Monday, October 31, 2011

where happiness leads

Can you boil down your entire sense of self and outlook on life into one single sentence? Is there one driving force in your life that ultimately leads you in each of your life-altering decisions?

Think about it. It's pretty hard to shave it down to just one thing, right?

Well, given my indecisive personality and the fact that common self-evaluating tasks like "describing myself in three words" give me unimaginable amounts of anxiety, this would seem like an impossible task for me too. However, I was thinking the other day just how hilariously ironic it is that when it comes to this one thing - my personal motto - I have somehow managed to develop a very strong, singular position over the course of my life thus far. (Seriously, it's the ONLY thing I can decide on when it comes to who I am.)

If there exists such a thing as a life mantra, mine is this: Where happiness leads, I follow.

Seems a little silly, I know, as pretty much anyone would admit that they aim to follow their happiness. I mean who would really choose to be unhappy, right? Well silly as it may be, and obvious though it seems, it really is the one thing that I find constant in the many twists and turns my life has taken thus far.

You can ask my close friends and family, and without a doubt they will agree, personal happiness is the one guiding principle that ultimately determines where my life's path will veer. It's not financial gain, not social approval, not even long-term success.

I've made some interesting decisions in my life thus far, decisions that not a lot of people understood at the time I was making them. Ending relationships, switching jobs, taking certain opportunities while passing up others, choosing to order the peanut butter cheesecake despite my near-state of a food-induced coma (That last one I'm sure plenty of you out there understand.)

Decisions like these have never been easy - in fact many of them have caused me sleepless nights of worrying and wondering. That worry, of course, can be blamed on my sense of pragmatism and logic. (Mom, I swear it exists.) But each time I've encountered a fork in the road in my life, I take a step back and silently listen to my heart. In most cases, it becomes clear to me that it has already decided for me. Which path will make me happier than I am right now? Whatever the answer, that's where I let life take me. I believe that no matter what the future beyond that point holds, I'll never look back and regret a decision I made knowing that it was going to make me happier. I just won't. And that's why I trust this one solitary mantra above all other guiding principles.

Now some people may not agree that this is a great way to build a life that will be full and plentiful down the road. And to that, I'd have to say that I agree. But I decided a while ago that basing my life on what might be down the road if I just "put in my time now" is a surefire way to be miserable. And who really wants to be miserable? Not this girl.

I've heard it said that people are afraid of being truly happy. I don't buy that. Nobody wants to be unhappy. What I do believe, though, is that people are terribly afraid of the risks that it takes to pursue their happiness. Maybe it's fear of giving up the stability of a normal job, or it could be fear of disrupting your life and routine to end a relationship that isn't right. Or maybe it's just the simple fear of the unknown. There are always barriers to happiness and most of these can be attributed to comfort. But hey, it's no crime to want to stay in your comfort zone.

Here's the funny thing I'm learning about myself though: my comfort zone is breaking out of my comfort zone. (Sorry to go all Inception/Chinese proverb on you, but it's true.) I find myself thriving when I'm pushed beyond my comfort level, beyond my routine, beyond stability, which is where I hope to always find myself. The more I think about my future, the more I want to make an adventure of my life - whatever that might mean.

Call me an idealist. Or call me young and naive (it's fine, I get it all the time.) But I accept those words as compliments because they are the things that continue to make me strive for the ideal, to push beyond what is accepted and what is complacent. As cheesy as it may sound, I truly believe that nothing can stop me from creating the life I see for myself in my dreams. And one day, hopefully many, many years from now, I will look back on the whole of my life and smile, knowing that every crazy thing I did and every seemingly nonsensical move I made, was all in the name of a simple thing called happiness.

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