The little pieces that come together to form what everybody wants — happiness
It’s a weird headline, right?
‘NaNoWriMo, Mindset, and TV Shows’…It sounds like a bunch of clickbait thrown together to make more clickbait.
But think about it, just for a second. Think about happiness.
Ask yourself, what makes you happy?
Ask yourself, are you happy?
And then, eventually, you’ll turn to the unanswerable, constantly being answered question of ‘How can I be happy?’.
How can you?
I promised you a secret formula, didn’t I?
But maybe you already know, from your countless other expeditions into the internet on the search for the perfect equation to a meaningful life.
Maybe you already know that there is no exact happiness formula.
And maybe now, you’re about to click out of this article because I just wasted the last ten seconds of your time.
Because maybe you won’t glean anything from this, maybe you won’t find any value from these bundle of lines thrown together to form something we as a species all collectively call an ‘article’.
Or maybe you will.
Anyways, let’s continue back to…
It’s this abstract goal we are constantly trying to reach. It’s something every one of us craves, desires, longs for in every inch of our soul and heart and body and mind, even if we tell ourselves otherwise.
Some people are always aware of it, shaping and forming their life in hopes of having as much as they can.
Some people live life without a care in the world, consequences and their future the furthest thing from their mind.
If you clicked on this article, you’re probably the first one.
Or you just misclicked.
But keep reading.
Sometimes, ramblings have the smallest gems of grand revelations.
I said that happiness doesn’t have an exact formula. And it doesn’t. But there are parts of your life you can add or tweak or remove to make yourself happier.
Let’s talk a bit about them, and how the title you just read isn’t completely clickbait.
NaNoWriMo — Looking for Doors
First off, NaNoWriMo.
If you don’t know already, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every year in November. It’s a national(and sometimes international), month-long event for writers to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel — hence the name National Novel Writing Month.
Now, I’m not saying that taking part in NaNoWriMo is going to make you instantly happy. However, it is coming up, and as a fiction writer myself, it’s on my mind — so I thought I would use it as an example.
An example for what, you may ask?
Well, an example for one of the key elements in happiness — opportunity.
I’m sure you’ve heard that word before.
Merriam Webster defines it as a ‘a favorable juncture of circumstances’ and ‘a good chance for advancement or progress’.
Most of us just look at it as a chance to do something.
Right now, let’s look at opportunities as a door.
Picture you’re in a room. Maybe that room is the room of an 80-year-old retired zoo tour guide.
Maybe that room is the space of a 15-year-old student reading this to procrastinate studying for their test.
Whatever the room is, this is where you are, right now. You’ve been in dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of rooms before, and you’ve traveled through those rooms via doors.
Some doors may have been half-opened already, the obvious next step in your journey.
Some doors may have required tugging and pulling and lock-picking, cost tears and heartache and sacrifice.
But regardless, those rooms and doors have gotten you to where you are now.
And they’ll also get you to where you’re going next.
I’m not the first one to think of doors as opportunities — far from it. There’s even a common phrase you’ve probably heard of, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’
The phrase is meant to reassure us that not all is lost when something goes wrong — there’s always another chance, another opportunity, another door that will lead to another room that will lead to another path.
But there’s something else, too.
Instead of walking blindly from room to room, choosing the door that is straight ahead of us, gold and shiny and grinning, beckoning for us to open it and step across, look.
That’s all I’m asking.
Look around at the other doors.
Consider them, if just briefly, if just for a moment, but consider them seriously and with your full thought.
Look into the shadowy pockets of the space around you for hidden staircases, peek under couches for trap doors, pull the books of the shelves in hopes of revealing a hidden compartment.
For some rooms — most of your rooms, probably — you’ll find nothing, and all you’ll be rewarded with for your efforts is wasted time.
But maybe, just maybe, you’ll find the best door in the room.
The hidden opportunity.
The secret formula.
Or at least, a piece of it.
So, what has all of this got to do with NaNoWriMo?
Well, maybe you’ve been meaning to write a book. You’re not a writer. You haven’t written anything since college. This prospect of writing a novel has only crossed your mind a few times.
So, if you’re passive, if you’re just walking on auto-run toward the next open door, the next open door, the next open door — you might never write that book, never find the energy and the time to pursue this new idea.
But if you’re looking, if you’re constantly searching every room, maybe you’ll find out about NaNoWriMo. And, being the active, brave soul you are, you’ll cross the doorway. Start the novel. Plan the characters. Plot the plot.
Maybe you’ll get to the first chapter, and then step out of that room and continue on as you were before. That’s fine.
Maybe you’ll finish the book, publish it, and become rich, famous, and 100% happy.
Or maybe somewhere in between.
What matters is that you take the step.
What matters is that you don’t just wait for opportunity and then take it — you look for opportunity, and then take it.
Mindset — The Choice is Yours
This one is much more straightforward than the former.
