What’s your happy?

In a world that values being busy over anything else, slowing down can feel counter intuitive. Downtime just isn’t sexy. Doing a lot of stuff is. Yet few of us know if what we are doing a lot of is really taking us to a place we want to end up.

What most of us unconsciously long for is an inner roadmap that tells us what sort of life we want to live. This, by the way, may look very different to how other people think our life should look so we have to be prepared for some doubt and resistance. The million dollar question we ought to ask ourselves then is this: Am I doing what I want to be doing? And if not, what is it I’d rather do? If we can answer this question we have the most valuable piece of information available to us. The blueprint to make our inner longing an outer reality. Without this information our inner sat nav has no set destination and we let outside circumstances dictate our inner state of mind aimlessly.

By knowing what we want and where we are heading, we are better able to recognise it when we come across it on our lives path. We may all have had little glimpses of what a great life might look like to us, little sparkling moments when things felt amazing. For some of us these moments are fleeting, for others it’s a normal way of life. We have all met people who’s lives we thought were too good to be true. But could it be that those people have figured out what they wanted and designed their lives accordingly?

Being happy and content looks different to all of us. My happy is not the same as your happy. Which is why a one size fits all approach does not work. In order to find our own magic we need to first know what good looks like, in great detail. The detail is important. Saying I want to be happy is great but it is too vague. In order for your brain to rewire the negative thinking keeping us stuck, it needs a lot more instructions. We spend years focusing on the minutia of our problems, what’s not working and how we wish things were different. But if asked how we would actually want to live, feel and be, most of us have no clue. Not. one. clue.

Let’s say we don’t like where we work. We know what it is we don’t like about our work because we think about it, in detail, all the time. It might be the boss, or the hours, or the commute, or the lack of responsibility, or too much responsibility, the pay, the pace, the colleagues, the nature of the industry and so on. You get the picture.

As our brain does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, these repeated thoughts create well trodden neural pathways in our subconscious mind. This makes us think about our problems over and over – creating emotions that makes us feel bad. This triggers more thinking about the work we don’t like because we feel it is the work that is creating these thoughts. And on it goes. It is circular and obsessive.

Now, if we instead decided to think about what sort of work we would like to do, then we would naturally stop the ruminating for a minute as we’d leave the area of the brain that is problem focused (survival brain) and move into another area where change, elevated emotions and creative thinking happens (pre-frontal cortex) . All of a sudden we discover that we might want to work part-time to pursue other areas in our lives, or maybe we want to make a lot more money, or travel less, be our own boss, work in a different country, be more creative, work from home, be on the road, have more time with our kids and so on. This, then, begins to inform us of where we may be heading. What good looks like to us.

Having this information can help us start to take the appropriate small steps in the right direction because we now know our destination. Our sat nav is set. If what we really want is a part-time job working from home, then an office based job with a 40 hour working week is not going to get our vote – so things start to become clear. Our brain loves clarity and simplicity because it can see the steps taking us from A to B and then on to C and so on. Anxiety and worry happens when we don’t have clarity and when we don’t know where we are heading. We tend to fill in the blanks with catastrophic thinking which frightens us and keeps us stuck.

So today, why not try taking some time out of your busy schedule, take some deep breaths, tune out the world and ask yourself what your ideal life would be like. No holds barred, just go for it and see if you can visualise a perfect day in the life of YOU. Write it down, paint it, make a mood board, follow people that already do what you’d like to do, make it feel real. This exercise stimulates your own internal happy hormone factory to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter which makes you feel great. The more you sit with your ‘ideal life’ picture, the more you are training your brain to accept this as reality. It really doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined and it also does not have a sense of humour. It just produces a reaction to whatever you are thinking. Good or bad. So go on – be a creative wizard for the day and spend some time creating a life you would really want instead of worrying about what is not working.

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