You have to be honest with yourself to figure out what will truly make you happy in life. No two people are going to have the same path to life satisfaction, no matter how well-matched they are, so you need to look deep into yourself to find out what will work best for you as an individual. This article will help you figure out what it is that will make you happy, and then provide some tips for how to achieve that happiness.
(a) Figuring Out What Makes You Happy
1. Evaluate your core values. Write down the three aspects of your life that are most important to you, and rank them in terms of importance. Does your family come before or after your faith in god, if you believe in god? Is it more important for you to spend time on the hobbies that make you personally happy, or to focus on the career that supports your family and gives them a comfortable life?
By ranking your values and priorities, you’ll be better able to tell whether or not you’re devoting an appropriate amount of energy to each aspect of your life.
2. Make a list of your favorite activities. There are no right or wrong answers, but be honest. Maybe traveling brings you the most joy, or maybe it’s a well-cooked meal. Maybe you love talk about books, and you should practice literary criticism. Maybe you like to be the one writing the books, not the one talking about the books other people have written.
The list might evolve over time. What makes you happy at twenty might not be what makes you happy at thirty. Don’t be married to an image of “who you are” — update your list over time to reflect what makes you happy in the present moment.
3. Avoid relying on material possessions. Having “stuff” makes a lot of people happy, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that just having things is the root of joy. You may want a nice sound system because you love music, but focus on your love of music, not the sound system. Be aware that going to concerts, singing with friends, and whistling on your drive to work are all equally important elements that work with the fancy sound system to bring you joy.
4. Practice meditation. Meditation can be incredibly beneficial for mental health and happiness, and can clear your mind so you can see your priorities more clearly. Although it has religious and mystical roots, meditative techniques can be used by anyone for relaxation and stress relief.
Find a tranquil environment free from distracting sounds and activities — someplace where you can clear your mind and focus on your state of being.
Sit in a comfortable position like the lotus position with your eyes closed, and focus on your breathing.
Inhale and exhale slowly, deeply, and purposefully.
Focus on your breath, how it feels entering and exiting your body. Be present fully in your body in the moment, and do your best to think of nothing else.
Do this at the same time every day to make it part of your routine. Early in the morning, before you go to work, is a good time for meditation because it calms and prepares you for the rest of your day.
(b) Figuring Out What You Want in a Career
1. Make a list of your strengths. The most satisfying careers are the ones that make the best use of your strongest skills. If you’re a great public speaker, and you really enjoy giving presentations, you’re wasting your talents away coding programs at a desk. Maybe you should be a teacher instead!
Are you a good speaker?
Do you work best alone or in teams?
Do you work best when you’re given tasks, or when you have to lead your own projects?
2. Make a list of your passions. Although not everybody can have a career in something they’re absolutely crazy about, most people should be able to match up interests and careers to some degree.
There are many tests you can take to figure out what kinds of jobs are best matched up with your interests.
3. Envision your ideal schedule. Some people can’t stand the idea of working every day from 9-5 in an office setting. If you need the flexibility to work at your own pace, during your own work hours, from a setting of your choosing, maybe you need to find freelance or contract work. Other people could not imagine the constantly shifting schedule of a university professor, for example, and crave the stability and ritual of a 9-5 workday and Monday to Friday workweek.
Ask yourself what kind of schedule would work best with your work habits.
Don’t choose freelance work if you slack off and lose focus easily!
Note that freelance and contract work is less stable than regular office work, and usually does not offer benefits.
4. Calculate a budget. Although you shouldn’t ever choose a career just for the money, you also don’t want to labor away without ever making enough money to support yourself and your family. Calculate a budget for how much money you’ll need to maintain your family at a level of comfort that’s acceptable.
Search online for average salaries in various career paths. Figure out if the career you’re thinking about will work with your budget.
5. Don’t be afraid of a career change. If you’re stuck in a job you hate, you might daydream about a career that actually satisfies you, but there might also be any number of things, including time, ego, and fear about financial stability, that might stop you from finding a career that will really satisfy you. You need to put everything on the backburner except for your career satisfaction.
To prepare for a career change, you should begin saving as much money as possible. A career change sometimes means you have to start your new job at a lower-paying position before you can work your way back up the ladder.
(c) Figuring out What You Want in a Relationship
1. Write down a list of your core values. If you plan on spending the rest of your life with someone, you want to find a partner who shares your fundamental outlook on life. What are your most uncompromising, unchanging beliefs? Some examples might be:
You want a big family vs. you don’t want kids
Feelings about marriage and/or divorce
2. Write a list of must-have traits in a partner. You’re never going to find anybody who matches your entire partner wish-list perfectly, so you have to be realistic about what the most important characteristics you’re looking for are. Prioritize the things you’re looking for in a relationship and figure out what the five most important elements are.
