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I read a lot of personal development books. I liked the business-centered ones, the spiritual ones, the little daily guides, and even the Buddhist ones (I am technically Catholic, but I enjoy a good Buddhist theory now and then). I’ll even read those hokey-dokey books written by 20-and-30-somethings for confused Millennials about how to be an adult or whatever. (Hey, even if I don’t feel confused, I figure I can learn something).
But here’s a confession: After seven years of reading these self-help books and doing a lot of soul-searching, I still felt this inner sense of sadness. I tried living in the moment. I tried following my passion. I even did the things where you would try a new activity daily, like journaling or yoga or meditating or sipping green tea by a window, to try to feel genuinely excited about life again. But I still largely felt dull and lifeless. Most people didn’t suspect anything, not even my closest friends and family members, because I have one of those witty little personalities that makes me seem upbeat and cheerful, even though on the inside I often felt like I wanted to crawl in a hole and stay there with my fears and anxieties all day long rather than face life and all its challenges.
A lot happened to me seven years ago, and I don’t think I ever fully recovered from it. Despite everything I tried since to recover, my baseline mood was still a little disappointed, dismal, down. Better than before reading the books, mind you, but never back to my old normal.
But here’s the thing. In the past few weeks, I had a conversation with someone about something. It’s not a matter for this blog, but it is something important, and something I have wanted for a long time. And it occurred to me that is the secret to happiness: A goal. Not just any goal, but a goal that is something you genuinely want with your whole heart and soul. A goal that inspires you to get up in the morning and have a purpose to live for and work towards. A goal that you can break down into smaller pieces and work on achieving daily.
It’s not easy. But if you’re completely honest with yourself, you know that there are things in your life that you’re not happy about. Instead of trying to justify (“Everyone else is the same”), blame (“It’s not my fault, it’s because of this or him or her”), or act like you really don’t care (“It’s not that important”) be completely honest with yourself about what you want from your life. Get excited about it, and let yourself feel genuine excitement about it, as if you are already successful in your career, are 30 pounds lighter, have a boyfriend, or whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Nothing is stupid.
And then make a plan to get it. And live for that purpose.
I tried for too long to listen to the self-help authors and find bliss in the moment. Or to set goals that were so small, they weren’t exciting enough to me to chase after them. But the truth of the matter is, for better or worse, our society mandates that you should be young, thin, rich, smart, and happy. It’s hard to fit into our success-oriented society by just being, as many modern self-help books dictate. I think you have to get brutally honest with yourself, and whether you want to change yourself professionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, or in your relationships with others, you have to know that you can be all you want to me. But you have to live to change, and stay excited about it. If you’re not, find a new goal.
No matter what happens in your life, I hope that you find your purpose, and wake up excited about it daily. As for me, I’m definitely improving, and I genuinely feel more excited about life again.
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