In my diet blog I’ve been working through a book (received for Christmas).
It’s not something I’d usually do and most books don’t warrant a blog post per chapter, but… I started writing about Domonique Bertolucci’s The Happiness Code and her ten keys to happiness, and figured I might as well keep going. One key at a time. (Although I am on
summer break hiatus this week for reasons unknown to anyone and everyone. Including myself.)
Anyhoo, I’ve been thinking about something she mentions early in the book, in a chapter about choices.
She reminds us that even the most informed decisions (made after weighing consequences) will result in both positive and negative repercussions; and recommends we learn to accept the negatives along with the positives. She also suggests that any choice we make should be consistent with our values and support us to achieve what it is that we want from life.
Cue eye-roll. Not because her point doesn’t make sense, or is stating the obvious (which it kinda is); but also because many people – including myself have no friggin’ idea what makes us happy.
Oh sure, I know the little things… corn chips, champagne, books, baths. good TV shows and Richard Armitage but as for ‘What I want from life?’ Even the minds behind Monty Python* didn’t work that one out.
However… fortunately Bertolucci recognises that many of us struggle with this and suggests that we approach it through a process of elimination.
A great idea and I have no bloody idea why I’ve never thought of a “What I really DON’T want to do” list. Her examples in the book include reference to our working life in particular: whether we want to work in an office or not and so forth.
As we identify what we really don’t like or want, we get closer to living in a way that is consistent with our dreams and values, Bertolucci suggests. And, I guess… even if we never achieve self-actualisation (yes, I did study undergraduate psychology!) or find ourselves living in some sort of utopia; we are surely (perhaps slowly and steadily) ridding ourselves of things that drag us down… and living a more authentic life.
As I ponder on the ingeniousness of this idea, I realise I’ve done this unconsciously over the years. Unlike my parents’ generation I’ve changed jobs and careers more often than I’ve changed food fads (which I’ve done A LOT!). I’ve left professions, towns and even countries because I recognised that I wasn’t happy and needed to do something about it. (Which is bizarre cos I think of myself as someone who sits around and whines while playing ‘the victim’!)
I became an overseas volunteer in Africa in my mid-late 20s because I figured there had to be something more to life than a 9-5 existence and saving for a mortgage. Years later I resigned from the Federal Government (after an overseas posting) because it meant returning to our country’s capital (Canberra, where I couldn’t envisage myself settling down). I was approaching my mid thirties and wanted to start ‘nesting’ for the first time in my life.
I left the private sector because the strong focus on cash flow stressed me out and I found some of my contractors’ obsession with money and allowances somewhat distasteful (when in the same breath they acted ‘holier than thou’ for working in developing countries!).
I’ve left jobs where I didn’t feel valued and stayed in others – when I might not have been fulfilled in a professional sense – because I liked the workplace and the people.
And… when recently ‘offered’, I took a payout to leave government because, well…. life’s short and I was not happy. (By far the most momentous decision I’ve made in my life!)
My life hasn’t worked out like I thought it was going to. No husband or children. No fulfilment through family. But… on the flip side, (to date) I’ve had many careers and many – and varied – life experiences.
I remain a bit stressed at the lack of certainty as I commence this next phase of my life, but my newfound freedom and I are coming to something of an amicable impasse.
And while I’m still following the yellow brick road in search of whatever I hope to find (or discover about myself!), I realise I’m not yet done eliminating the bad stuff.
However, over the past few days I’ve sat on my verandah looking out at the gorgeous vista before me and realise that… if THIS is my life; if I can support myself sufficiently allowing me time to watch the world go by, then I’ll be happy. Anything else is icing on the cake.
Do you know what it is you want from life?
Would the process of elimination work for you?
* obscure reference to the 1983 movie, The Meaning of Life, in case you didn’t get it!