Choose longterm happiness over short-term gratification

@WhereHappinessBegins_ Fondation Beyeler Artwork - Cumulo by Tacita Dean

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There is no light without the dark. I don’t believe in the idea of false positivity. Or that the point of life is to always be happy, laughing, and dancing. Every emotion on the human spectrum has its place, cause, and purpose – even the ones we deem as “negative”.
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I don’t believe in burying negative/unwanted emotions with positivity quotes and meaningless feel-good advice that miss the point entirely.
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I believe in self-awareness and going deep to locate the ROOT of our unwanted emotions. If you’re going to distract yourself because you aren’t ready to deal with an emotion yet, at least be aware that’s what you’re doing.
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Choose longterm growth and happiness over temporary emotional bandaids, and lean into the entire spectrum of your thoughts and feelings. Because what you resist persists!
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An ignored thought/feeling will only keep getting louder and louder and louder until it is addressed. It WILL demand to be seen and heard, and likely in ways you do not want.
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Don’t be an ostrich by sticking your head in the sand 😝 Learn to pull back the curtain on the shadowy parts of your mind so that the light and warmth can come through.

🌻 #WhereHappinessBegins
@WhereHappinessBegins_
Artwork: Cúmulo by Tacita Dean
Location: Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland

Finding your passion when you want to do all the things

@WhereHappinessBegins_ Finding Your Passion Illustration @HeyAmberRae

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Does anybody else just want to do ALLLLLL the things? Oh man, I’ve stopped and started so many projects as a result of being interested in so many different things – and probably a little bit of FOMO, to be completely honest.
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I’m the epitome of ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’, and used to beat myself up for being a “quitter”. It certainly has its pros and cons, but really when it comes down to it, it’s about figuring out what you like/love vs. what you’re PASSIONATE about.
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How would I describe when you’re passionate about something?
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💭 You naturally already live and breathe “it” every day
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🤔 It’s constantly and consistently on your mind, even if you’re not taking physical actions toward it right now
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💁🏻‍♀️ You could talk about it every day, whether you’re sick, tired, or busy – which doesn’t mean you’d WANT to, but you COULD, and probably would get excited about it if somebody asked the right question(s)
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⚡️⚡️ Working on it, talking, and sharing about it energizes the crap out of you! Because if fills you with purpose
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I love what @garyvee says about documenting vs curating when asked how he continues to generate content over a long period of time.
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When you’re passionate about something, and you’re already living and breathing it, all you have to do is document and share your life; your thoughts, your actions, your progress.
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When you share your passion from your heart in a REAL way, it’s palpable and electrifying for others. When you create from an authentic place with authentic intentions, SOMEONE somewhere out there will resonate with what you have to say.
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That’s where the conversation starts, and the magic happens.

🌻 #WhereHappinessBegins
@WhereHappinessBegins_
Photo via @heyamberrae

Make a choice to stand for something.

@WhereHappinessBegins_ Know Your Worth Illustration by @AshleyMurrayCo🌻🤔💭
“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything.” – Alexander Hamilton
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This is a popular quote I heard a lot growing up. While I got it theoretically, I don’t think I ever understood what it meant.
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I’ve always been able to see multiple sides of an equation. This has been both useful and detrimental in my life.
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My Pros:
• I’m a great mediator in disagreements; between two opposing views
• Mostly open-minded to different opinions, experiences, and ideas
• I would do well on any side of a debate at school 😝
• When I DO decide on something i.e. an opinion or belief, I get REALLY excited; feel peaceful, grounded, and unstoppable from the sense of assuredness
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My Cons:
• Easily swayed/lacking solid ground to stand on because I can see merits to all sides/opinions
• Feeling a weakness in my identity and a sense of being lost/not knowing myself
• Prone to overthinking and rumination because there are SO many sides and factors to consider
• Prone to indecisiveness as a result
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As I continue to grow, experience, and develop, what I’m discovering is the balance between open-mindedness and making a CHOICE, i.e. choosing where I stand on an issue. They are not and do not have to be mutually exclusive.
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Making a choice doesn’t mean I’m necessarily saying the opposition is “wrong” or invalid.
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Making a choice doesn’t mean closing myself off to other possibilities or being rigid. NOR does being open-minded mean I’m forced to take on ALL other possibilities and opinions.
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A choice is simply a statement that while both A and B may be true and valid in different contexts, when held up against my own goals and values, I am more committed to B than I am to A. Or vice versa.
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A choice is nothing more than a stronger commitment and alignment with one option, over another. And for some people, it is much MUCH stronger.
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Regardless, in order to move the conversation along, I think we could all do with a little more willingness to acknowledge opinions and experiences that are different to our own.

