There is no denying that most of us are spending our days desperately seeking happiness. Ask any random stranger on the street what they want for their lives and there is a good chance they will answer, “To be happy.” In a recent conversation I had with my son, we were talking about the heavy topic of death. During our conversation I took the time to give him my best advice on the subject and that is to live a life that is filled with BIG happy. I confessed that for the first 25 or so years of my life I settled for a lot of little happies and in an attempt to have him be smarter than me, I shared with him what the difference between these two was and now I’m sharing with you.
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My dad died when I was 19 and after he did I was struck with that major realization that time is fleeting and nothing is permanent. These were things I had known before on some level, but when you see a man who used to be something akin to a superhero in your eyes, it somehow hits different.
Like many youngsters do (can I call them youngsters? I’m still young, right?) I went full blown into that YOLO state of mind. I wanted to do it all, have it all, pursue it all and live fearlessly.
At the age of 20 my bucket list might have looked a little something like this:
The bigger things I never considered were…
What kind of person do I want to spend my time kissing? After all a kiss in the rain with a total jackass isn’t really all that magical.
Do I really want to go bunjee jumping? What am I hoping to gain from that? Will it actually enhance my life experience for years to come or is it just something I do because I’m ready to show death I’m not scared of it?
A tattoo…ok. What kind of tattoo? When I was about 14 I wanted a tattoo based on the WB TV series Charmed. Ya know, the one about 3 sister witches. I also dabbled in the idea of getting the same kind of tattoo Britney Spears had.
You might laugh at my immature wants, but can we all take a hot minute to be honest about how we don’t change all that much after this…
Ok, so it’s pretty clear to see how naive my Bucket List life was back when I was 20 something, however, it didn’t really improve much as I hit my mid twenties it just seemed more appropriate to the outside world.
Marry who? What kind of person? What is that relationship going to look like?
Get a house. Ok. Do you want one that’s beautiful but leaves you living paycheck to paycheck (apparently that’s what I was going for), or are you ok with something affordable and quaint?
Job. Cool. Do you want it to be something that gives your life meaning? What is that?
Family, of course. We all need to do that…but I think you’re still recovering from yours…maybe you should sort out your own issues so you don’t just pass them along to your kids?
The truth is, I jumped full force into adulthood still chasing this standard list of what happy meant without ever really asking myself what happiness would really look like for me.
As I got older, I got little hints of what I wanted for my life beyond all of the standard things most of us believe we are meant to collect in order to be happy.
I had the family, the house, all of that, but I wasn’t taking vacations.
In my younger years, I had to even turn down some vacations because I was so focused on the Little Happies. After spending all of my money on shoes, tacos, alcohol…whatever…I would have to regretfully turn down my friends when they asked if I wanted to join them on a trip to Costa Rica.
I hated having to say no to amazing opportunities like that but it seemed like no matter what amazing opportunity came up, I was having to say no due to lack of funding.
When I started bringing in more money with a photography business I would take a few thousand dollars that I had made from a wedding I had just shot and use it to treat Tom and I to a gorgeous vacation.
I got new bikinis, we had all the drinks, took your standard feet lounging pictures for Instagram. But this funny thing would happen when we would come home. We’d be faced with an emergency. Car tire popped, engine died, pipe burst, washing machine went out.
Because I had spent all of my money on vacation and didn’t have a dime in savings I was left face palming myself yet again.
It took me a little too long to realize that anything that I was doing quickly in order to get a quick win and go after a Little Happy was always a short lived experience.
Whether it was finding some stud to kiss in the rain, or booking a last minute vacation on a whim, none of it seemed to be working and I couldn’t figure out why.
I was crossing things off the List That Will Make You Happy left and right, but no matter what I tried that happiness wouldn’t stick around for long.
Ok, so I had the cool stuff, I did the experiences (and studies say experiences bring more happiness than stuff). I met all my goals, even exceeded some — like having my photography business take off way faster than expected.
What the actually crap was I supposed to do if none of this was actually working?
Have you ever gone to the store when you’re hungry? Chances are you just started scooping everything into your cart. Oreos: check. Baguette: check. Rotisserie chicken: check. You didn’t care what it was you just wanted it and you wanted it now.
Then if you’re anything like me, you get to the check out, pay way more than you intended and get home only to realize you don’t really have any building blocks of an actual meal.
That’s kind of how most of us live our lives.
We just scoop up or sign up for anything that catches our eye and then still feel empty handed somehow.
Just like before we head to the grocery store, in life the best plan is usually to decide what you want first.
Instead of thinking about your basic check list for living, have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself what kind of life you want to have lead?
Who do you want to remember you? What impression do you want to leave behind?
Me? I want to knock people’s socks off. I want to have been the kind of parent that maybe wasn’t always perfect but her kids always knew they were loved — and listened to. Actively listening to my kids, even when life was busy, was something I have intentionally worked on. And you know what? Learning to slow down and really hear what they say? That is big happy.
I want to have done work that expanded the world, uplifted people’s souls and encouraged people never to take a single day for granted. So, on days when I feel like I have nothing to offer and I have no idea who the hell would even care what I have to say, I think of them. I get up for you. Showing up on the podcast, blog, social media is all with an underlying hope that I can remind you that you have something amazing to offer this world because I believe if more people just knew this and just lived the life they were being called to…so many of the world’s problems would begin to fade because we would all be in alignment with our calling.
Getting to the end of my days and knowing that I inspired someone else to live well…that is Big Happy.
When we attach ourselves to Big Happy and we have our sights set on who we want to be, how we want to show up and how we want to serve, it’s like we are slowly cruising intentionally through that grocery store picking up only what we know we are going to need.
We ignore the flashy sale signs, there is no need to give into the temptation of Oreos (although let’s not skip out on life’s little pleasures), and we can reach the check out line having collected all the makings of a well lived, long-term happy kind of life.
Want to understand more about how to do this? How to build a life of intention, purpose and only pick up what you really need along the way? If you’re all in for that kind of life, come join my free Massive Action Masterclass! You can sign up by clicking here.
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