For you to feel happy at the end of the day, what should have happened during the day?
Someone recently asked me this question. And it’s a difficult question to answer. How do you know if you’re happy? And how do you quantify what made you feel that way? Does it have to be a work thing? Or something that happened while you were walking your dog? Do you have to get everything right during the day?
What does my ideal day look like?
- Wake up well rested
- Walk my dog
- Do some sport or meditate
- Work for 3–4 hours
- Cook my lunch and enjoy a freshly cooked meal
- Walk my dog and clear my head
- Work for 3–4 more hours
- Have dinner with my wife
- Go to sleep
And all the other million things in between. But do I need to do 1 million things well to feel happy at the end?
No. That would be impossible. I’d be mostly sad and frustrated at the end of the day.
So what was my answer to the question? In a few seconds, I had flashbacks of good days and bad days and realised they’re not tied to happiness at all. What usually gave me a sense of joy at the end of the day was having helped other people. Having made some sort of difference for the better in their lives.
Now though, after some reflecting, I kind of think that sounds a bit condescending or grandiose. It’s probably also because it kind of is. As humans, we always seek approval from others. I am no different. So knowing that my doing something has helped someone else do something else, is kind of like getting approval from them.
If I dig a little bit deeper, the truth is that I feel good even when I don’t get that approval, even when I’m not certain of it. Because it can take time for the effects of what I did to reach others and materialise in their day. So it’s just my perception of having gotten the approval, of having made the contribution to their day.
I felt joy after I got to do what I did. I was happy that I could do it. I think this is gratitude. I was grateful for getting to do what I did — whatever that was. Walking my dog. Working. Coding. Designing. Kissing my wife good night.
So screw approval. Do your best work, give it your best shot and don’t worry about impressing other people. People you don’t even know. Joy and happiness come from within, they’re not the result of exterior actions, especially actions of other people.
Be more like a dog! Your pup will be grateful to you if you take him on a walk, if you play with him indoors or if you just pet him once in a while! They’re happy you’re in their lives! There’s absolutely nothing mind blowing that you have to do in order to gain their gratitude!
So show some gratitude. Every day.
And why wait until the end of the day to do it? Why not start your day with it?
Make a commitment to start your day by being grateful for getting to do things you’re about to do!
Try it for a few days and see how that goes.