🌻 #WhereHappinessBegins
@WhereHappinessBegins_
Illustration via @ashleymurray.co

Don’t be afraid of doing things and going places by yourself!

@WhereHappinessBegins_ People Watching in Singapore

Does anybody else enjoy being by themselves over a quiet meal or coffee, and just people watch, or be with their thoughts?
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I love eating, drinking (coffee/tea), shopping, running errands by myself. I love going to Chapters Indigo and spending the afternoon tucked away in a corner, or sitting at a communal table.
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In my life, people have often expressed how they could never do that, or prefer to be with others, or that being out alone makes them feel weird or self-conscious.
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While having welcomed company is wonderful, there is such benefit to learning to become comfortable with your self and your own thoughts, and learning to put your happiness over what you THINK people are thinking about you.
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Trust me, no one’s looking. And if they are, they are either genuinely curious, or judgemental. Either way, what other people think of you, is none of your business – in this context, anyway!
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🤔 I love observing others.
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☕️🍜 I love being able to savour a meal or beverage fully.
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🙋🏻‍♀️ I love being able to say where I want to go, and how long I choose to be there for.
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💭💫 What a wonderful opportunity it is for ideas and questions to spark and grow.
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🧘🏻‍♀️ I love practicing being present, in my body, and noticing my thoughts.
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🌞 I love being able to bask in the luxury of “nowhere to be but here and now”, and in the spaciousness of time that is 100% mine.
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Spending these moments alone makes me have to be CLEAR on, “What IS it that I want right now?? What do I want to do, now that I have ALL the say?”
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This weekend, carve some time out to be by yourself. You know all those places you’ve been wanting to go to, or things you’ve been wanting to do/see that no one else seems to be interested in, or interested in ENOUGH to go? Take yourself!
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To that restaurant or coffee shop. To that “Instagram-worthy” place. To that movie, concert, event, exhibition, class, workshop, seminar! To the store. To the beach. Go on a long walk. Life is too short to have our actions dictated by what others are willing or not willing to accompany us for.

🌻 #WhereHappinessBegins
@WhereHappinessBegins_

Trust that the path you’ve been taken in life is where you’re meant to be.

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Trust that the path you’ve been taken in life is where you’re meant to be.

I’ll be honest. Some days feel pretty repetitive and meaningless – this blog is, after all, a discovery of where happiness begins; why would there need to be a discovery if one was already at their desired destination?

It can be easy to fall into the melancholic trap of thinking, “Why this?

Why that?

What is the point of it all?

Who am I doing it for?

And my brain is right! Life can be repetitive and meaningless, if you so choose. Think of it this way: Life is essentially your personal vehicle on this Earth, and you are the GPS.

I love long drives (and walks) with nowhere to go, and nowhere to get to, just a good playlist in tow. There’s something meditative and lovely about simply being in life with no expectation or distraction.

 

You grow your best thoughts in silence, solitude, and meditation. When you relax and think deeply, you are giving your inmost powers their best opportunity to disclose themselves. — Grenville Kleiser

All of my best, most revelatory thoughts happen in moments of deep solitude and meditation. I think if someone told me I could sustain myself on solitude, deep thought, and philosophical ponderment for the rest of my life, I’m 98% sure I’d be content 95% of the time.

But this is real life, and short of becoming a recluse or a monk, at some point you’ve got to choose to turn off somewhere and rejoin the world of the living. For deep thought will bring about deeper thought, but it is only in the act of living in which you feel truly alive, meaningful, and human.

The act of living is simply this: to choose with intention, the acts and destinations in life which make you feel alive.

To return to our car and GPS analogy, you choose where you want to go and why. You choose where to stop, turn off, get a coffee, and who to pick up along the way.

