What makes people aware of what they need to be happy and able to articulate those needs so that they create happiness? What makes some people believe they can create their own lives while others feel that life is something that happens to them? I think the answers to those questions are complex and multi-layered, but largely come down to two things – an ability to see that we always have choices even when they aren’t such great choices, and the ability to stand up for what we may need even if that means going out on a limb or doing something different from what everyone else is doing. Both of these things can be difficult or even frightening, but the good news is that these skills can be learned. This month, let’s explore how we might go about figuring out what we need and what it would look like to create our own happiness at home or at work.
No one can give us happiness or balance, we have to create those things for ourselves and that may mean different things to different people. Discovering what those things would look like and actively taking the time to ask ourselves if what we are currently doing is in line with our priorities, is essential in today’s world where we are often being pulled in so many different directions.
So how do we begin to figure out what we need to create our own happiness?
Start by making a list of the things you would do for yourself if you didn’t have any obligations or restrictions other than taking care of yourself. Think about what you need to feel like you are functioning at an optimal level. Maybe it’s a four day work week, or maybe it’s getting eight hours sleep or working out for 30 minutes three times a week. Be specific and don’t argue with yourself about why you can’t have what you are thinking of. Just brainstorm and get it out on paper.
Now prioritize your list, putting your needs in order from most important to least.
Next, set a goal to negotiate at least one of the things on your list this month. Perhaps you have learned that ideally you need to work out three times a week and taking your favorite exercise class would make you late for work in the morning. Try asking your supervisor if you can change your hours to come in a half hour later and make up for that time in the evening on days you both agree upon. This is something that worked for me in a past job.
At first my boss was a bit shocked that I asked to flex my time so that I could work out in the morning before work as no one had ever done that before, but after I explained how getting this time in would improve my focus and help me be a better employee, he said yes. I felt empowered that I had asked for what I needed and valued by my employer. The point here is that often times we talk ourselves out of asking for something because it hasn’t been done before or because we are scared to hear no, but you don’t ask if you don’t get.
And if even you don’t get your ideal scenario, you may get a compromised version of it. Maybe instead of three days a week, you get two. So make your goal specific and tell someone about it. Maybe write it below in the comments section and let your fellow Tomatoes hold you accountable.
For me, the realization that I have more control over my circumstances than I think has been powerful. It came slowly and in stages. Yoga has gone a long way toward helping me get in touch with what I need and grow strong enough to ask for it, even if it is different than what might be going on for those around me. One of my favorite yoga teachers chooses at least one pose each class that students hold for as long as they are comfortable, coming out of it only when they are ready. It’s amazing what comes up when you try this.
Sometimes there are thoughts of comparison and self-judgment as your monkey mind rises to the surface. And then you feel empowered when you come out of the pose not because of what someone else in class is doing but because it is what is best for you. I have incorporated the same technique when I teach and it is beautiful to see people doing what is good for themselves regardless of where everyone else is in their practice. Yoga helps you become more aware of what feels right for you emotionally and physically and gives you a safe place to practice doing that even if that is different from what is good for someone else.