happy is setting ourselves up to fail and be unfulfilled. It wasn’t until I really began to explore this concept, and understand human growth that things started to change for me.
The Shift from Chasing Happiness to Creating It
One day I came across this quote from Wayne Dyer: “Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place you must find.”
Listening to his words forced me to realize that I had been searching for this perfect place, not choosing to find the beauty in my everyday life. I began making Heaven on Earth a choice, and I began to intentionally choose to be happy as often as I possibly could.
Now, in the beginning, it was incredibly difficult for me. It showed me just how negative my mindset and habitual thought patterns were. No wonder nothing made me happy! I was so entrenched in worry, doubt, and scarcity that I was blocking my own happiness.
I’ve been practicing finding joy and happiness in my every day for over a decade now. I have to tell you, it has completely changed not just how I feel each day, but also the way I live my life.
The irony of this is that when I started creating happiness as a daily practice and stopped chasing after accomplishments, success came so much more easily to me. It’s as though when I was happy, I was tapped into a source of inspiration and intuition that wasn’t otherwise available to me.
Shawn Achor has actually researched this phenomenon. He describes it as happiness fueling success. In his research, he’s found that when you are happier, you are more productive, which in turn helps you secure more clients and increase your income.
And you know what? He’s right. When I made happiness and feeling good my goal, success began to follow as though it was a natural outcome.
YOU Have the Power to Create Happiness in Your Everyday!
I have faith that anyone can shift their mindset to manifest greater success like I was able to. If you’ve been chasing happiness like I did for so many years, and you’d like to start choosing happiness, here are the three things that worked best for me:
Practice #1: Start everyday with the intention to feel good.
Now I’m not talking about a specific affirmation about feeling good. In fact, I’m actually not a big fan of affirmations. Instead, be very general about it. Use intentions like:
I intend to enjoy my day today.
I intend to laugh with the people I love.
I intend to enjoy my family.
I intend to have a great session with this client.
I intend to enjoy walking my dog.
I intend to have a good night’s sleep.
I intend to wake up energized.
These intentions are great for moving you gently out of ingrained negative thought patterns in every phase of your day from the time you wake up to the time you rest your head on your pillow at the end of the day. This did take me a while to change, so be easy and patient with yourself!
Practice #2: End everyday by listing the things that delighted you that day.
Gratitude is the ultimate key to shifting negative mindsets.
My family and I do this around the dinner table and if I’m alone, I like to journal it right before I go to bed. This is actually such a fun activity, because you’ll surprise yourself with how many things actually delighted you in the course of the day! Many humans, myself included, are conditioned to spot the bad things, the stressful things, the people that annoy you—not the good. They seem to build up and infiltrate your conscious thoughts, leading you to ignore those delightful things. This is just shifting your attention so that the delightful things get as much of your conscious attention as the annoyances do.
Practice #3: Make a list of the things that replenish you and build them into your life.
When you’re constantly pouring out your energy and attention into other people, it’s very easy to get depleted without even realizing it! When I’m feeling defeated, it’s very difficult to get back to a place of innate happiness. I find that I have to first replenish myself as the foundation from which to create the happiness I want.
What are the things that replenish you? Have a go-to list you can turn to when you need it.
For me, as an introvert, replenishment often means quiet time. The things that replenish me are writing, meditation, exercise, or a nice long walk with a friend—just one friend of course, I am an introvert, remember?
Are You Ready to Make a Change?
Through this journey, I learned that happiness is within my power, not a result of external
circumstances. I also learned that when I make feeling good my top priority, everything else falls into place, in both my business and my life.
Channeling happiness first allows me to bring my very best self to everything I do and the results reflect that.
What would change in your life if you brought the very best of yourself to everything you do? What if you made happiness a daily choice? What if you decided you deserve to be happy today, even though there are so many things you want to accomplish in this lifetime?
Try it and I assure you that you’ll see positive results that will help you reach those big, bold goals you’re chasing!