The act of living means going from aimless driving and autopilot-mode to one of intention and choice. When was the last time you made an intentional choice to make the choices that make you feel alive on any given day? No, not planning for this evening after work, not planning for the weekend, but NOW on THIS day today.

And in that vein, when was the last time you did something just for you that adds meaning to your life?

How many times are you going to talk about starting that hobby or project, learning that new skill, treating yourself to that self-care thing, going to the place with that person, reorganizing your finances, picking up the book that’s been collecting dust on your nightstand? Even if it may be unexciting to the average person but means something to YOU, and adds to YOUR life.

Yes, life can feel repetitive and meaningless because many of us live every day waiting for the life we want to happen to and for us. We live vicariously through characters in movies and TV shows, and strangers in a box on our cellphone screens—strangers and characters, by the way, whose lives seem to bounce from BIG moment to BIG moment, skipping everything else in between.

Happiness can be comprised of moments of all sizes. While we’re waiting for those BIG moments of happiness—that promotion, vacation, graduation, relationship, proposal—it’s important to enjoy the little moments in between.

Let’s put the joy back into the little everyday things that are sacred, and just for us.

No matter what, whether your life is filled with big moments, or small… whether you prefer to spend today driving around aimlessly & freely, or GPSing it with choice & intention:

Move when you are called to move. Stop when you’re tired—in fact, feel free to take a nap on the side of the road. Switch lanes when the one you are on no longer serves in getting you to your desired destination. Crank up the music when things start to get boring. Roll the windows down. Barely make that red light. Go on cruise control. Change the station.

Remember, it’s never too late to change where you’re going. Where you end up is exactly where you’re meant to be.

#WhereHappinessBegins
Instagram @WhereHappinessBegins_

Why you should tell the truth and assert your boundaries, no matter what.

As I’m writing these blogs, it’s becoming clear to me just how paralyzed I have been in so many areas of life. Not only do I get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’, but I’ve been paralyzed in communication from such a young age.

Ever since I can remember, it’s been difficult for me to assert my needs and boundaries. The interesting thing is I’ve never had a problem with being confrontational, or sharing my opinions and beliefs. So what gives? What is the key differentiator that separates the occasions when I’m outspoken vs. unable to verbalize my needs?

Avoiding things that risk my self-esteem, or ego.

As I speculate, one thing that comes to mind is Risk. It’s easy to share my thoughts and feelings on subjects I feel particularly passionate or knowledgeable about, i.e. I feel confident I’m not going to appear foolish. It’s also easy for me to share in social situations in which I feel safe, unthreatened, or socially dominant.

However, when it comes to scenarios where there may be a risk to my esteem and ego, or risks a relationship I care about (professional or personal), suddenly I’m mousey, and revert to a childlike version of myself. As a result of not asserting my beliefs and needs, I develop resentment, frustration, and diminished sense of worth.

Other repercussions include the breakdown of many relationships/friendships, staying in certain relationships for far too long, dissatisfaction in my work/career, feeling like I “never” get what I want, feeling like I’m GIVING too much, and just a general feeling of unease.

By not asserting my boundaries, which I see as the healthy walls we must put up to keep happiness IN, I end up building a different kind of boundary – the kind that keeps happiness OUT.

For ease of distinction, let’s label the latter as “Borders”; the primary definition of which according to Oxford Dictionary is, “A line separating two countries, administrative divisions, or other areas.” Keyword: separating.

Borders, boundaries, walls, the elephant in the room, whatever you choose to call it, the results are the same: they build a barrier between you and other people. Between you and love. Between you and what really matters. They get in the way of you getting what you truly want. Build a border high enough, and eventually you’ll block out any sunlight from getting in; light that is essential to your growth.

It becomes easy to be cynical and resentful of others.

 

That doesn’t mean walking around being a total A-hole with disregard for other people’s feelings. But it does mean cutting the bullshit that WILL eventually break the relationship down, anyway.

To tell you from personal experience, it feels so much better to finally air out your truth. Truly. The liberation and lightness you feel after unloading a truth will have you dancing down the street—EVEN if it costs you the relationship.

