Do you feel like you cannot keep up with everything? Like you do not have enough time? Like everyone else is more “put together?”
Recently I asked my community the question “What is your single biggest challenge to experiencing more happiness right now?” I was surprised by what came back…the sense of failure shared by many. Whether it was not feeling like they were a good enough partner, or were struggling to achieve goals in their business while being a mom of three, consistent stories came back of people secretly feeling like they are the one person who can’t keep it together. One woman said, “I’m someone who needs to feel like I’m doing things right, but most of the time lately I’ve been half-assing everything.”
Despite achievements in many areas of our lives, some of us feel like the ideal of happiness eludes us. So do we need to shift our happiness bar? For many the answer is “Yes!”
I know this challenge well. High achieving, driven, with heavy doses of perfectionist tendencies are all ways I’d describe myself. When I was younger, I often got frustrated about the pace of how my achievements were unfolding. This led me to zoom by what I had achieved to push for the next goal on my list. Over time, I decided to redesign my personal understanding of happiness because I recognized that the bar I set made me feel overwhelmed and never happy. Happiness was always out of reach and never seemed to be getting closer. I too felt like I was always failing and never quite catching up to where I should be. I was overwhelmed because I developed superhuman expectations of myself and others. I didn’t give myself permission to have “off days.” I didn’t gracefully hold my “negative” emotions. I felt resentful when my mind was tired and I could not get all of my to do list done. I often told myself I didn’t have time for time off. I always felt like I was behind the eight ball in every area of my life when I glanced over my social media feed or read bios of peers in my field. I had judgemental “get it together” pep talks with myself. I planned and planned and planned while life kept presenting me with surprises that disrupted my ironclad plans.
Here’s the real reason I wasn’t happy. I was playing by the rules of everyone else. The bar I set for happiness was defined by everyone other than myself. Over time I asked myself how did I want to define happiness? This led me to start making incremental changes to create a personalized sense of happiness. I started choosing to celebrate other people’s successes on social media and took sporadic social media fasts when I found myself falling into old comparing patterns. I decided “good enough” work for me was actually very good and set timers when I worked so I wouldn’t take longer than was necessary and fall into perfectionist patterns like over editing my work. I got honest with myself about a reasonable to do list to ensure I had space for rest. I made peace with the fact that my apartment was messy by seeing the joy behind my African Grey parrot’s trail of food and toys around the house.
Then, I decided to make recalculating my happiness bar a regular practice. Whenever I find myself feeling irritated, tired, frustrated, or like I can’t keep up for an extended period of time, I know it’s time to recalculate what happiness means to me. Currently this practice means I have monthly, weekly, or evenly daily check ins. When I have more energy and drive I allow myself to feel excited about working longer hours on new projects and taking less time off. I use my energy to get clear on my goals and focus on moving them forward. This allows me to use my joy to generate momentum. Other times I desire introspection and relaxation and slow down. I recalculate by getting clear about what I am ready to take off of my plate. I stop teaching so many classes, take on less clients, and sleep in 30 minutes later. By creating more space in my schedule I re-energize, refuel, nourish, and store energy for the next phase of energized creation that I know will be on the horizon. This allows me to honor the natural ebb and flows of my everyday experience.
If you resonate with the questions I started with and my story, it’s likely that you could thrive from a happiness bar recalculation. This allows you to practice honesty and authenticity with yourself. Here’s how to start recalculating your happiness bar:
Get clear on what you are feeling and do a quick recalculation. Feeling stuck? Dedicate yourself to more doing versus thinking tasks. Feeling exhausted? Create five minutes of downtime every two hours in your day. Feeling short on time? Choose the three things you must do today and celebrate them when they are done.
Choose what matters most. You know those questions like what if today was your last day? Or if you only had a year left to live what would you do? They seem cheesy, but extreme questions like this help us get clear on what matters most to us. Do you care most about relationships? Then redefine what “clean” should look like at home to allow for more time to connect with others. Are you determined to write your book of poetry? Let go of that hour of a favorite TV show and dedicate it to writing.
Decide to own your choices. Every time I feel like the choices I’m making are not my own I get honest about the fact that no one is making me choose them. Remembering this helps me be honest about the agency I have in the choices I’m making. When we resent our choices, we give our personal power away. To stand in your power, embrace the choices you make about how you spend your time, what’s important, and what you decide not to do today. This empowers you to stand fully in your personal power and to find more enjoyment each day.
Regardless of how I divide my time, prioritize my choices, and let go of unnecessary tasks, I’m most interested in presence. According to happiness researcher Matthew Killingsworth, the single factor impacting our level of happiness the most is the ability to be in the moment. As you recalculate your happiness bar, ask yourself, what would shift if you gave yourself permission to fully experience each moment? To let go of your mind wandering to the next thing or replaying the time that happened before? Could you learn to appreciate the reasons to be happy with your life exactly as it is right now if simply more presence made you happier?
Marci Moberg is an Art-of-Being and Mindfulness Expert passionate about empowering people to find their unique joy and courage to be who they are truly meant to be. For more about Marci and her work go to www.marcimoberg.com.