Note: This is a guest post by Steliana van de Rijt-Economu. Please share your love with Steliana as you welcome her to the M2bH community of guest posters.
“If you want to be happy, be.” ~Leo Tolstoy
As I am holding my 5 month old baby a profound thought passes through my mind: “There is a place where money and success cannot reach.”
You only become aware of it when you’ve reached it and you experience a funny feeling of exaltation that makes you smile like a little child. I am now convinced there is a place in our heart and soul where we can withdraw and be happy for just the simple fact of being.
In my case, I find that place when I hold my little one and sooth her when she is crying. I also feel it when I open the window early in the morning and I feel that fresh caress of spring air cooling my cheek, reminding me that there’s a new day … a day full of possibilities.
Some people call it happiness, but I would like to leave it undefined … it’s just the mood of the moment. Sometimes you are lucky enough to be aware of it, to consciously enjoy it. Other times you’re not.
A Lesson 10 Years in the Making
My life until recently had been defined by my drive for success. I tended to compare mine to others. And so I’ve always worked hard to attain it. I recently celebrated 10 years of working full time in the corporate environment where working at least a 10 hour day seems to be the norm.
Whenever I wished for a new job I would put all my energy into making sure I got it. I thought that’s what would make me happy. But as soon as I got there, I had new goals and took no time to celebrate or enjoy the accomplishment. It left me feeling empty.
Two years ago I managed to get my dream job and moved with my husband to the center of London. I was traveling the world in business class, giving courses to high potential employees from various countries.
In that first year I spent 165 nights outside the UK. As the young man who sold me my iPhone said, I had a “cool job.” But my life was moving so fast that I could never find my “inner place” where I’m happy. I started doubting myself and began blaming the world for my growing unhappiness.
A Changed Perspective
It’s only when I took a year off for maternity leave that I came to understand what was happening to me. I am now spending my time at home, still getting as little sleep as when I was on my busiest business trips, but now I’m experiencing a new sense of fulfillment that cannot be purchased at any price.
And interestingly enough I don’t spend all my time with the baby. I still invest time in my own projects, engaged in community service and making time for my friends. When you are filled with positive energy you can do much more with your life.
How I Found What Makes Me Happy
So what did I do to reconnect with that “inner place”? I wrote 10 questions on one side of 10 different 3×5 note cards and answered them as honestly as I could on the back. Here are my questions (what ones would you add?):
- What do I do well?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- Where do I offer my expertise to others?
- What makes me smile?
- What makes me fell good?
- What makes me annoyed that I can avoid?
- What is really important to me?
- Who do I care about most?
- What activities/challenges really excite me?
- What do I really want to learn?
Then I spread the cards on a table so I could have a good look at them. This helped me identify the most important things in my life. Now, from time to time, I go back to the cards and enjoy the realization that my answers don’t change much.
Success, it turned out, had little to do with my job or the money or the travel or prestige. It was both much smaller than those things, and yet so infinitely bigger.
- Do you feel the same?
- How do you keep yourself in touch with what your heart really wants?
- When was the last time you thought about what makes you really happy?
- How do you make sure you’re living the life you love?
I would love to know your thoughts. Please share them in the comments below.
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Steliana van de Rijt-Economu is a Leadership Development Adviser and founder of Ithaca Journey. She would appreciate a visit to her blog to check out what she’s writing about.
PS: Have you subscribed to get my free newsletter and download my free eBook, A Walk through Happiness, yet?
Photo credit: Isabella James