I was driving along in the car the other day, musing, and it suddenly struck me that this was the best year of my life. It's a pretty big call, but as I catalogued through other years that had some pretty rad highlights, the missing sensation was being constantly happy. Now i'm not talking about the Facebook everything is perfect on my page kinda happy. Just happy. A consistent flatline of great.
I thought about what the factors were, and a few things have happened this year that have had a certain alchemy, I don't think these are exclusive to me, I think they are a blueprint for what makes many of us happy. Here is my happy map:
1. I'm working for myself, doing something I love: so we hear this again and again, if you do something you love you never work blah blah. I've often had jobs I really enjoyed working for others, but always was thinking there was something else I wanted to do. I wanted to be creative, and not be fixed in one place, and the need to roam was strong in me. Work you love alone isn't a remedy for happiness, but it is a big part as we spend so much of our adult live working, and it for defs helps to enjoy it. All work has its drawbacks - all of it. But again, with equanimity on your side, you just take the good and the not so good as part of one package and keep on opening the layers of your surprise parcel.
2. I' m not stressed about money: ok, first world person alert. I realise I am ridonqulously lucky to live in Tasmania and to now have assets that I largely (collectively) own. But for the last two decades i've worked furiously hard to pay mortgages, and contribute my share to the family coffers. At times we've had some serious financial stress, which kept me white knuckled and roped into working those jobs that would pay me what I needed to survive. That feeling of being trapped by assets and responsibilities is a real happiness killer, and if you aren't massively loving your work, the 40 plus hours a week becomes a dominating theme of entrapment. Having assets doesn't make you happy. There is plenty of evidence to support that. What has made me happy is not having to work in the type of corporate jobs I was continually doing, where often creativity was unable to be prioritised within large bureaucracies, Again, I am EXTREMELY grateful for every opportunity i've had, but I recognised some time ago these work environments weren't where I was going to do my thing, big style. Being able to work on projects that align with my values, with people that I am stoked to be helping PLUS more importantly having time to work on creating my own products, that is where the sparkle is.
3. I'm doing a daily spiritual practice: for the first time this year I have really dedicated myself to a serious spiritual practice, one where it is a practice, not just a belief system that I tuck into my consciousness and do sporadically. Daily meditation, chanting, kirtan and physical yoga practice shifts your sense of balance and wellness, without doubt. It means I have to get up really early so I can fit it all in, it means that i've made choices to change some of the lifestyle habits which I have always loved like smashing down cocktails and champagne and eating piles of meat. But while initially I worried that I wasn't going to be able to make the changes and transition into my yogi life, once I started it was easy as it is part of the commitment to that lifestyle. And I don't always love getting up at 4am, but I just note that I am sleepy and warm and haul my ass out of bed and start my practice and I feel better. I feel more connected with everything and everyone, I feel lighter and gentler and calmer and strangely its the long term results that make me more motived. After a lifetime of wanting quick fixes, I know that this path isn't about rewards or pats on the head from another, it is about internal happiness, and having the god, guru and self being within me, whatever happens outside.
4. I'm spending time with loved ones: Working from home means I get to hang out every day with John McGee, who is my preferred human to hang with. We just mooch around with out laptops like little remote worker satellites and at certain points of our orbit we collide at the coffee machine, over lunch and on the couch. This is nice, I love him and I love the simple happiness being with John brings. I'm with our dogs all day, often snuggled in bed while i'm working. After two years of being separated for long periods by work from both John and the dogs, this is not being taken for granted. I get to spend more time with mum, and with my friends and generally am more mobile to head off and play with a buddy. But i'm also just more loving with everything. Not being tired, cranky, overworked, stressed, and separate and behaving like it was all someone else's fault makes me a much nicer human. Seeing everyone I meet as an extended part of me makes it easier to be kind and loving and forgiving. Seeing the world as a place where I can do selfless service to other people makes for bountiful opportunities for kindness and caring. And that makes me happy.
5. Living in the now: this is something that it took a big dose of yoga to really get through my brain. Its one of those phrases, like letting go, that seems actually impossible and makes you want to punch on when people tell you to do it. By not worrying about what is coming next, where my next client will come from, about all of the things that may happen, i'm not constantly creating anxiety and drama over imaginary future events. I have a simple question I ask myself when I start to do these old patterns: what can I do about this right now? If the answer is nothing, then I have clear guidance to get on with whatever it is I am working on. The amount of time this has freed up is extreme, and because i'm not working in a job im looking to the end of, of living in situations that i'm wishing away, i'm more appreciative of what is happening at the end of my nose. I just accept that whatever I need will come along. Its very unscientific, but it always works out, as by not wanting to know or control what that something will be, whatever comes is perfect.
Each one of these circumstance have happened alone and in tandem my whole life, but it has been the culmination of them in 2016 that has made for this annus happinus that i'm experiencing. All along I was working towards this as how I wanted to live, but I often thought I would never get there, then I just took a little leap of faith to believe that if I did set up on my own for work, it would be ok. And everything else just fell into line as soon as I loosened my grip on making it all work. To get here, you can work toward each of the pieces, but the final piece is for sure confidence in the surrender to your best self, and knowing that you know what that looks and feels like, and even if it seems a little crazy, that you do it anyway. Namaste.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018