During lunch with my mother the other day, we got on the topic of what it means to be happy. I told her my views and a few general things I do for myself, and she told me a story that really stuck with me. Amidst our cranberry seltzers and sweet potato fries, she recalled a time in her twenties when she was recently divorced and had just moved into her own apartment. One evening as she was settling into her new life, she was making popcorn and contemplating what she wanted to do for dinner. Not paying attention, she ended up burning the popcorn.
After a moment of disappointment, she poured herself a Diet Coke and sat down on the couch with her burnt popcorn. In that moment, she decided to have burnt popcorn and Diet Coke for dinner – because she could. She laughed to herself, overjoyed by the fact that she had no one to answer to, and nobody to thank for this strange moment of bliss but herself.
This odd little story really stuck with me, as it reminded me of how important it is to make yourself happy. It often feels like our happiness comes second in life to work and routine, or we find ourselves relying on other people to make us happy. Why?
When it comes to our careers, how can we really be productive and grow if we don’t focus on ourselves first? A recent article by Hubspot talks about the modern belief that in order to be successful, we have to always be busy. We compete with our to-do lists, using complaints as little badges of honor and compartmentalizing our day into time slots. Breakfast – work – lunch – work – gym – cook dinner – fold laundry – bed. It’s easy to slip into a routine that puts us on autopilot, but is that truly making us happy?
I’ve been trying to slip little things into my day that will give me a moment of pure bliss. Some days it’s a quick walk to the harbor, other days its 30 minutes of writing. One of the purest forms of bliss I’ve found on a midday break came from sitting on a park bench with a really good piece of chocolate and a cup of coffee. Weird, right? But it was great. Whatever it may be, remember to put yourself first. The littlest thing you do for yourself could make a world of difference in your attitude and your productivity.
Outside of work, a huge factor that plays into happiness is our relationships. I’m a strong believer that before a person should be in a relationship, they have to know how to make themselves happy. If a couple makes up 100% and each aren’t giving 50%, the scale moves and suddenly the responsibility falls on one person to make up for it. In terms of happiness, it’s normal for this to slightly shift from time to time but it can’t always be that way. Once you begin relying on someone else to provide your happiness, you’ll find yourself unfulfilled and constantly pressuring the other person to do more, be more, and give more. That’s not fair to them, or you.
It can be difficult to find that balance, but something that’s worked for me in the past is the mindset of “I have my life, you have your life, and we have a life together.” Understand that while it’s nice to have someone trying to make you happy, you don’t need it. The only person responsible for your happiness is you.
So whether it’s burnt popcorn and Diet Coke for dinner or taking yourself off auto-pilot for a quick walk, remember to never stop making yourself happy. You deserve moments of bliss, and you deserve to know what it feels like to be happy – and have no one to thank but yourself.