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“Happiness is being the creator of your experience. Choosing to take pleasure in what you have, right now, regardless of the circumstances, while being the best you that you can be.” – Leo Babauta.
When I came across this quote today (a snippet from the book Zen Habits, actually), it really hit home. I don’t think I’ve mentioned my “minimalism” kick too much on this blog, but I’ve really been trying to de-clutter and focus on having less stuff around. Clearing the stuff out for an organizational feign like me was the easy part.
Choosing to take pleasure in what you have. That’s a bit more challenging.
Sometimes, we get so focused on future goals, milestones and achievements that we forget about now. The present moment. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m always the one visualizing future accomplishments. It turns out, though, that I’m missing a huge piece of the puzzle in the search for happiness.
What Makes Us Happy?
Of course, this answer depends a lot on our personalities, desires, and dreams. For some people, it is an achievement, for others it’s spending time doing certain activities we enjoy – or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
If you’ve seen the documentary Happy, you know that psychologists and researchers around the world have found surprisingly similar results – people and relationships make us happy. Focusing on people and relationships throughout all those present moments, not only at the end.
Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk on the World’s Longest Study On Happiness is another great example of research (from Harvard University) that surveys people asking about their levels of happiness. They find that the healthiest, happiest people (regardless of a lot of variables such as income, social class, etc) are those with close relationships with loved ones and friends.
By the way, if you missed my post on happiness, there’s more on my thoughts on expressing gratitude for what we have there.
4 Tips On How To Enjoy The Process
As much as I love setting goals (you have my free goal setting template, right?), I do realize that it’s not ideal to only celebrate finishing a goal. We should also celebrate the baby steps, and the process.
1. Create The Experience
Babauta suggests we find happiness when we learn to “be the creator of your experience”. Even as a self-proclaimed “control freak”, I will say that this is difficult for me! It’s so hard to take control of a situation back when you lose control, isn’t it?
When something goes completely opposite to the way you expected it to, how do you react?
Instead of my default state of frustration, I’m trying to take a calmer approach. (Calmness is not my strong point, but it’s worth a shot!). Finding a way to take pleasure in where I’m at right now would be ideal.
I’d love to be way farther than I am on my PhD project. For the longest time, I was postponing a lot of what I wanted to do until the (seemingly perpetual) end of the PhD. That is, until a good friend suggested living my life for now, with the goal in my mind – even forefront- but without letting it block my happiness.
It’s tough, but I’m trying. This way, I can even enjoy bits of the PhD process, without being too focused on the end and the joy that will bring.
2. Take A Break
Schedule a mini-vacation, take a Sunday to yourself, or indulge in a weekend with friends. If you’ve got less teaching hours this summer, embrace it. That’s a tough one, I know – but it’s what I’m trying this year. Embrace the time and take it to do something (else) you love.
3. Choose To Enjoy The Good Stuff, Now
Now, wait a minute – I can hear you thinking. Just last week, we were talking about delaying gratification and how that may be the best option. Well, we also said that some stuff is to be enjoyed now.
Perhaps by feeling an urge to grab the reward now, rather than later – we are setting ourselves up to go for what we want.
Maybe it’s okay to indulge the instant gratification once in awhile, and not need mastery and perfection in everything.
4. Enjoy The Process
While dedication and time commitment are definitely needed to develop mastery, I do think that we sometimes need to enjoy the process. Sure, that’s similar to the point above, but personally, I find this one more difficult.
Choosing to take pleasure in what you have, as opposed to always waiting for the future is one I struggle with! If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you might be a little sick of my swimming references. Learning to swim has been one of my most difficult struggles lately!
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Staying “within yourself” and focusing on the present moment rather than anticipating the end can work wonders for progress
- Sometimes, repetitive movements can calm the mind
- The mind is a trickster! Illogical fears and past experiences often cloud its evaluation of current danger
- If you don’t believe it, you can’t do it. It’s that simple.
Can you tell my swimming instructor wants the sport to serve as a basis for approaching life? 😉 She’s definitely teaching me to have patience, take it one step and a time, and enjoy where I am at the moment. Enjoy the progress so far.
What do you enjoy in your life? How do you find enjoyment in your most difficult tasks or most trying obstacles? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂
Have a lovely and productive week!
P.S. Photography fans, the main image in today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in Bordeaux, France in the summer of 2016.
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