What is most important in life? What is the path to happiness? When you live The Tiny Life, these are very important questions to answer because you are removing the excess to get to the bare essentials. For me, this really comes down to what makes me happy and doing more of it, plus figuring out what I don’t like doing and doing less of that. Happiness is something you work towards, it’s an active process. The hardest part for me and many others is figuring out what really makes you happy.
To understand what it will take to thrive, to be truly happy and find direction in your own life, you need to examine your current life to find out what things really turn us on. We need to identify the things that bring joy to our lives.
Using the worksheet above, print it out and take it with you during a normal day of life. Every 30 minutes or so think about what you’re doing, think about everything you’ve done, every little thing. Reflect on what you’ve done and mark down if you enjoyed it or not.
If you’re at work, don’t just think about whether you like your job or not, but think about every little task; you may not love your job, but you may like talking with clients, building the perfect spreadsheet, or working with others to find a solution. Conversely, you may hate filling out reports, providing customer support, or stocking shelves.
In your personal life think about the things that make you feel energized or fall flat for you. Do you love spending time with your friends or family at the park, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book? Do you hate running errands, cleaning the house, or having a weekly dinner with that gossipy friend from long ago?
In each of these good and bad things, don’t just write down the good and the bad, but think about WHY they fall into the category. Think critically about if it’s the actual activity or a factor around it that’s coloring the emotion. In some cases it’s the situation or conditions that make something less or more pleasant. It is in that why that we will find common threads which lead us to happiness.
A perfect example is I’ve had crappy jobs that were fun because I had awesome coworkers; I’ve also had great jobs that were terrible because the people I worked with. Now our natural instinct would be to say one job was great, the other was terrible, but really after some reflection we can determine that what really makes us happy is having great coworkers. We could take that even further to say, we thrive off of having positive people around us in all aspects of life.
Go through a few days, just jotting down your likes and dislikes, keeping notes and taking time to reflect on each of the things you write down. Once you’ve done that, look for those common threads, look for trends, look for deeper truths.
In the next step don’t let yourself consider your answers, just put your pen to the paper and write, do a rapid stream of consciousness. If you consider the answers, you might edit your true feelings. Answer these questions truthfully on your printed worksheet:
- I look forward to ____ the most.
- Before I die, I want to _____.
- The things that I value most are _____.
- Doing _______ makes me feel most alive.
With these written down, think about what they mean to you. Think about why they made their way on to the paper. It can be a good time to just sit back and consider these things. Think about ways you can do more of what makes you happy and what ways can you minimize what makes you unhappy.
To continue the job example, I realized one day that if I could find a job with people I like working with and a position that was constantly presenting challenges that require creative solutions, I was very happy. Conversely I found if I didn’t connect well with my coworkers and my position was very repetitive, I couldn’t stand it.
That was when I started developing questions to ask in an interview to help me determine if that job met those two criteria. If they did, I’d continue interviewing, and if they didn’t, I’d politely bow out.
In the end, the most happy people will have most accurately identified what is most true for themselves and acted upon it. It’s not that we will ever be able to eliminate all things that we don’t like doing, but that our lives are so rich with what we love, that those unpleasant task are just a small part of what is a great life.
- What questions help you find what makes you happy?
- Was there something that surprised you in doing this?