Does your routine allow for happiness
Sometimes, the devil is in the jargon. Goal setting, success metrics, recalibration.
Sometimes, as humans, we fall ill, and when we do, we see a doctor. Usually, a visit to the doctor’s office is replete with qualitative questions. How is your hunger? How are you sleeping? What are your energy levels like?
Now, these questions can be answered against the ‘acceptable standard’- we’re expected to get eight hours of shut-eye every night. However, there’s a better way to measure these parameters, and that’s in comparison with our usual patterns. For someone who thrives on six hours of sleep and three square meals, judging them as unwell just because they did precisely that, is a mistake.
Seems like a straightforward enough principle?
Why do we not apply it to our professional lives, then?
Too often, we don’t ask the only question that matters
This is true of all of us and most of our goals. We are often inspired to reach for several things in life. We pursue some and drop the others. Sometimes, social media has us believing that lives, in general, are perfectly sepia-toned, mostly spent on a vacation or drinking copious amounts of sangria.
Real life, however, is far more mundane, and this is true of all of us. Yes, celebrities and A-listers included. Between one vacation and the next is an emotional strength-training session of Mondays that look like Fridays, apparent stagnation and questioning everything.
This pattern can often make us feel like we’re stuck, that we’re not living up to our full potential.
But is this really true? Are we not all here at the (hopeful) end of a pandemic, changed but also intact? Have we not evolved in just the past year? The real question to ask, and measure ourselves against, then, is this-
What does success mean to me?
To some, it might mean the flexibility to kick back from time to time, even if they’re usually busy. To someone else, it might mean picking the kids up from school every day, even in the middle of the workday. To others, it might look like work interspersed with travel through the entire year, while yet another person might enjoy building something new every single day.
Do our routines allow for happiness?
Now, when you picture success, what does this look like to you? Do you see the same things you always did? What does it feel like to replace these stand-ins for success for real success, as defined by you and you alone?
Like you, we’re no strangers to the dangerous work ethic. Dangerous because it creeps in silently and occupies our entire lives.
We may enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, that evening walk, and a home-cooked meal. Why, we may even enjoy the actual process of thinking, of using our hands and our minds, of working. The trouble is that many of these processes can quickly turn into routines, and routines are the enemy of happiness. Much and more is said about being in the comfort zone, and certain routines and rituals do hold us in good stead. But repeat them often enough, and they lead to boredom, doubt, and eventually worry.
Happiness, on the other hand, is a product of having a purpose and working towards fulfilling it. Making space for this means allowing the mind some time to wander and be unsure until it eventually settles on what we really want.
Well, all that’s great, but what should we really be doing?
Some abstractions must be reined in to facilitate our process of goal-setting and goal-crushing.
If we were to use Gross Annual Happiness as a measure of our success, here are a few ways to break it down:
● Have I tried my hand at something new? (The timeline is entirely up to you)
● Have I given myself the time and space needed to be flexible in life?
● Have I made plans that are harder to achieve than they seem?
● Have I made space for some easy wins that I can celebrate immediately?
● Have I made time for myself and the things that matter most to me?
It really does come down to time, the one resource that we must all learn how to spend. As you head into a new year with a whole new set of goals, evaluate them against the questions above. Then, take a moment to answer these questions:
● What would it really mean to succeed in these areas? Can I picture it?
● How hard am I going to be on myself if I fail? Can I make this a tad bit easier?
● Am I planning to wait until I achieve this goal to be happy?
● Do I see myself as a successful person even during the process of achieving these goals?
● When I do fall off the wagon, what will hold me accountable?
● If this goal changes in six months, how will I feel about it?
In other words, if you prepare for all possible outcomes, it is easier to continue to stay on track.
To put it simply
● Define your parameter for success based only on your current situation. Everything else is an outlier.
● Set measurable targets that you can achieve with moderate effort instead of going all out and losing steam.
● Make space for serendipity- give life a chance to surprise and delight you.
● Ask the tough questions upfront- are my goals realistic? Am I achieving them for someone else? Am I sacrificing current happiness for the sake of future happiness?
● Prepare to bounce back when you go off-track. Unfortunately, it happens to every single one of us.
● Be easy on yourself. If you break a commitment, guilt only compounds it. Accepting the lapse and moving on makes it easier to stay on track.
So, what are you reaching for in 2022?