I’ve done it. I’ve discovered the secret to prolonged happiness. Yes, it’s taken me about thirty years and I still have to remind myself constantly, but I’ve figured it out. Ready? Here it is—the secret to being happy:
DO SHIT YOU LIKE TO DO.
Okay, I know this is stupidly obvious. But sometimes the most obvious truths are the most elusive and overlooked.
We usually discover our passions by following our joy. Whether it’s writing, or watching movies, or building products, or fishing, or drawing, or solving algebraic equations, we tend to explore various activities and then latch on to the ones we like the most. But then somewhere along the journey of growing up, we get sucked into schoolwork and resumes and bills and jobs and mortgages. Before we get a chance to take a breath, we realize we can’t do the things we like to do anymore. We’re stuck. Such is life, right? WRONG!
Stop assuming your life is on a prescribed trajectory—this is the opposite of reality. You are always in control. When I look back at my life, I realize the most positive and important decisions I’ve made have come from being almost idiotically risky and deliberate when I knew I wanted to change something. In these scenarios, I went after something new without considering the challenges or consequences that might arise from it. Whether it was a girl, a job, a hobby, a new friend—I just went for it. You have to do this. You have to stop thinking so much and GO AND GET IT. There are plenty of things that can keep you happy, but you have to seek them out.
There’s a quote on my desk on a small scrap of paper:
“I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.” — Rita Mae Brown
I need to constantly remind myself of this, which is why I leave the quote on my desk. It’s also the only quote on my desk. Honestly, what else is there to remember?
I’ve spent periods of my life—long periods, waiting for things to happen because I thought something was at the end of the tunnel. Guess what? There was nothing at the end of the tunnel because life isn’t a tunnel. Life is an open field. With each moment, we can decide to do anything we want. There isn’t a finite end to the path we’re on. In fact, there isn’t a path at all. The only sure thing waiting for us, despite the direction we take, is death. Stop telling yourself you’re on a path. You’re not. You’re only in a distinct moment, and the next moment can take you in any direction you choose. It’s a scary truth, but it’s liberating.
We tend to force ourselves into corners and trick ourselves into thinking we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not determined enough, too old, too young, too tired, too weak. Or we tell ourselves we’re already on a path to something good and that we’ll get there eventually. It’s all BS. We conjure up these thoughts because we’re too scared to figure out if any of it is true or not.
I wanted to write for a long time, but felt I shouldn’t do it because people in my social and professional circles might not like it or might judge me in some way. It took a life-changing event for me to finally get the nerve to start writing publicly. Guess what? Now that I’m doing it, it feels amazing. It’s like crack. I become energized thinking about what I might write next and how I can connect with an audience. The happiness I’ve gained from writing is well worth any consequence that may come from it. My nervousness in getting started was a barrier created from my own self-doubt.
The simple truth is that THERE IS NO REASON NOT TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE.
Whatever obstacle you have in your head is bullshit. You’ve fabricated it out of thin air because you’re nervous. Don’t have time? BS. Make time. Seriously, watch one less TV show. Doesn’t pay the bills? BS. First of all, you can do what you love outside of work if you make time (see above). Second, you can usually pay the bills doing something you love—you just have to be creative, persistent, and go all in. Family members or friends don’t support it? BS. It’s not their choice, it’s yours. Reconsider who you’re spending time with if they’re not supporting you. Sometimes people think they’re helping you because they foresee a potential obstacle in what you plan to do, don’t think it’s worthwhile, or doubt your ability. These are the same internal fears you have, reinforced by others. RUN! It’s only compounding the issue and digging you into a deeper hole of indecision.
All of these forces against us are hard to overcome. Believe me, I know. But, plain and simple—overcoming them is worth it. It took me over thirty years to realize this, but it’s true. Would you rather be perpetually sad to avoid potentially negative consequences that probably won’t ever materialize, or would you rather vastly increase your likelihood of being perpetually happy? When you look at it from this perspective, the choice is obvious. It’s a risk we should all take.
So, do yourself a favor and start enjoying yourself. Do the thing you’re most scared of doing—the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Remove all obstacles. End the relationship. Quit the job. Take the class you’ve been wanting to take. Spend your nights learning a new craft instead of watching TV. And don’t trick yourself into liking something you don’t. Do you really like eating fatty foods to the detriment of your health? Do you really like your current job, or are you just doing it as a means to an end? Think critically about these types of things. It’s easy to fool yourself.
Remember, the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it. I don’t care what you enjoy doing—it’s your life. I care that you stop thinking about it and start taking action. Be like Nike. JUST DO IT. You’ll be glad you did.