Yardsticks: Measures For Success And Happiness

Beautiful African American lady with dark curly hair standing near board and happily discussing new project with her colleagues in office. Young smiling business woman giving presentation to coworkers

Your alarm goes off it’s 6 am on the morning of your 45th birthday. You sneak downstairs careful to not wake your spouse and children hoping for a few moments of calm before the daily madness ensues. As you stand waiting for your liquid gold to brew you quietly survey your kitchen, home and the life attached to every item. You take stock of the last year, and the 44 before that, every moment that led you to be in this place. As familiar as it all is, you are left with this uncomfortable sense that it doesn’t actually belong to you. How can that be? This home, these relationships, your things represent a lifetime of choices you made… Don’t they?

For many of us we have experienced a moment like this. Perhaps in a different location, at a different age, and the details are largely irrelevant. Whether you have a life you love or one you survive many of us inevitably feel like in some way or another our lives are not a creation of our own design. We walk paths one step after another, taking the actions we think we should take, doing what is expected of us, “choosing” our lives or so we think. Consider for a second that your life is in fact not something you chose at all. What if the life you love, survive, or are indifferent to is in fact based entirely off some external “yardstick” that you have convinced yourself is in fact your own?

Measures, ideals and standards for success and happiness are gifted to us from the time we are born. Each of us is dealt a hand at birth, genetics, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, region, there are a seemingly never-ending set of criteria that determine what’s possible for a human life. That there are external measures of what it means to be happy and successful is irrefutable, all you need to do is take a walk through your local book store and buy one of hundreds of best sellers telling you what you should do, or what you need to have in order to be a happy successful human being.

Some of us take all the “right” steps, acts of obedience in order to connect and belong, others seem to go out of our ways to take the “wrong” steps, acts of rebellion intended to have us feel free. Regardless we are in some way engaging with the standards, measures, and agreements surrounding us. It is an act of courage to step off the beaten path and ask ourselves, what would it look like to create a life I love based on my own measurements for happiness and success? Where would I live? How much money would I earn? What kinds of relationships would I have? Would I marry or not? Have children or not? If I could write my own story, and I believe you can, what would I say? If you were creating your business or career based not on what others said or thought, or what you think you should or shouldn’t do, and based on what you really wanted to create, what would you create differently? You are only ever one decision away from creating a life based on what you really want, and it starts with gaining clarity and having the courage to ask ourselves what do I really want? In the words of Ralph Waldo Emmerson, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is not path and leave a trail.”

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