- michelle m. davis
Only We Hold the Key to Our Happiness
As soon as …
Once I find …
When I am no longer …
Perhaps you, too, have used conditional phrases like the above to set the stage for your desired happiness. Whether dependent on another’s actions or reliant on a change in circumstance, we often believe our lives will improve when something outside of us occurs. However, true happiness can only be found within.
It took me a bit of time to realize this truth. For years, I sought happiness through perceived successes. I’d set high goals for myself—run a marathon or become president of an organization—hoping these achievements would be the answer to what I felt was missing. But as soon as I’d accomplished whatever I set out to do, the feeling of “not enough” would return, prompting me to raise the bar and reach for something else.
I learned a great deal through these experiences. Yet, no matter how rewarding they were, they never brought me lasting joy. In fact, I don’t think I even paused to enjoy the feeling of success.
Let go of the attachment that you must obtain some image of perfection in order to be happy.
— don Miguel Ruiz Jr.
Eventually, this truth sank in—for me to discover my peace and find happiness, I had to slow down from constantly doing and striving to be the best and learn how to just be.
Several things facilitated this shift in perspective. First, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, causing me to take a step away from my fast-paced daily life and deal with my health. Then there was the time spent recovering from the treatments. Not only did I no longer look like I once did, but I also felt strange, lacking the energy I relied on to do. However, I believe it was the following years, after healing, when I finally paused to ask what really mattered in life. I realized I wanted to slow down, stop multi-tasking, and learn when to say “no” instead of a guilt-ridden “yes.” While I wish I could have figured this out without getting sick, this experience helped me see where I was out of alignment, and more importantly, what I could do about it.
Digging deep within brings up “the stuff” we prefer would remain hidden. As you might expect, my shadows kept appearing, nudging me to release what no longer felt right. Doing this was hard, exhausting, and at times pretty scary, as what surfaced often made me cringe inside. Still, it taught me valuable lessons. And while there is most definitely more “house cleaning” to do, the process began … and slowly, I discovered my peace. It became apparent that if I wanted to transition from a good life to a great life, I had to own the pieces of myself I preferred not to see.
One of the biggest “aha’s” was understanding that I couldn’t find happiness by achieving. In fact, attempting to do so often resulted in frustration, resentment, and sometimes anger. However, if I could first find peace within, then everything shifted. In fact, being in a state of calm opend the door for happiness to enter.
If we hope to find a content state of being that is sustainable, we must look within because only we hold the key to our happiness.
While I cannot “make myself happy,” I’ve found that when I commit to the following—a toolbox of sorts— life becomes more manageable, regardless of what is occurring around me:
· Follow a morning routine which includes Ayurvedic practices, meditation, and yoga. It helps to ground me and start the day on a positive note.
· Control my caffeine intake. I have no intention of giving up coffee, but I do not need to have more than two cups in the morning.
· Limit sugars, processed food, and dairy. They do not make me feel good … physically or emotionally.
· Choose how I “digest” information. I prefer to read the news instead of watching it. (Think of the impact of viewing Jaws in the movie theatre vs. reading the book—our mind can filter the unnecessary dramatics.)
· Be conscious how I spend my time and who I spend it with.
· Go outside each day.
· Decide who I follow and the amount of time I’m on social media.
· Practice gratitude.
· Prioritize sleep.
· Laugh and find pleasure in little things.
Do I do this every day? Absolutely not. But when I practice the above, I’m calmer, more content, and yes, happier. Some may think this self-centered. But if taking care of myself is so, then I guess it’s OK because it allows me to better show up for those I love.
Accepting we hold the key to our happiness leads to empowerment. No longer do we rely on outside sources for what we can provide. But first, we must discover ways to go within and find our peace.
What helps you find your peace? Consider creating a list of practices and activities for your toolbox. Experiment and see if committing to certain habits helps you realize your truths and sacred lessons.
Despite what occurs around us, we possess everything we need for fulfillment. Yet, it's easy to forget this and look outside, relying on others or certain outcomes for our joy. But when we accept that we hold the key to our happiness, we can stop the futile search and simply go within. There—in our peace—is where our bliss lies.