Note From The Editor:
“I’m really depressed,” I said to my coworker this week. We were looking out the window and debating if we should walk in the rain and get lunch. And instead sayingI have an umbrella, I accidentally slipped this out instead.
With 2017 almost at the end of it’s rope, it’s been an intense year for all of us: filled with hard lessons, orange presidents, and natural and unnatural tragedies. I was feeling a bit hopeless when the words slipped out. And unfortunately as the week progressed and more tough moments unfolded, I began to break down a little more.
Why was I feeling so goddamn rotten, I wondered. What did I want to change? What could I change? What’s making me so unhappy?
In moments like this, as I’ve said many times before, it is a perfect time for us to journal. To write one thought out at at time, until we meet the clarity we seek. And from this journaling came a series of questions that not only helped me immediately break my funk, but gave me clarity and focus for my next steps, too. Below are the questions I ask myself. And for a drastic shift in your own happiness, I invite you to ask yourself the same.
Step 1: What Do You Value
First, let’s take a step back and establish a foundation to our happiness. Let’s see what we value. By definition, a value is a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. Ah— that last part. Sometimes that answer is pizza. And sometime’s it’s loyalty, independence, honesty, being fair, and having some alone time.
This morning, let’s make a list of all the things, qualities and standards that are the most important to your happiness.
Step 2: What Do You Love
Now let’s take a few moments to write down a long list of all the things you love. All the activities, hobbies, people and places that truly make you happy. You’d be wise to keep this list especially handy on a down-trodden moment in the future. When things look bleak, it’s always nice to have a ready list right in front of you to change it all around.
Step 3 Part A: What Do You Enjoy Doing
This part of the exercise can really be tailored towards something that you are struggling with right now. Whether it’s relationships, work or life in general, make a list of all the activities and responsibilities you love to do. Things you actually enjoy, that excite you, and make you feel utilized, purposeful and happy. Things that make you feel like your best self.
Step 3 Part B: What Skills Do You Have
When you give yourself a moment to think about it, you’ll be surprised at all you can do — and even more surprised by the things you do on a daily basis, that make you absolutely miserable. So let’s write down a list of all the skills we have: broad statements like “writing, cooking, bed-maker, managing.” And keep this list themed to the tailored list above.
Step 4: What Do You Long For
Continuing the theme of tailoring your list, in this section let’s look into the parts of our hearts that still have a few big dreams left to cast. If you are thinking of work, write out a list of job titles or opportunities you still hope to try. If you are writing about relationships, jot down the moments, people or interactions that you’re still hoping for.
Step 5: What Do You What To Learn
Photography? How to write a grant proposal? Maybe how to get into the C-suite at work? There are so many things floating around in your heart’s desire tank. Let’s take these last few moments to write down all the things you’d love to learn when it comes to the tailored lists you’ve created above. You’re the only one seeing this list so let yourself be honest.
Step 6: Organize
Now here comes the fun part. Let’s go back to your first list — what do you value. Find the five most important values on that list — the things you can not live without and make the best quality of life for you. On a clean sheet of paper, under a header that says “My Truest Values” rewrite those five words — and only those five words.
When you’re done with that, move on to what you love and do the same thing. Write down the five words that you can not live without under the header “Things I Really Love”. If this prompts you to remember something that did not make the list, by all means add it now.
Now — everything below this list must support the top to bullets above. That’s the trick to this exercise.
For the list of things you enjoy — draw a dot next to eight items that are your top joys in life. Draw an arrow next to all the things you would like to explore more of in life. Then, on the new sheet of paper below your list of loves, write the header “This Gives Me Joy” and add the eight bulleted items. (If it’s less than eight, that’s fine.) Under a header titled “I Want To Spend More Time Doing This”, write down your list of arrowed items.
What you long for is an important list, and it’s going to be hard to pick just a few things. But try your best to pick three to six items that really standout as your truth. Things that your heart really, really wants to put into existence. Under a header of “What I Would Love To Do” write down these items.
And finally, under a header of “What I’d Still Like To Learn” write down four to eight things you’d really love to do sometime in the next two to five years.
The Map of Your Heart
Congratulations — you just made a map of your heart and finally have clear guidance on what actually makes you really happy. I know it took a little bit of work, but shit — you’re worth it. Two snaps and an amen to you.
Now comes the fun part — making the changes you need in life to align it to your heart’s map of happiness. For the record: I’m not someone who thinks we should all quit our day jobs and just follow our passions. I am a Capricorn ya’ll, and I’m about collecting those checks. And these two articles about chasing your dreams and women and ambition are fantastic reads on how to be practical with all this new found inspiration, and remove any guilt about not chasing your dreams right in this here moment.
But I do think that with small, incremental actions a lot of change can happen within a year. If you just keep checking in with your map, and grab a little courage to walk away from the things that are crippling you the most — and you do this over and over again throughout the next year — you’d be amazed at the quality of your life in 2018. You’d be surprise at just how happy you can be.
Are you up for the challenge? I know I am.