Saturday, February 28, 2009

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life....

Alexandria, Va.: Dear Carolyn,

People always say that you have to make yourself happy. What goes into that? How does one make themself happy?

Thanks! Love your chats!

Carolyn Hax: Short description of a long process: Figure out the things that make you feel confident/fulfilled/energized; that give you a sense of purpose or accomplishment; that tap into your natural abilities and strengths; and that -don't- put you at the mercy of any one person, and orient your life around those.

Often, this requires another step--concurrently or as a precursor--of reducing the role in your life of things that make you feel worthless/empty/exhausted; that require skills that don't come naturally; that feel like a waste of time; or that put you routinely at the mercy of others.

Carolyn's not pretending this is an easy, linear thing to do....but I like the way she put it and the words she uses to describe why certain things make us feel good, and why others exhaust us. Existing largely at the mercy of others and using most or all skills that don't come naturally to us can chip away at satisfaction over time. When I (and she) say "skills that don't come naturally", we don't mean (if I can presume to speak for her) that we don't want challenges in our lives, but there are some things that will always be more grating/exhausting than others, tasks that require constant energy, effort, or even restrataint, and when they make up the majority of our daily tasks, it can really eat away at your confidence and security that there are other things you are just good at.

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