Some examples might be:
Sense of humor
Shares your taste in music or other hobbies
Enjoys/avoids outdoor activities
3. Learn to be happy with yourself. Regardless of how great a romantic partner you find, you’ll never be happy in a relationship until you can be happy with yourself. You’ll also have a better idea of what you want and need in a partner if you’re the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, and you’re happy with it.
4. Ignore the lists you made. Though it’s good to know what you want in a relationship, don’t close yourself off to potential partners just because they don’t fit with some preconceived idea you wrote down on a piece of paper. Admit that you’re never going to find someone who meets your entire checklist, and just be open to spending time with the people you feel a connection with.
(d) Figuring Out What You Want in a Family
1. Figure out if you want to have children. Some people know from a young age that they want to be parents, but it’s not so obvious an option for many. There’s nothing wrong with that! Don’t let anyone — parents, friends, society at large — pressure you into a choice you don’t want for yourself. Some things to keep in mind include:
Are you called to parenthood? Though it’s more commonly ascribed to women (biological clocks, maternal instincts), both men and women sometimes just feel the urge to start a family. Other times, that need simply isn’t there.
Can you afford a family? As of 2014, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to legal adulthood is a about 2 million naira. How much wiggle room will that give you, based on your family income? Will you be able to give children a good quality of life? Will you have a comfortable retirement?
Do you understand the realities of parenting? Although most all parents will say that their children are their greatest joy and achievement, they’ll also tell you how hard it is to raise a child. As a parent, it will be your responsibility to safeguard your child against all dangers, to provide them with the best possible life, and to socialize them into a responsible citizen of the world. You’ll have to put up with temper tantrums and expensive Christmas lists, etc., etc. It’s a hard job!
Remember that women can always have their eggs frozen if they choose not to have children in prime child-bearing age. Although it’s difficult to get pregnant as women’s bodies age, freezing young eggs gives you a better chance at having a child if you choose to start a family later in life.
2. Decide how large or small a family you want. If you decide that you do, in fact, want to have children, the next step is to figure out how large you want your family to grow. Again, some of this is just instinct; some people can just feel in their bones that they want a large family. But there are many practical considerations you should keep in mind.
Again, each child will cost about 2 million naira over their 18 years of legal childhood!
How much attention can you devote to each child? A single child will get as much attention as their parents have to offer, but with each additional child, your attention will grow more and more diffused over your growing brood. How much time will you have to drive each child to their individual after-school activities, help with homework, listen to them talk about their days, etc.?
How much companionship do you want your child to have? Even if you can’t devote undivided parental attention to a child, having many siblings means your children will always have playmates to keep them occupied and to help each other through the trying emotional times when they don’t always turn to their parents.
Remember that with your third child, you are officially outnumbered. With two children, one parent can manage each in a given situation, but with three children, there’s a spare child running loose!
3. Consider whether you want to be a working or a stay-at-home parent. Though traditional gender roles see a man in the workplace and a woman raising the children at home, these days, both men and women should feel equally comfortable in either role.
Childcare for children whose parents work can be so expensive, depending on where you live, that it may not be worth the income from your job.
Would be comfortable with other people spending that much time raising your children, regardless of how much you trust them?
Do you want to be present for all of your child’s developmental milestones, and would working in an office get in the way of that?
Would staying at home with your child all day make you feel claustrophobic, or like you’re being defined solely by your identity as a parent?
Would staying at home keep you from the passions and interests you get to explore every day at a job you love?
4. Ask yourself what kind of a parent you want to be. Despite what a legion of parenting books would have you think, there’s no right or wrong way to be a parent. After all, people raised children for centuries without guidebooks. It is important, though, to think about what kind of parent you want to be to be as happy as possible.
Do you want to be a hands-on parent who walks their children through all of their decisions and activities, or do you want to be a more laissez-faire parent who lets their children make and learn from their own mistakes?
How involved do you want to be in their education? Will you check homework every night? Assign extra homework outside of class? Or let more qualified teachers handle their education?
How do you want to reprimand your children when they make mistakes? Would you feel more comfortable in a good cop or bad cop role? Another way to think of it might be “do you want to be more of a coach who helps make good decisions, or a referee who identifies and punishes mistakes?”
Do you put your children first before all others, or does your marriage take priority? What about your personal happiness?