Is it easy? Nope. Is it risky? Yep. Nerve-wracking, exciting, scary, makes you feel alive? Yep, yep, yep, and yep. Does it put your relationships at risk? Yes! It absolutely may.

Here’s the thing: a relationship sustained on half-truths and resentment is no relationship at all. You are not doing anyone any favours by holding back. That doesn’t mean walking around being a total A-hole with disregard for other people’s feelings. But it does mean cutting the bullshit that WILL eventually break the relationship down, anyway. And if it’s not the relationship that breaks down, it will be your happiness, quality of life, and well-being that does.

Bullshit takes no prisoners, my friends. And for the most part, healthy relationships are able to withstand truthful and authentic communications.

What truthful and authentic communication includes:

  • Care/empathy
  • Open listening without internal dialogue
  • Vulnerability
  • Responsibility
  • Self-awareness
  • Genuine curiosity
  • Respect for myself and others

What truthful and authentic communication DOESN’T include:

  • Blame/accusation
  • A fixed point of view
  • Defensiveness
  • Assumption – including any unconfirmed “intuitions”
  • Expectation or setting the other person up to fail
  • Labelling the other person, or their actions
  • A fixed agenda

8 times out of 10, when I’m communicating from a place that is truthful and authentic, I am able to come to a new understanding with the other person or people, and resolve any issues/concerns at hand. Even when things don’t work out, expressing your truth—your needs, wants, boundaries, feelings and concerns—is completely rewarding on its own.

People aren’t mind-readers!

Expressing your truth also makes it SO much easier for the people in your life to actually contribute to your happiness! Instead of making them the reason for your unhappiness.

Can YOU read minds with 100% accuracy? If not, you should probably stop expecting others to read yours.

#WhereHappinessBegins
Instagram @WhereHappinessBegins_

 

Growing Pains: Why “Knowing How” Is Not Enough To Change Your Life and Habits

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I’ve been stuck. I’ve been stuck for a long time. Moreover, I’ve been stuck and waiting. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for my dreams to miraculously fall into my lap; for an opportunity to appear out of nowhere, and for someone to give me all the answers.

Answers about where life is going and what it’s supposed to look like.
Am I making the right decision(s)?
What am I supposed to be doing?
Am I a good person?
Do I have a purpose?
Was I right/wrong?
Will I have a good life?
Should I go on this date with this person? But where should we go, and what should I wear?

What I’m starting to understand is KNOWING will never replace DOING. Even if by some miracle, I were given all the answers and could see my entire life mapped out, it would still leave the DOING to get there. Even if I were given the answers about why I get depressed, why I procrastinate; if I could scrutinize and distinguish every detail about WHY I am the way I am, how my childhood has affected my adulthood, and the “reasons” behind all my actions, it would still leave me not knowing HOW to change, or WHAT to do with that information.

Knowing will never replace doing, nor does it actually produce the results we want. However, neither does knowing how and what we need to do to achieve what we want.

I KNOW that the source of my poor relationship to food and body-image has to do with feeling criticized by my family as a child and teen. I KNOW that when I’m stressed or depressed, I use food as a means to feel better. I KNOW that when I’m hungry and binging on food, it is usually something else I’m hungry for, or I’m dehydrated. I KNOW that to lose weight, I’ve got to eat less, DO more, stay hydrated, and get more sleep.

Does knowing ANY of that make losing weight and getting fit easier? No. Does knowing make me put my fork down? No. Putting my fork down is what puts my fork down.

It is the DOING of the action that gets results.

 

One of the most important keys to success is having the discipline to do what you know you should do, even when you don’t feel like doing it. – Unknown

The incessant need for humans to understand WHY and psychoanalyze our lives, our pasts, and every single decision we make easily becomes another form of procrastination that excuses us from actually taking the actions to change, or grow.

Of course, there is a necessary degree of knowing that must occur; the degree of which will vary under different contexts. For example, knowing HOW to lose weight may not help us lose weight, but NOT knowing at all is certainly a hindrance.

Therefore, there is a healthy degree of responsibility we must all take to be well-informed, and gather the basic understanding of the WHYs, WHATs and HOWs of any given situation. But that is where we must learn to draw the line, and not fall into the curiosity trap of analysis paralysis, OVER-thinking, and hesitation, which often leads to justification, resignation, and avoidance.

