And just like that, it’s 2021.
2020 was simultaneously the fastest and slowest year in recent memory.
I’m not going to go into how challenging 2020 was because we all lived it. We know.
But I will tell you that the wonderful thing about 2020 for me was really internalizing some hard-earned truths.
Some of my biggest lessons?
- Slow down more.
- Take purposeful action.
- Engage in real self-care.
- Forgive more.
- Patience truly is a virtue. And sometimes it’s hard as fuck.
- Jeans are not as comfortable as I’ve told myself they are all these years. #SweatPantsForTheWin
And the very, very real truth that happiness is something I choose every day. It’s not something I wait for. It’s not something that happens TO me. It’s not the result of some external force. It’s up to ME.
I choose to be happy. Despite my circumstances. In spite of what is happening around the world, or even in my little corner of it.
This realization didn’t just come to me one day, though. I mean, I’ve always said happiness is something you choose…but I didn’t realize until this past year just how little I’d internalized that truth.
So it was time to pay conscious attention to my thoughts, my mindset, and pay deliberate attention to my actions. I’ve distilled it all down to 8 things I had to really let go of in order to making choosing happiness easier.
Here they are:
1 – Give up the need to always be right.
Let’s cut to the chase. In the course of any conversation or most situations, is being right going to make or break things? Is it going to somehow make your life better or easier? Likely no. It’s just going to make you feel better about yourself and your perceived superiority. (Yes, I said it.)
9/10 times being right isn’t as important as maintaining good relations or keeping the peace. If there’s no harm to be done, if it’s not a matter of ethics or law, then sometimes it’s better to choose to let go.
Still struggling with the idea of letting go of always having to be right? Ask yourself: “In this particular situation, what is being right costing me?”
Odds are it’s either your relationship with that person (even incrementally) or your own peace of mind… and that means your happiness. Because even if you “win” the argument, you probably ruined your mood to do it. It’s hard to choose happiness when you’re frustrated for no good reason.
(And for those of you cheeky buggers who are thinking something like “Well being right makes me happy. Har-har.” you need to really sit down an internalize this one.)
2 – Give up the need to blame others.
One of my favourite quotes goes something like this: “You can fail many times, but you’re not a failure until you begin to blame someone else.”
It doesn’t matter the situation, you always have a choice. Yes, circumstances can make the situation more complex in one way or another, but you still have choice.
Maybe you can’t change the situation or circumstance (yet, or at all)…but you still always have the choice in how you perceive it. You still always have the choice in how you show up every day. You can still CHOOSE to be happy. Your happiness in any given situation or context is NOT anyone else’s responsibility or fault.
Once you understand this, choosing happiness DESPITE the circumstance becomes easier.
3 – Give up complaining.
If 2020 taught us anything it was gratitude. It taught us that things can always be worse than they are. It reminded me, personally, that many of the things I complain about are the things other people are wishing for.
So before you complain about something, ask yourself, “Can I change my perspective about this?”
You can complain that there are toys all over the house, or you can be grateful that you are able to provide your children with toys to play with.
You can complain that you have to wear a mask when you go to the grocery store, or you can feel good about helping keep people around you safe.
You can complain that the government is full of idiots, or you can be grateful that you live in a place where you’re free to voice that opinion.
See what I mean?
The bottom line? No one makes you miserable about the shit you complain about. YOU make yourself miserable because you CHOOSE to complain. Shifting your perspective and giving people around you (including yourself) some grace makes choosing happiness easier.
4 – Give up your need to impress other people.
No one really cares. They’re all too worried about themselves.
(And if they do care, then they need to be more invested in their own life. So instead of trying to impress them, show them some compassion for having skewed priorities.)
Make your choices for YOU. Make your decisions based on what works for you, your family, your circumstances.
Don’t do things for the approval of others.
The approval of others doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t strengthen your relationship with your loved ones. It doesn’t do a thing for your self-esteem.
At the end of the day YOU have to live with the choices you make, not the people you’re trying to impress. Life’s easier when you do it for you. And when you love your decisions, you stop needing other people to love them.
5 – Give up resisting change.
Change is inevitable. It’s GOING to happen. All things evolve.
The only people who are miserable are the ones who aren’t acknowledging that change and finding ways to exist within it.
Learn to let go, learn to go with the flow. It makes life so much more pleasant.
6 – Give up judgement.
“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” (Wayne Dyer)
You will NEVER know what is going on in anyone’s life, not truly.
Am I saying you have to condone certain behaviours? No. (Especially if they are harmful to the person or the people around them.)
What I’m saying is stop thinking you know WHY people do what they do. You don’t. No matter how well you think you know them.
Stop calling people stupid, or idiots, or lazy, or ignorant, or weak just because their reality doesn’t mirror your own, or they don’t make the kind of choices you think someone in their situation should make. It’s none of your business.
When you stop judging other people, you automatically increase your happiness level because you let go of the sense of superiority that keeps you stuck in a small mind.
7 – Give up doing it alone.
Look. I’ve been a martyr most of my life. Guess how many prizes I’ve won?
Zilch. Zero. Nada.
I’m betting you have just as many.
And I get it. 2020 made so many of us feel alone because it isolated us in ways that, collectively, we are NOT accustomed to.
So I can understand if feeling alone is a default right now.
But if you really ask yourself truthfully, you’re not. That’s the beauty of the age we live in. Connection is always possible, if not always in the ways we prefer.
So if you are struggling, ASK FOR HELP. It can be from the people around you. It can be from strangers. It can be from an internet support group. It can be from a higher power.
Just stop thinking you’re alone in whatever you’re experiencing. You’re not. Thinking you’re the only person going through what you’re going through is the height of ego. Someone else is most definitely going through it, has gone through it, or will go through it at some point.
So find the support you need to help get you through it, even if it’s moral support.
If 2020 taught us anything it’s that our connection to other people is critical. And knowing you’re not alone makes choosing happiness SO much easier, even when you feel like things around you aren’t ideal.
8 – Give up your own bullshit.
You know that internal monologue that is always running in the back of your mind? The one where you make excuses for yourself and your behaviour? The one where you blame other people for things? The one where you constantly tell yourself how hard you have it? Or how the people around you don’t understand?
Stop it. Now.
Okay, that was harsh. It’s not that easy to just change the record. But it can be done. The first step is to acknowledge that the record exists. Become more aware of what you’re saying to yourself when you’re not paying attention.
Then, depending on what you need, ask for support in working through it. (See #7)
Those were my 8 big lessons from 2020.
And a disclaimer…
Let me just say, for the record, these are not as black and white as they might initially read. I KNOW there are various complexities involved in letting go of each of these things. I KNOW it will be harder to let go of some, and easier to let go of others. I KNOW that you will likely have to do some serious work in some cases. (I’ve been working on these things for years.)
My goal with this post is to plant the seed.
As with anything, just start by being aware which of these areas you may need to pay more attention to going forward into 2021 and beyond. And give yourself grace because NONE of these things will change overnight.
Just know that even when you consciously CHOOSE happiness, it’s a choice you have to make day after day. Some days making that choice will be easier than others. Some days happiness will seem entirely elusive.
Just try again tomorrow.
When you deliberately make the choice over and over, eventually it will become easier.