This past summer was one of the best of my life. It was the perfect balance of spending time by myself and going out and seeing other people, walking around the city and soaking up the electricity, and exploring new places. I can’t express to you how positive, optimistic and deeply-centered I’ve been feeling. This summer, I’ve felt more like myself than I have in years.
Recently, I went to dinner with a couple I know. In the middle of our conversation, my friend blurted out, “Are you really happy every single day?”
It only took me a couple of seconds to think it over. “Yeah, pretty much. I have my bad moments, of course… But I feel good and positive about my life every day.”
She looked at me as if this was utterly incomprehensible to her.
Here’s the thing. Happiness does not happen by chance. It takes time to cultivate. When I transformed my life in 2006, I wasn’t instantly happy all the time. In fact, 2006-7 was one of the most difficult periods of my life. I had just started my blog and I was really struggling: the blog didn’t make any money for at least 9 months, and I was wracked with negative emotions. I felt guilty that I was writing all day — surely, I should just “get a real job”? I had no money, and I had absolutely no idea how things were going to turn out. Even though I enjoyed my work, the future looked extremely uncertain… And most people would choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
Not me. After years of self-imposed misery, I decided to make up for lost time. That’s why I have been actively refining and improving my life every single day since mid-2006. I wanted my life to feel good, and I have been — and am still — in relentless pursuit of that goal.
Happiness is not a destination: it is a confluence of various things. In my case, it comes from taking care of myself, staying creative, constant course-correction, and a stringently-imposed no bullshit policy.
The level of happiness you feel on a daily basis is affected by the elements of your life. If you don’t like your job or think it’s meaningless, that’s going to make things pretty unbearable. If you’re in a rocky relationship, that will massively impact your daily joy levels. If you’re eating crappy food and staying sedentary, that’s another level of stuff that you have to work against every single day in order to feel even a modicum of happiness.
In my case, I love the work I do, and I have been busting my ass to get to that point. I’ve stopped doing things that didn’t feel good — like writing sponsored posts, for example — and pushed myself to take the risks that would lead to a more fulfilling career. I just went through a divorce, and even though that had its challenges, I’ve loved being on the other side of that: doing whatever I felt like, being my own date, and rocking the radical self love hard. And even on those days when I don’t feel like going to the gym, I do it because I know it makes my endorphins ping like nobody’s business, and it’s essential to my sanity.
So yes, I am happy every single day. But it’s the result of constantly tweaking my life to get to that point. A lot of us make excuses as to why we can’t be happy right now, but that’s bullshit. In order to be fully self-actualized, we have to stop arguing for our limitations and instead make choices that empower us, choices that allow us to live as our fullest, biggest, boldest selves.
Sometimes the path to happiness is dropping the lie that everything is fine. When you come to terms with your own dissatisfaction, it clears the way for you to make changes and create a life you actually enjoy living. Stop pretending that things are okay when they’re not! It takes courage to admit when something isn’t right, but the only other option is settling for a life that feels mediocre at best. What a waste.
Finding work you love can be challenging, but it is so worth it. (Check out Miracle Worker!) Creating a satisfying relationship isn’t always easy, and being happy when you’re single can sometimes feel like a big task, but it can be done. And the old “I can’t be bothered to go to the gym” feeling is the reason why most gyms are kept afloat by people who never walk through the doors.
Stop making excuses for why you can’t be happy right now. Change the things that aren’t working: sign up for a class, ask for a promotion, start that side business, cut your toxic relationships loose. There is no shortcut to happiness. If you take risks, you will be rewarded.
Photos by Ellen Von Unwerth.