You have an emotional guidance system that tells you when you're on track — representing your truest, highest self — and when you're off base.
It tells you things like:
- That’s not a nice thing to say.
- You're a better person than the way you're showing up right now.
- You're giving too much of yourself away right now.
- You deserve better.
- That’s not a fair [thing to say, thing to do, etc.]
- That was a falsehood.
- Careful, you might regret this later.
And also, things like:
- Yes, yes, yes!
- You're on fire right now.
- Keep going.
Most of us grow up thinking the strongest, bravest thing we can do is sacrifice our true needs to become something that makes our most beloved ones (family, friends, neighbors, community, etc.) happy. Things that tend to earn us good standing in the eyes of society.
Good grades. Clean rooms. Clean plates.
Smiling at people who rarely smile at you, or people who demean you any chance they get.
Keeping the peace by making sure everyone in the house is happy and at ease. Hiding your true nature and true needs at any cost in order not to “rock the boat.”
Minding the rules.
What if you’ve been misled? What if sacrificing your own desires, hopes and goals isn't the bravest thing you can do for yourself and others?
I believe in and often teach that the greatest thing people can give this world is the happiest version of themselves that they can possibly be.
So what makes you happy? No, I mean it. What makes YOU happy?
Not what makes your granddad happy or what makes your mom happy or what makes your neighbors happy or what makes your best friend happy …
Not what brings you the most likes on your favorite social media outlet …
Not what earns you accolades and promotions …
Not what allows you to check off boxes on your to-do list …
Not what makes you feel accomplished or allows you to feel like you’ve achieved something …
What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing and your soul smile?
See, here’s the deal.
It matters. It really and truly does. Not just because if you don’t respond to that deep longing within you, you might end up in a devastating state of disease. Yes, that matters too. But also because it’s your light that you must shine for this earth to be healthy. Your light matters. It’s like a strand of Christmas lights: one goes down and the whole batch is out.
How do I know? Well, like many type A Americans, I spent the first quarter (give or take) of my life slaving to make others happy — namely my dad. I wanted his admiration above all else. Screw my own needs. Screw my heart’s happiness. My dad, because of his upbringing and doing the best he could with the very best intentions at the time, programmed me to believe that the most worthwhile thing I could do was become a woman with a six-figure salary by the age of 30 — preferably with “moxie.” It didn’t matter one iota what I did to get to this point, though he was partial to business, law or medicine.
Our conversations sometimes went like this:
Me: But I love to write!
Him: Writers starve, my dear.
Me: But I love to paint!
Him: Get used to living in a cardboard box, hun.
Me: But I love yoga!
Him: Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. Well then, you won’t have two pennies to rub together, darlin'.
So I set about choking off my own soul-fire needs and tuning into the desires of my father. For almost three decades.
Finally, I woke up and realized, enough is enough. I deserve more. I deserve a life of love. I deserve a life I love.
When I told my father that I was choosing to leave the corporate world to move home to help him take care of my mom and so that he could help me raise Jagger and also so that I could pursue a career in yoga, a funny thing happened. He cried. My dad. Big strong Texas born and raised, meat and potatoes man that he is, shed tears. They were tears of joy, tears of pride and tears of relief. We both needed help. And finally, in standing up for what I wanted, I'd finally earned what I had been seeking: his respect.
Today I own my own yoga studio, I have a family, and I spend my days and nights creating something I love — a life of soul work. It’s not perfect. But it’s mine. It’s a journey every day, and it’s absolutely so worthwhile in every way. And I have a righteously tight relationship with my dad.
So what makes you happy?
Photo Credit: Getty Images