Once upon a time, a long time ago, a woman was asked by her doctor to write down 25 things that brought her happiness and joy. The woman looked at her doctor in a bewildered way and asked why? Her doctor said (or words to this effect) ‘the fact that you are debating about why to do this task confirms what I already know. You’ve come to me to sort out why you’re not sleeping properly, feeling flat and worried despite everything going well in your life. If things are going so well, why can’t you tell me what makes you happy?’ The GP sent the woman away to complete the task. The woman started to write things down 25 things that made her happy. She couldn’t get beyond 5 things. She cried.
The woman started to write things down 25 things that made her happy.
She couldn’t get beyond 5 things.
Of course the woman is (was) me. Of course my GP was delivering some well deserved home truths. She was also giving me a task that was (eventually) going to make me stop, examine my life, smell the roses and work out what was really going on. What was really going on was that I hadn’t allowed myself to stop and examine some much-needed home truths about myself at all for a long long time. I hadn’t given myself time for anything other than attempting to be being perfect, being everything I thought everyone else wanted me to be, and being very very busy!
Truth was, I was just busy surviving. Busy was a word to deflect all thoughts and talks about what was really important. I was a parent of two gorgeous kids that I adored, navigating an extremely unhappy marriage and subsequent divorce, climbing the career ladder, running a household, moving interstate, establishing a new life, new relationship and very, very busy! Oh yes, so busy with all those important things in life. So I set about changing things. Now this is no fairy story where the hero suddenly discovers life’s long-held secret and changes things for herself overnight and lives happily ever after. My truthful story is one about 10+ years of deliberate and purposeful investment in myself which was often painful, annoying, time-consuming and often exhilarating. The investment I made was in getting to know myself better, learning to ask for help (an ongoing challenge!) removing toxic influences from my life, surrounding myself with the right people, embracing my love of learning and above all, getting real about what makes me happy and bloody well getting on with it. Truthfully, authentically and purposefully.
Truth was, I was just busy surviving.
I want to share this mini snapshot of my life now because I am often in conversations with women who are so busy being busy, that they cannot answer my very simple question. “What makes you happy?” I ask them that because it was a question that floored me and was the catalyst for a decade + of personal growth. The women I ask more often than not have the same reaction my GP got from me. A look of bewilderment. Eyes drop to the ground. Nervous shuffling of feet. Fidgeting of hands. And then the real work starts. Or sometimes it doesn’t.
Women are so busy being busy
One way to start working out what makes you happy is to write down events when they happen that make you happy. Gratitude journals are very hip and on-trend, but they are a great idea to get into the happiness habit. A colleague of mine, Clare Desira has a great blog about starting a gratitude habit. She says “it’s not something that just happens. You have to put in effort, but trust me, that effort will pay off.” What I love about my gratitude journal is that I’ve got a book of wonderful experiences recorded that I can look at on those days when I am a bit down in the dumps.
Starting a list of things that make you happy could be a good kick off point. Don’t worry if you get stuck (ummm, hello? Remember the start of this story?) Just keep plugging away.
Mindfulness and meditation work! I have found meditation a powerful tool to help me get comfortable with my own thoughts, step off the hamster wheel and to just ‘be’. Mindfulness, or being observant about what you’re doing and when it a great way to exercise your most important organ, your brain.
I am the Queen of Asking Annoying Questions
To close off….I’ll advise those of you who don’t know me, I am the Queen of Asking Annoying Questions. So here goes:
- What makes you happy?
- Can you list 25 things that bring you joy?
- Have you got a gratitude journal?
- Do you meditate?
Read this: The 8 Habits of Grateful People
Download this: Smiling Mind App
Michelle is an astute businesswoman & keen entrepreneur who has founded a business to coach & mentor women of all ages and stages to shatter the glass ceiling & be successful, in whatever way they define success. Founded by a woman, run by women, for women and the organisations that employ women. Michelle is a coach, mentor, consultant, runs events & speaks about her vision to create a gender equal world. Michelle’s business supports, advocates, activates and champions women.