Like the title? Leave it to me to be fair and not say “the key to happiness”.
In reality, we can find happiness in a million different ways. The problem with happiness is that if it is our #1 goal, we might never be happy. There are times in our lives when we have to make tough decisions that make us unhappy temporarily, whether for the sake of someone else’s happiness or for the sake of our on future happiness.
However, apart from mental illness, I believe happiness is a choice. There are things we can do to help us feel more happy. I have a new perspective on life that’s been a key to happiness for me. It’s something that I’ve made a mantra over the last several weeks:
Stop seeing everything as a competition!
This realization came to me when I randomly decided to go running one day. For most of my life, I didn’t believe that I could be a runner. I would hear people say things like “easy 3 mile run” and it would seem impossible. Running a single mile was an accomplishment for me, and it wasn’t easy! So when I would go out on a run I’d hate it because I struggled so much.
However, when the weather started to get warmer, I couldn’t bear the thought of going to the gym. I wanted to be outside. So, I laced up and went for a run. I ran a mile, but this time I was surprised to find that I felt good and proud. I decided to try it again the next day and then the next day… and so on. I told myself I could stop if I needed to and I could walk as much as I wanted. I didn’t have an goal other than to move and be outside. I wasn’t competing with anyone in my mind. I was just moving.
^I happily run with people faster than me 😀
And so far, it’s worked. I’ve been enjoying going for a run 5-6 days a week for the last two months. I have worked up to about 2.5 miles, which I am proud of, but I am not focused on achievements in terms of times or miles. This time around I am focused on being consistent and enjoying myself.
This mantra of “no competition” has carried over in other areas too.
Academia builds people up to be competitive. This can be a strong motivator, because I know it was for me. However, I didn’t realize how much my desire to compete with my classmates led me to miss out on other things. Now, in grad school, I have made some awesome friends. It is hard to compete with people while building friendships with them. Rather than focusing outwardly, comparing my work to others, I’ve begun focusing on my own work, doing the best I can. I use to think that I needed to be competitive to be successful. I was wrong! I can do just as well not and in the mean time, encourage others too.
I’ve felt it with blogging too. When I first started a blog I was hesitant to truly commit to it. I didn’t believe I could compete with other bloggers- the bloggers with great photography skills, experiences to tell about, and creative intelligence. I pushed past this and eventually committed. It wasn’t long before I felt that same competitive drive poking me. “You can do better… Watch out, your views are down today… She worded it better than you.” These feelings sucked the fun out of it. What’s the point of a hobby if it isn’t fun? Since then I’ve traded competition for compassion and I’ve made the decision to feel happy for the success of others.
Some may say competition makes us better. It’s a motivator. I believe that.However, I also believe that it can make us less loving, less content, and more likely to be unhappy. We have a tendency to see things as a competition, even when it is not. Not everything is a contest, race, or job interview.
So what if we decided that we were no longer going to compete with others? Maybe we’d stop letting comparison steal our joy. We could work on building character and enjoying the life we have. We could learn to appreciate our own personal journey, rather than longing for the one someone else is on.
I’m linking up for Thinking out loud Thursday!