The most effective way to become unstuck, find “answers”, and change our lives (or aspects of it) is to do things in a way that is different from how we have become accustomed to doing them—simple, right? But not easy.

 

Insanity is doing thing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results – Albert Einstein

Growth does not feel good, at first. Growth is NOT fun – at first. Growth may even feel counterintuitive at times. You sure as hell can bet that when you’re running your first mile after months or years of inactivity, every cell in your body will be screaming, “NO! This is not right! What are you doing?! WHY are you doing this??? Stop!!”

As human beings, we are hard-wired for survival, which means doing things we know will keep us safe. It means not taking too many risks, or going past our comfort zone.

CHANGE feels really difficult and downright impossible at times.
STRETCHING YOURSELF past your current limits is uncomfortable. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. And as humans, we love to make it especially difficult by expecting to be at Point Z before we’ve even reached Point A.

Growth is not always fun, but necessary to your happiness, sanity, health, goals, and fulfillment in life. Taking Action To Grow is the only way to get the answers you’ve been looking for, whether that answer is a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’, to ‘Proceed’ or ‘Change Paths’.

Growth will NOT always feel intuitive. It is easier to be resigned or cynical about growth, than to have to endure the pain of change, which is really the pain of taking unfamiliar actions. Growth can be painful, but it is always less painful and more rewarding than staying stuck, living the same predictable cycles for the rest of your life.

#WhereHappinessBegins
Instagram @WhereHappinessBegins_

Remember when you wanted what you currently have?

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YOU KNOW. That relationship, that career goal, that destination holiday, that THING you wanted more than anything—until you got it, and subsequently moved onto the ‘next’.

As humans, we are often searching for MORE, bigger, better, of sometimes simply different. The second I get or achieve the thing I’ve been wanting, my mind immediately goes:

  • What’s next?
  • How can I make this or get EVEN better??
  • How do I get to the next level/step?

As a result, I’m in a constant state of bottomless dissatisfaction, PEPPERED with momentary flashes of bliss. And that’s all well and fine… except for the fact that it can feel a little empty, meaningless, stressful, and endless.

Rather than continue this inane Cycle of Discontent, it’s important to step back, and appreciate/acknowledge our accomplishments, and what we have SO THAT we can have more meaningful and happy lives. So that our accomplishments and goals actually hold MEANING and purpose.

Cliché and perhaps eye-roll-worthy, but quite effective when applied. It’s not about giving up your goals, life standards, or ideals. It’s not about settling for a lesser life, and pretending to be “happy” about it. Do/get/make whatever you want.

The thing about gratitude and learning to appreciate what you have is it allows for ease and contentment in your life EVEN IF nothing else were to ever change about it again. It adds meaning to the rat race, and relieves a bit of the self-inflicted pressure.

Stop, breathe, and pat yourself on the back. You’re doing good.

#WhereHappinessBegins
Instagram @WhereHappinessBegins_

Choosing happiness over suffering

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What happens when your internal dialogue is your worst enemy? Lately I’ve been struggling with the ACTION of choosing happiness over suffering.

Am I a masochist, addicted to pain?? My actions and behaviours as of late would certainly say so!

Conceptually, saying NO to all which doesn’t serve you is freaking fantastic. I generally have an easy time saying No to the things outside of myself (maybe too easy). But whether it’s habitual neural pathways, or a mental/emotional addiction to pain and internal drama, some days I just can’t seem to break the trappings of my turbulent inner voice.

The voice that tells me I’m not good enough; the one that is paranoid, fearful, judgemental, jealous, and anxious.

So what to do? For started I’ve been…

  • Allowing my thoughts to simply exist, without labelling them wrong or making them a big deal
  • Filtering out distracting thoughts – particularly unproductive negative thoughts – by focusing on the actual results I want to achieve at the end of the day
  • Reminding myself of my overall core values in life and of the person I want to be
  • Observing all these thoughts, making note of them, and reserving judgement

I guess we’ll see how it goes! Happy Friday.

#WhereHappinessBegins
Instagram @WhereHappinessBegins_

Illustration by @abbiepaulhus