You’ve probably heard or read the word ‘mindset’ in happiness books and podcasts and videos. You probably already know that it’s the ‘lens you use to view the world’, or the way you think about things and choose to react.
Let me share with you the mindset I’m in when I’m happiest — and how you can use it to be happier.
To explain this, I’ll be using an example(because why not?). Let’s talk about Clare.
Clare is a high school student who works a part-time job at her local grocery market. She’s a good student with straight A’s, runs two clubs, has a boyfriend, and a lively social life. Along with that, she plays tennis, swims for fun, and is trying to make some more money with a YouTube vlog. Occasionally she helps out with her sister’s babysitting business, and walks her neighbors dogs for a quick buck every week.
Clare’s pretty busy. She’s constantly feeling like she doesn’t have enough hours in her day, and while she’s staying on top of things for the most part, she finds herself always in a bad mood — grumpy, moody, and quick to anger.
Right now, Clare is looking at her world through what we’ll call the ‘Snowplow Lens’. Like a snowplow, she’s constantly moving forward, getting things done, working through one problem after another — fixed on what’s in front of her, so she can focus on each task.
This isn’t a bad mindset to be in, necessarily — it’s great for getting a project done before a looming deadline, keeping things on track, and being a doer.
However, pretty soon, Clare’s going to get burnt out. The snowplow act will soon lead to a lack of enjoyment, and then Clare will find herself stopping. After all, why go through all the work for no reward, no purpose, and no motivation?
That’s why it’s important for Clare — and busy, stressed out people like her — to also look at the world through the ‘Mapper Lens’. Next to the snowplow driver, who’s just focused on the snow right in front of him, is the mapper. This mapper, be it human or technology, sees the route, the purpose, the goal.
The mapper is focused on clearing the snow for the whole city, and while acknowledging the work that needs to go into the project, also knows that the tasks are only meaningful because they are building to something bigger — a snow-free town, or in our case, a happy life.
The amazing thing about mindset is that we don’t have to change what we’re doing, just how we’re thinking. In order to be happier, you don’t need to start a crazy business or build a cabin in the woods and live the life of a hermit(although you can, if that’s your jam).
You just need to take a step back, breathe, and center yourself again with the big picture, the overall map — what you’ve done so far, and the beauty of where you’re going.
So, back to our example, Clare can actually be much happier without dropping any of her responsibilities.
She just needs to change her mindset, and instead of thinking of life like a long, never-ending to-do-list, think of it as a map, with amazing rewards along the way — worth the hard work to reach.
TV Shows — Stepping Away from the Pile
Let’s use Clare again for this.
Today, Clare needs to study for her three upcoming tests, go to one of her club meetings as well as schedule a trip for her other club, spend some time with her boyfriend to celebrate his birthday, go to tennis practice, work, edit and publish her vlog, as well as babysit for two hours.
On ‘Snowplow Mode’, she could spend the whole day doing everything she needs to do, checking tasks off her list from the time she wakes up to the time she finally goes to bed.
Some days, that’s necessary.
But living like that, every minute of your life, until you die — well, that doesn’t sound like much of a life at all, does it?
If you want a balanced, happy life, you need to be able to step away. Instead of only relaxing when everything is done(which will never happen — there’s always one more thing, one more thing, one more thing), be able to take a break.
Step away from the pile of chores and tasks and things you need to do — still unfinished — and go watch some TV.
You don’t have to spend half of your day on the couch doing nothing, but don’t put all the dessert at the end — spread it throughout your whole day, your whole life, and that way your fire, your drive, will always be lit.
A big part of this is being able to recognize importance — specifically, which tasks are more important than others, and which commitments to work on more. Going back to Clare, two of her tests are difficult, but the other is for a class she breezes through. Naturally, she can spend much less time on that last test.
You only have so many hours in a day — you can’t spend them all equally on things with varied importance. Don’t spend five hours on a big thing, and five hours on a small thing — spend your time smartly.
It also depends on the person. What are your priorities, your values? For Clare, maybe publishing her vlog is more important to her than going to tennis. For you, it might be the other way around.
It’s easy to just keep going, keep blowing through tasks, because there is always something else you have to do, and obviously you don’t want to procrastinate and waste time.
It’s a balance though.
Yes, you have things you need to do — but you also need to remind yourself why you do those things in the first place: to be happy.
Reading this article probably won’t fix all your problems.
I know that, and you know that too.
A podcast that promises easy, eternal happiness probably won’t give you easy, eternal happiness.
However, I think that these people telling you how to be happy, for the most part, all have something to say — even if it’s very, very small. It’s not the full picture, not the exact, perfect formula, but it’s something.
And if your priority is to live a happy, fulfilling, meaningful life — you’ll be able to put in the work and the effort and the grit to put all those somethings into your own, unique, secret to happiness.