Happiness NOW

Been a while, eh?

It’s taken a while to realize that what I need to do here is not pretend I’m some expert, not think of this as espousing advice, but instead to talk freely and openly about my journey of self-discovery and to communicate to anyone who happens to feel similarly that they are not alone. I want to use this forum to chronicle my changing definitions of success and my efforts to achieve that success throughout my life.

Recently, I’ve been struggling a lot to find any success in my life. I’ve been in a professional situation for 2 years that showed no promise of changing and made me feel… stifled on even the best of days. My constant feelings of failure and impotence leaked stress into every aspect of my life, and I was unable to change my definition of success adequately to prevent this from continuing. I could have left, but I’m early on in my career and have no other experience doing what I am doing, leaving would have meant going back to doing what I had done previously, which I had no passion for. I had the misfortune of discovering a career Ā I’mĀ passionate about in a situation where I had to either put up with misery for years to get some experience under my belt, or I had to accept that I was abandoning my passion. I never found the conviction to accept abandoning my passion for my own emotional well-being so I accepted the status quo.

I’m still here, you can see what I chose, but it certainly wasn’t an easy choice and it hasn’t been a good influence on the rest of my life. Now things are changing and I feel like there’s room for me to be successful in this position and I’m looking at all that I have sacrificed to wait it out.

Honestly, I don’t know if it was worth it because I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t made that choice. I can’t measure the impact it’s had on my relationships, romantic and platonic. I can’t measure the impact it’s had on my ability to accurately assess my own abilities. I can’t measure the impact it’s had on my career trajectory. It’s possible I’d have enjoyed more traditional success, and much faster, if I had given up and moved on early in this process, before I had convinced myself that waiting it out was the best thing for me.

Ultimately, none of that matters now, because I already made the choice and did the waiting. I made similar choices all through school. I have a long history of putting off my own happiness now so that I can chase my future happiness, as if that future happiness is somehow more important. Inevitably, by the time I reach the end of whatever is supposed to improve my future, I have a laundry list of things to work on for happiness even farther in the future. An endless cycle of “I’ll be happy later.”

There’s a lot I can’t tell you for sure, but I can say without hesitation that it’s time to wake up and establish much healthier boundaries before I get myself in yet another situation where I’m putting off my own happiness. Eventually your happiness in the moment has to override the importance of the future, and for me that moment is now. I’ve been granted a moment to breathe as things are finally improving in my professional life, and before the next thing comes along screaming “if you just put up with this now you’ll make more money later, you’ll be more successful later, you’ll be happier later, you’ll have more time later…” I have to build the resilience to look those things in the face and say “I want to be happy NOW.”

Sorry if this has been a bit of a ramble, but I’m processing as I go. Just be happy that my stream of consciousness is easier to digest than Faulkner šŸ˜‰

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On Understanding Priorities

One of the myriad things that make up a good leader is understanding of priorities. In order to use the knowledge of priorities to effectively lead though, you must be aware of both your own priorities and the priorities of those around you. We’ll start with understanding your own.

All people are guided by their priorities on a day to day basis. Understanding your priorities as they are and as you wish them to be are different things, but closely related, and can easily be confused. You may envision your priorities as a list of clear, distinct items such as 1) Family, 2) Work, 3) Friends, 4) Staying physically fit, etc. but in reality priorities are complicated and change based on exigent circumstances. We often even allow others’ priorities to overtake our own, based on the importance of our relationship wit that person. Your practical priorities will undoubtedly be more complicated than a numbered list, but at least it’s somewhere to start in understanding yourself. A small collection of my personalĀ priorities, with a bit of the complexity included, are as follows:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Financial self sufficiency (unless I’m being treated very poorly)
  3. My own emotionalĀ health (unless a loved one’s emotional health is at stake, then there’s is more important to a point)
  4. Love (each person I love varies in priority depending on our relationship and history)
  5. The pursuit of new and exciting things (sometimes this creeps it’s way up the list when my wanderlust strikes)
  6. Intellectual stimulation in all forms (nonfiction books, podcasts, trivia nights, training, etc.)
  7. Gaming
  8. Getting healthier
  9. Domestic duties and hobbies such as cooking, cleaning, and brewing
  10. Reading fiction

Having an understanding of my basic priorities and the exceptions to those rules has been very helpful in making tough decisions in life. Knowing that self-sufficiency is very important to me but that I will not put up with certain things even in the pursuit of financial self-sufficiency. I’d rather be broke and struggling than be treated abusively or expected to work in an environment where I have no autonomy. I can put up with those things for a little while in order to attempt a smooth transition from that job to another, but my patience with that will wear thin quickly. Now, some of these things may seem trivial compared to others on the list but I have found that when I do not spend enough time on them, things like not taking care of my home or not indulging in a game night pretty often, I am less happy than I want to be. As long as the top three priorities in my life are being taken care of, the day to day priorities start to become more obvious. If my first three priorities are not being taken care of, things like reading and home brewing are far less important.

While understanding your own priorities helps you make personal decisions in order to maximize the satisfaction you get from life, understanding the priorities of those you want to lead will help you make decisions about how to work with them and how to keep them satisfied with your relationship or the work you’re doing together. For example, having an understanding that I value autonomy so highly would help someone lead me by giving me the leeway to make my own schedule or giving me as much flexibility as possible in a project. Because of this being my preferred work style it’s also important to have clear expectations, so that I know I can make my own schedule but perhaps it must be within certain business hours or I have to be in the office at least 4 days a week.

Knowing that someone you are working with values interpersonal interaction and predictability means you can balance your own priorities against theirs. In my case, I would need to put aside my preference for a very flexible schedule and become more predictable, but also make sure that the time I am in the office is partially dedicated to spending time talking with them. I wouldn’t put my needs entirely aside, but I would need to compromise a bit in order to have a good relationship with that person.

If you are working with someone that values their alone time, you would need to prioritize learning the indicators that they show when they need that alone time or establish some protocol for when they’d like to not be interrupted. You might notice they turn the light off in their office or turn their music on when they’d like to be left alone. During those times, making sure to only interrupt them when it’s urgent will show them you understand their needs. When you do need to interrupt them, they’re far more likely to trust it’s actually important and respond favourably.

How do you balance your own priorities (work or personal) against others’? Share your experience in the comments below.