When I talk to my millennial members about happiness, I see two traits:
There are the people that are happy now;
And others that expect to, or are planning to, be happy in the future.
What I’ve picked up from the ‘happy right now’ people is that happy doesn’t happen by accident.
They’re ‘intentionally’ happy. They aren't kicking back saying, “Look at how my life turned out, isn't this fabulous.” They’re continually creating that positivity for themselves.
Remember when we looked at if we’re progressing in the right ways? And when we thought about how our goals and values align, and what that means for our finances?
I believe the ‘happy now’ people are living the extension of this. They have clear goals and values, and living in alignment with these brings them a sense of happiness, even pride.
But I also believe a lot of the ‘future happy seekers’ aren’t just missing out now. They’ll keep missing out on happiness unless they realise that it’s not a ‘place’ they’ll arrive at one day. They have to make it happen for themselves, now.
Unlike the ‘happy now’ people, a trait I see in the ‘future happy seekers’ is a lack of accountability for their own actions, and for their responses to what life throws at them.
I see people in debt who are frustrated and pissed off, saying, “This is bullshit and the world hates me.” The amount of people that get angry at me because they've got no money or have credit debt is crazy. I didn't get them into debt.
They’re not all in bad situations, but can be overworked, too busy, and therefore tired and stressed. But they’re ‘outsourcing’ their responsibility for their happiness, believing that a thing happened ‘to’ them, not that they have responsibility for it themselves.
In contrast, the ‘happy now’ people will take ownership of the actions that they took to get into debt, and what they need to do to get out of it. That can be frustrating, but they often find more contentment as a result.
I fundamentally believe this sense of accountability is a cornerstone to happiness. It doesn't mean that they've got everything they want right now, but they're able to ‘own’ their own happiness.
My moment of realisation
My dad went to prison when I was 16.
I could have said, “This bad thing is happening to me, I’m going to go out of control with drugs, alcohol, or boys, and not take responsibility for my situation.”
But instead, I made the choice not to go down that path. I took control of my own happiness.
The Nicorette effect
This idea of responsibility was drummed into me even more when I worked in a pharmacy for five years throughout uni.
I had a kick ass pharmacist boss, and people used to come in and tell him they wanted to quit smoking.
He’d say to them, “Do you have any cigarettes on you right now?”
If they said, “Yes,” he’d say, “Can you please give them to me?”
About 50 percent of the time they’d say, “Take them.” The others would say, “No.”
So my boss would say, “I’m not prepared to take you through all the products you can buy to help you quit smoking if you’re not prepared to hand them over. I can slap a Nicorette patch on your arm, but if you’re not prepared to hand over your cigarettes right now, it’s going to do f**k all.” (I’m paraphrasing, Kenny would never have sworn).
I took on board the message — don’t look to others for a solution if you’re not ready to take responsibility for yourself.
I think about this when it comes to taking responsibility for my happiness.
Happiness in the process
The ‘future happy seekers’ might think there’s a lot they need to change before they can be happy.
But there’s a lot of happiness to be found in the process, which goes on for so much longer than the moment of ‘goal attainment’.
You might hate your job, so instead of letting that make you miserable and thinking, “One day when I leave I’ll be happy,” you can make a 12 month-plan to upskill, build on your education, network, go to industry conferences, get a mentor, and redo your CV so you’re in a prime position to apply for new roles.
You can get happiness and satisfaction from the process, rather than postponing any joy.
If you don’t like it, change it
Like we talked about in Everyone has their own shit, everyone literally has their own shit.
Someone else has probably had the same bad thing happen to them, or much worse, and they’ve chosen to do something different. It can be hard to be positive, but I believe we need to be doing it anyway.
When we take ownership of our happiness, we can be responsible for every good thing that happens to us. And be responsible for how we respond to the bad things.
With that mindset, we have control. So rather than happiness being a future state, we can bring that happiness into now.
Think about all the things that you’re not particularly happy with at the moment, then acknowledge what you’ve done to create that. Then ask yourself, what am I going to do to change it?
If you don't like it change it. And if you don’t want to change it, you have to get over it.
If not now, when?
As millennials we’re in a prime position to act. We’re young, smart and healthy, with financial opportunity and the power to change. There’ll never be more opportunity than we have right now.
There’s no point reading fluff that makes you feel good about happiness — and there’s plenty out there. If you’re not going to take action, it’s probably time to unfollow me.
Can we imagine a world where everyone is happy? So much of that is within our control. What do we want to create?
Setting our goals and values is essential to our happiness. Get in touch if you want help setting yours.