I went to a happiness workshop a few weeks ago that was led by my friend, the amazing Matt Rothert. Matt is the kind of guy who you assume was born to live a charmed life because he always has a huge grin on his face and is literally always finding new things to get excited about [for example, at work: "Did you see there's fresh avocados in the kitchen? So awesome!!]. To be honest, his life is pretty charmed. He lives in a cute bungalow by the beach with his yoga-teacher wife, Chelsea and their son, Matteo. Things always seem to flow for him, at least from an outside perspective, so what I loved about the workshop is that he shared the challenges and hardships he’s gone through that taught him how to live the life he has now.
You’d need to take the workshop with Matt to go deeper on his “7 Steps for a Happier Life”, but the gist of it was that happiness comes from keeping your own space positive and pure. It’s really easy for people to get distracted by exterior influences, like money or relationships, but those aren’t the things that will ultimately make you happy. It's something that I've been working on personally and I've heard that same message from a few different sources. Here's the three lessons I've learned recently:
1. In life. I did the most LA thing possible and hired a life coach, the very wise Tracee Stanley. Her perspective is that in order to live a fulfilled life, you have to get back to being true to your authentic self. She started by explaining that going through life is a lot like driving a car. You start by looking out through a clean windshield and over time, bugs begin to splatter and distort your view. Those bugs are the traumas and heartaches that everyone experiences in life, and if you don't pull over to clean your windshield, you'll begin to believe that the distorted view is reality.
Then we did a meditation and visualization to help me pinpoint the earliest memory I have of feeling like I couldn't be my authentic self. This exercise is a lot harder than you'd think, but I was able to recall a memory as far back as Halloween when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I was upstairs with my mom getting my costume ready when the doorbell rang. I was so excited that I went flying down the stairs yelling "THE TRICK-OR-TREATERS ARE HERE!", not realizing that my twin brother had invited a group of boys from school to our house including the boy I had a huge crush on. They all laughed hysterically and I was horrified, feeling exposed and embarrassed about being overenthusiastic about the holiday.
Then she had me visualize a time when I was thriving, when everything seemed to flow very easily and the pieces just fell into place. I thought back to the year I took off to road trip around the country, and specifically the month I spent with my godmother in Arizona. I felt healthy, because I was practicing yoga or Pilates at least once a day and eating mindfully, I felt free to explore, I had finally tapped into some of the work I needed to do on myself in the first 2 month of my year off, and I had so much to write about that the words poured out of me into my blog, something I hadn't ever realized I loved to do. All of these things are reflective of me being good on the inside and none came from the exterior influences that seem like they should make you happy, like money or relationships, since I was making very little money as a Lyft driver and I wasn't in a relationship. She suggested being intentional about making those things a part of my life now, like eating mindfully, going on weekend adventures, staying aware of my personal development, and writing in my blog more.
Lastly, she asked me to write a list of all the words that I describe myself with, beginning with "intuitive". That's become the mantra I use to help steer me back to being my authentic self, which is "I trust my intuition."
2. In relationships. I was going through a breakup a few months ago and during that time, I had a phone conversation with my godmother Joan, aka my fairy godmother, that's stuck with me since then. I had barely told her that I thought I might need to end the relationship when she dropped the brutally honest advice that's this: Everyone goes through life alone and you can't depend on anyone else for your own happiness. You should be loving, kind, and patient with the other person until it doesn't feel right anymore, like you've crossed the line from compromise to being taken advantage of. Start from a place of being happy on your own and allow people in to enhance your happiness, but know that you'd still be doing great if you didn't have a significant other.
I tend to think of myself as very independent, sometimes to a fault, so it always surprises me once I'm on the other side of a breakup to realize that I lose a little bit of who I am when I'm in a relationship. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that when you're in a relationship you're exposed to someone else's ideas, interests, and routines and those can begin to become your own without you even realizing it. It could be called compromise. When you're single, you can do whatever you want most of the time, so I like to think of the time right after a breakup as an equalizing period, where I'm returning back to who I am to the core and the things that I really care about become obvious again. The trick is to take those things that I care about it and apply them to my life.
3. At work. I had dinner with Shannon Algeo a couple weeks ago, who has made career coaching into a career of his own. I asked him what that means exactly and how he gained the experiences to be able to guide other people's careers. He told me that what he does doesn't have anything to do with exterior factors, like what to say in an interview or how to format your resume. What he does is help people to figure out what the thing is that they're meant to do. Once someone is going after something that they know in their heart they're meant to do, confidence is created and the pieces just begin to fall into place.
He explained how the amazing opportunities that he's had all came from a place of knowing that he was doing the thing he was meant to do. For example: A lot of people know who Deepak Chopra is, but not everyone knows his story. Shannon is a connector of people and he realized that his role was to allow Deepak to tell his story to people via Shannon's podcast, so Shannon had no hesitation when he asked him to be on the show. When you know that that's the role you're supposed to be playing, the question moves from "Why me?" to "Why not me?" Shannon has an amazing episode about career manifestation on his podcast SoulFeed that you should listen to.
I'm attempting to put these lessons to practice by listening to my inner voice, keeping my circle of influences as positive as I can, and spending more time doing the things I love. What that looks like so far is riding my bike more and getting a dog (!). His name is Cedric and he's the definition of happiness.