Many of us have spent time stuck in the trickiest of the myths of happiness, focused internally but unable to gain a sense of meaningful progress.
Following my initial realization while I was in Prague, I realized something that led me down the less-traveled path I’m on today.
With all the talk of happiness needing to come from within, it’s a common mistake to interpret the focus of happiness as “me, myself and I.” It’s an easy misconception to make due to the surface-level paradox.
Myth 6: Happiness is all about you
It isn’t that we should de-prioritize what makes us happy. There’s a balance, as with most things in life.
There’s a base level of what I call unselfish self-care that needs to happen so you are able to show up as your best self and provide for others. You’re a human being with needs too, and if you don’t have what you need at a base level, it’s ridiculous to expect to take care of others in a sustainable way.
The base self-care includes actions like intentionally doing the things you need (like enough sleep, you-time, exercise), spending time on things you enjoy and with the people you love, as well as choosing to the happy in the present moment (Link).
Yet if we think solely about what makes us happy, we end up over-focusing on ourselves—to the point where the energy becomes a self-centered spiral.
And in its isolation, with nowhere else to go but around and around, there is a lack of meaning and connection. It becomes its own form of drudgery, blending into each other, just one thing after the next, as I experienced when I made my happiness the goal during my sabbatical.
What I realized was, while the drive needed to come from within, the reason and impact needed to be outside of and larger than just me, myself and I.
The external reason was where the meaning came in. This was what enabled me to put in hard work and make progress in meaningful way, leading the way to a sense of personal satisfaction and ultimately greater happiness.
In my own affliction—in the fear of the letting the life I really want to live to go un-lived, in my constant battle between what’s familiar and the risk of the path less traveled—I saw the opportunity to help others who might be struggling with the same thing.
The reason became not just for me but also for others. The focus on others is the key to the intentional work towards the pursuit of future happiness and its essential connection with meaningful work and progress.