More than 25 years ago, I had a conversation with my friend, Lee (and now blogging partner) about happiness. We were both young and stuck miserably in bad marriages and stressful jobs...we both just generally felt like a big steaming pile of unfulfilled drones. As we sat in my upstairs bedroom of an unfinished renovated house, she watched as I struggled to assemble a cheap god awful shoe rack and said, “I wonder if I could be happy and not know it?” At the time I was relatively sure that it just wasn’t possible....I said, “I don’t think that’s possible”
When I grow up, I’ll be able to do the things I want and thus....be happy! I’m 57 this year....I just started doing the things I wanted to. I thought happiness would be like the song....”If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. I am reframing how I think about this now.
I thought once I got a Divorce from my 1st abusive husband, I’d be out on my own and be happy. Well, it’s damn hard work being a single parent and I sure wasn’t clapping my hands through those years.
I thought once I found a “new love”, I’d be happy. That turned out to be 10 years of a ridiculous hell.
Since I had given up on the “new love” part, I thought if I could just get another job that paid me more, I’d be happy. Wow, the stress level that comes with all that money is mind bending.
I finally found “the love of my life”, and I thought once we got married, that would make me happy. You know, keeping a marriage alive and kicking is a lot of hard work! Totally worth it, but my days are not filled with idyllic hand clapping.
I was convinced once I “retired” from a stressful job that seemed to be killing me and found something else to do, I would be happy. Turns out finding your passion after so many years of taking care of everybody else on this planet isn’t all that easy either.
I thought once my emotionally abusive mother died I would be happy. Well, ok, it turns out I was. For a moment.
On paper, I have a good life. I have a great husband, who will do anything to please me. He brings me coffee in bed every morning (except on weekends, then it’s my turn), takes my arm at every street crossing and parking lot and treats me with all the great respect I longed for as a young woman. We are debt free. I have two kids that have become model parents and six grandkids that I adore (I’ll spare you the pics....for now). I took a "Stress & Happiness" Test and scored quiet high.
So why am I still so goal oriented, searching for “my passion” (I think “finding my passion” may be one of my least favorite phrases, but you get the point), finding my purpose (I wanted to retire, now I need a purpose for god’s sake) or learning something new or even a hobby I never thought I’d take up. My future starts....after these few words.
So I read, and I read and I read. Turns out there’s a lot of information on this topic for all us “self improvement junkies”. One article in particular was especially interesting to me...The 22 Unhealthy habits of Unhappy People. As I read over the list, I was keenly aware of those bad habits I could own up to and those I didn’t. The article sent me on a research project around the subject of being happy and most of them all said the same thing. I’ve got them all listed on middlesage.com.
I sent the article to my friend and we spent the better part of our daily video chat talking about our bad habits. I said, “You know, I think you could’ve been right more than 25 years ago....I think I might be happy and just getting in my own way of it. Could it be as easy as exchanging these bad “unhealthy” habits with the good “healthy” habits? Would we notice a measurable difference in the way we felt if we “kicked the habits”?
So we created “The Behavior Exchange Challenge”. For one full month we are doing our best to break every single “unhealthy habit” we own up to. We’ve enlisted our friends, our families and our blog readers to be our accountability buddies. I showed my husband the list and had him own up to his own “unhealthy habits” (interestingly enough - his “unhealthy habits” were all different than mine...maybe that’s why we work so well together), I asked him to throw what I call “The BullShit Flag” if he catches me engaging in any of my bad habits...he needs to bring it to my attention...oh, he’s well aware of what those habits are.
So I ask you now, Are you as happy as you’re ever going to be? Would you like to join us in “The Behavior Exchange Challenge”? Do you think you’re as happy as you’re ever going to be? I hope you do join us. I’m hoping the end result is a better state of awareness and eventually realizing our own happiness.
Take our “Behavior Exchange Challenge Poll” and get honest with yourself on any of the “unhealthy habits” that might be holding you back. Then join us in “The Behavior Exchange Challenge”....we’ll even give you a worksheet to make it easier.
More from living