“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
I used to get paralyzed with fear in the face of any load of work.
Suffering from crippling depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and severely low self-esteem, I’d find so many thoughts battling me, making it hard to take action:
- What’s the point of starting if you know you won’t finish?
- You’re just going to waste your time putting in all that effort when you get rejected at the end.
- Think about how much time that’s going to take! What if it’s all for naught? How stupid will you feel?!
I know many people who don’t suffer from depression and, yet, still struggle with those same thoughts. It drives them to procrastination and anxiety, and may even keep them from achieving any of their dreams!
I have changed a lot since those voices ruled my headspace, and have since learned this:
The key to a happy life is taking responsibility to make it.
I started taking action to turn my life around only after being admitted to a program for suicidal adults in 2005. It took that for me to realize that what I was doing just wasn’t working and that I could never go on living the way that I was.
Using a blend of exercise and cognitive therapy, I pulled myself out of that black hole and started making my own life.
I began to realize that happiness isn’t served to you; it’s earned. It’s created.
I am now a personal trainer and wellness coach, and I come across this paralyzed mentality in many new clients.
When I hear people complain about their lives as they are, then refuse to take action to change it, I understand where it comes from.
It’s frightening leaving the comfort of misery.
Dwelling in it seems almost luxurious. It feels like something. Though it hurts, you feel alive!
But is that what you want your life to be like? Rolling around in your own misery, perhaps diving deeper into it every day?
The fear of failure can keep you unhappy for the rest of your life.
If you want your life to change, realize that:
- No one will do it for you.
- You will have to make sacrifices.
- You will have to start taking action to behave differently, and create that reality.
So many people wait and wait for happiness to come to them.
You might get lucky. It might just fall in your lap. But that type of happiness is fleeting.
For most, earning happiness creates a deeper understanding and recognition of joy, and is much more likely to last since you know how hard you worked for it.
When you take action, you are telling yourself that your life is worth fighting for.
You are strengthening your confidence and proving to yourself that you are not helpless. You are taking responsibility for your life.
So how do you take that first step? How do you go from doing nothing to fighting for your life?
It’s true what they say: The first step is always the hardest.
So let’s break it down into mini-steps so that it isn’t so overwhelming.
GO IN KNOWING THAT THIS WILL TAKE WORK
If you go in knowing this—and accepting it—the work won’t paralyze you.
Ensure yourself that your happiness is worth it.
Everything worth having in life takes work.
Commit yourself to change, and to the fact that this work takes priority, just as happiness will once you’ve found it.
IDENTIFY WHAT MAKES YOU UNHAPPY
Sit down with a pen and paper (or just open up Word), and start jotting down what you’re unhappy with in your life.
Be specific. The more detailed you are, the easier it will be to take the next step.
Visit all aspects of your life: relationships, work, health, free time, etc.
This can be an enlightening experience. How many areas of your life are you unhappy with? Are there more than you thought, or fewer? How does that feel?
WHY DO THESE THINGS MAKE YOU UNHAPPY?
This is when we identify exactly why those areas of your life leave you lacking.
Write down anything that comes to mind and be honest. The only person that should see this is you.
Don’t judge yourself on what starts to appear on that page.
This step is necessary to creating change: You must know why you are unhappy in the first place to take steps in the other direction.
It is only when you allow yourself to be completely honest that you can discover what needs to change.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY AND WHY?
This is the fun part!
If you could create anything in your life right now that would allow you to be happy, what would it be?
Start looking at the reasons you are unhappy, and brainstorm actions you can take to address them.
For instance, if your job makes you unhappy because the hours require you to be away from your family more than you’d like, how can you turn that around?
- Could you talk to your boss about working fewer hours?
- If that’s not a possibility, what can you do to cut down on out-of-work emails, calls, or any other business?
- Still stumped? If you can’t find a way to put in fewer hours, how can you enrich the time you do get to spend with your family?
- Or, would you consider looking for/creating another job that would give you more flexibility?
This is also when you discover if the things that you think would make you happy really would.
Sometimes, just writing out the scenarios that you believe would add joy to your life is enough to realize that some don’t thrill you as much as you thought they would.
You may write one resolution down and, upon looking at it, realize that in truth, it wouldn’t solve anything! And that’s okay.
This is the point of brainstorming. We want to cover all our bases so that we can address the fears of wasted effort, rejection, and failure.
If the resolutions scare and excite you, however, don’t shy away from them!
These feelings are a sign that you’re onto something worth doing.
That fear is healthy; your brain is only comfortable with what it knows, even if that is unhappiness.
In order to create a joyous life, you must stretch your comfort zone and take action for yourself.
The happiest people aren’t born that way; they fought hard for it. Being able to experience both sides of the spectrum makes us more grateful for that happiness when we find it.
Photo by jk+too