Most people reach for things in order to be happy. A good job, a significant other, accomplishments, as well as travel, new experiences and countless other bench marks.
All of these things are good, but I don't really like the idea of accomplishing something and then being happy. I prefer to believe that if you focus on happiness first, other things will fall into place with a lot less effort.
But before you can be happy, you have to know what makes you happy.
I used to believe that I didn't have to think about what made me happy because I already naturally knew.
I think I have realized that this isn't necessarily the case, and even if it is, isn't it worth it to step back and ask yourself? You might be surprised with what you find.
My simple technique for knowing what makes me happy.
I love lists. My brain isn't so good at constantly keeping track of everything so it's good to have things written down.
Take a piece of paper and make a T chart.
One column will say "Invigorating" and the other will say "Debilitating".
Keep this list in your pocket and throughout the day categorize everything you do into one of the columns.
Either something gives you energy and you enjoy it, or it takes energy away from you. I'll give you a piece of my chart as an example.
Invigorating Debilitating Breakfast Arguing/Debating Writing Meaningless small talk Social gatherings Cooking Cleaning Being behind at work Starcraft Cardio Reading Gym
You can do this list for different sections of your life, such as work and personal.
Now it is clear what you like and dislike.
I want you to draw a second chart, this one will be a 2x2 chart.
I know, I have amazing paint skills.
Categorize each item from your list into one of these boxes. If an item invigorates you and makes you happy do it regardless of whether you have to or not.
This is common sense so people do this just fine already, at least for the most part.
It's when we get to the debilitating section of the chart that things get sticky. Pay close attention to the items on the bottom half.
If you don't have to do something that is debilitating but you are anyway, stop it. Stop it right now!
Ask yourself, do I really have to do everything I put in the "have to" section?
Sometimes you might find that you think you have to do something but in reality you are doing it because someone else believes you should.
Make sure that you keep a close eye on this box and allow as few things as possible to enter it.
If something absolutely has to make it's way into this box, ask yourself: Is there any way I can minimize or phase this task out of my life completely over time?
Using these two charts, I've changed my life.
Today I wanted to write something as practical as possible. The things I write about in this blog have changed my life time and time again.
They are usually very simple, but in a beautiful way. They have helped me to step back and make sure I am moving in a direction that will lead me to a happier self.
I hope if you are reading this post, you will attempt what I have suggested.
Write your first list over as long of a period as you like, and then categorize them using the second chart.
Increase the good, decrease the bad. It's as easy, and as hard, as that.