When you look at a baby, you can tell whether he’s in a state of comfort by his expression. Generally, he’ll stay happy playing with his blocks or staring at the ceiling until something happens to make him uncomfortable, until someone takes away his toy or a dog barks. Then, he’ll cry out in an attempt to return to a state of comfort, and will ignore other sensory input (i.e. his parents attempts to feed him) until he decides he’s happy again, until he’s found a new toy or the pet cat catches his attention.
Our first human instincts tell us that joy is our natural state. Primal urges to cry out when we don’t feel happy tell us that something is definitely wrong when we are out of alignment with our natural comfort. This is because our natural state is wellbeing.
We are born to feel good.
So why do so many of us find ourselves stuck in a rut? Why do so many of us accept relationship issues, physical discomfort or financial instability as the norm? Were we born to be disappointed and then die? Absolutely not.
So why do so many of us think that “good enough” is an acceptable substitute for abundance in any and every area of our life?
There are two habits we form as we grow that cause us to settle for less than we deserve: quieting our instincts and asking permission to be happy.
Quieting our instincts to react when something doesn’t go our way is a learned behavior that we develop as we grow. Our well-intentioned parents teach us that life is unfair and that things will not always go our way. They reason that this lesson will allow us flexibility when we encounter life’s disappointments— so when the letdowns do hit, they don’t hit as hard. Our parents teach us that life is unfair because that has been their experience, because they have also been taught as such.
But there’s a problem with the theory about life being unfair, and it lies in the fact that your life unfolds in the way you believe it will, not the way you want it to.
That said, if you consider your life up to this point to be the culmination of unfair circumstances, it has been because the basis of your belief system is rooted in the idea that life is unfair.
The good news is that you can change that belief beginning now. It’s as simple as dismissing the thought of unfairness and replacing it with the following thought: Life is an even playing field, and I have as much time in a day as anyone else to make the most of it.
Don’t want something and then immediately assume it won’t pan out for you on the idea that “that’s just the way life is.” Fuck that. Keep a rubber band on your wrist and snap yourself any time you catch yourself entertaining a victim mentality.
Stop quieting your instincts to speak up or take action when life is propelling you down a path that doesn’t suit your highest desires.
You don’t have to lie down and take a beating. Stand up. You’re a creator, not a victim.
Get into the habit of seeing yourself as such and you will see profound changes in every area of your life.
Create the life you want. Don’t accept one you’ve been given.
Now that you’re empowered, we can tackle the second learned habit that prevents us from allowing unbounded happiness: asking permission to feel good.
Every time we have conflicting thoughts about something that brings us joy, we are asking something or someone “out there” for validation.
Let’s say you go to Starbucks, and you think a Caramel Frappuccino with all the extra whip and sugar on top is just about the best thing you have ever tasted. You’re in line, and right before you’re about to order, you catch sight of the caloric count of the drink. You remember a Cosmo article you read about how guys only like skinny girls, and you start to second-guess your decision to buy the Frappuccino. “Maybe I should just get a black coffee instead,” you think, even though you really don’t like black coffee and probably wouldn’t have made the trip if you’d known you’d have this inner conflict once you got here. “Whatever,” your mind continues. “I’ll just be good and get the coffee instead.” The next thing you know, you’re walking out of the coffee shop with a drink you don’t even want with three dollars less in your pocket, all to cater to an idea that’s “out there,” an idea that wasn’t even yours to begin with.
We do this kind of thing all the time. We do it when someone compliments us and we feel an immediate need to dilute his or her admiration. We do it when we have a great idea and then worry that the idea is going to make us look a certain way to our family and friends.
I experienced this conflict when I was building my website. I knew I wanted to build a website to showcase the things I’d written and knew it was necessary to further my development as a writer, but I worried about the opinions of the people that know me in real life. All the doubts, fears and insecurities that I’ve carried with me surfaced as I questioned my decision: What if they think I’m an asshole for taking myself seriously? What if I do it and it doesn’t pan out and then everyone sees me as a failure forever? What kind of person actually makes themselves a website?
But I realized that I had to push those fears to the backburner in order to keep going on the path that brings me joy.
To find true happiness, you have to stop worrying about how the things that make you feel good will make you look.
You have to stop worrying about how you’re going to look to the rest of the world because the world’s perception of you isn’t any of your business.
Do what you want. Say no. Do what makes you feel whole. Forgive the people who have hurt you, even if no one else understands why. Drink the damn Frappuccino.
You’re liberated when you realize you can do anything you want to do. You can— all that’s stopping you is everyone else’s ego stepping in and telling you what you should do instead. Once you begin to live from this perspective, you will find yourself liberated.
And a positive side effect of this is that you will stop imposing your judgments on other people, because you’ll realize that you don’t have the time or the energy to comment on what anyone else is doing with their lives. You’ll be too busy having fun creating your own.
So the next time you have an idea that you think is great, one that’s inspired and comes from a place of genuine interest (not because you think it’s going to make you money or make you popular) don’t second guess yourself. Roll with it. You don’t need anyone else’s permission. Maybe it seems like you could never be the one to be a successful fashion blogger, or restaurateur, or talk show host, or the next singer songwriter to blow up, but…
Why couldn’t it be you?
Fear kills more dreams than failure ever does.
Remember that our natural instinct is to roll with the feelings of joy, not because you expect or need something to happen but because it feels good here and now. If we can create joy in our present moment, we can be free of the weight of waiting for something to happen that will bring it to us.
All any of us are waiting for is happiness, anyway.
It’s already right here.