If you want to change your life, you have to change your mind.
If you are looking for an exact formula to find your happiness, you will be disappointed in what you are about to read. There is no formula to find happiness. You will not be rewarded with something tangible at the end of your search. Actually, there is no ending to this search for happiness. Maybe you shouldn’t even be searching at all.
Frustrated? I know, but I bet you are also intrigued.
I am not here to tell you exactly how to find your happiness or how to change your life. I am here, however, to point you in a direction to get you started on your happiness journey.
Planning Not to Plan
It has now been one year since we have moved from our 2400 square foot home into our 150 square foot, 24 foot long RV, RAIF.
In the beginning of our journey, I found myself complaining more than enjoying, and then realized that these complaints weren’t even problems.
Now when people ask about our lifestyle, the most commonly asked question is, “How long do you plan on traveling?”
Our most common answer is, “Until we’re done.”
In my opinion, people plan too much, think too much, and overall, freak out too much. They have forgotten a very important word in the English language: moderation.
What scares the crap outta me is having a plan. And I had one for 26 years.
Now, on the open road, we barely plan. And ironically, it is starting to take a toll.
Strange, right? Since having a plan is truly frightening, I’m finally living a life without one. While my momentum, my actions, and everything that I have been contemplating for the last two years and acting upon for the last one, has been supporting that no plan kind of lifestyle, my mind has not fully accepted it.
That’s when this thought popped into my head, “If you want to change your life, you have to change your mind.”
Living for the Weekends
Most of us work 40 hour work weeks, if not more. Then we come home and work some more. If you’re a parent, you come home to being your kids personal Uber drivers, their coaches, teachers, counselors, you know the drill. You also get to be personal shoppers, chefs, gardeners, contractors… Life never stands still.
Then the weekend arrives, that thing most of us look forward to every Monday morning. And we sleep in, lounge around in pajamas, binge watch Game of Thrones, and eat ice cream all day. Who has that weekend? Most of us continue the weekends with exactly the same schedule as the weekday. And every once in a while we get to be weekend warriors and escape to the mountains or the beach. And if we’re really lucky we get two weeks off to pretend we love life while finally somewhat living a life we only dream about. Vacation!
Are we happy? Of course we are. We are providing for our family, participating in backyard bbqs, cheering on weekly soccer games, bringing in the big bucks, going on extravagant vacations. Isn’t that happy?
The Crack in the Foundation
Then one day, we just crack. Unfortunately, these cracks are usually caused by some life changing event such as a death of a loved one, or a diagnosis of cancer, or losing a job you’ve dedicated your life to for the past 15 years. Because of this we realize how little time we have, and we finally set the wheels in motion to experience life, not just go through it as though somebody else is playing with the remote control.
We Begin to Question Our Happy
That is exactly what Eric Weiner did when he wrote The Geography of Bliss, which is self described as “One grump’s search for the happiest places in the world.” Ironically, another author, Eric Hoffer, stated “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.” Weiner decided that since he was already unhappy, he had nothing to lose with his search for happiness.
For those lucky ones, they realize this before following society’s rules, but for most of us, we seem inept at changing until something does it for us.
But even when we finally make the decision to change our lives, to search for happy, we haven’t fully changed our minds.
Various research states that it can take anywhere from 21 to 66 days to build a habit and just as much time to break an unwanted one. No wonder it’s easier to stay where we are instead of changing.
Change is Different for Everyone
But change we do, eventually. And that change is different for everyone.
For us, it was downsizing our worldly goods from our house of 26 years to something the size of a walk-in closet.
It was relinquishing our keys to our adult sons and their roommates. It was quitting an exhausting teaching job. It was cutting our income in half. It was moving every few days to an unplanned spot while traveling the country.
It was gaining freedom yet losing strongholds. It was exploring nature unseen yet becoming more transparent. It was, quite often, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It’s enough to make anyone crazy; it’s enough to make you love life again. A few years ago, I went on a two week trip to a couple of small villages outside of Kisumu, Kenya. I fell in love with the land and the people, and I called it a Land of Contrast with small thatched huts next to towering hotels, electricity lines running through villages that couldn’t afford the luxury of electricity.
However, I’ve come to realize that our entire world is a land of contrast, and I think that was the beginning of changing my mind, the beginning of realizing that it was time to change my world.
Changing Your Mind to Change Your World
If you search the internet as to how to change your mindset, you’ll come across thousands of articles with advice as to, How to be Happy in 24 Hours, How to Change Your Mindset in 7 Easy Steps, How to Create Your Best Life in 48 Hours or Less, etc.
I said it earlier; there’s no magical formula out there for this daunting task. It’s just something that you have to create if you feel the need to do so. It’s not something concrete. In fact, it is quite abstract. Meaning there will be many doubts, frustrations, highs, lows, laughter, outright crying fits, finally understanding, enlightenment even, for some, but then all of it comes to a crescendo, and the entire unknown frustrating process starts all over again.
Sounds like life, right? So why bother? Why bother trying to find happiness, or create it, or search for this thing that isn’t even a thing? Why work so hard for something that seems so out of reach? Because it’s not.
When you embark upon this journey to change your mind or mindset or whatever name you have given it, ironically it is about the journey, not the search. Leave the searching to the pirates, and you focus on the planning or not planning, the thinking or on-a-whim, the roads, the people, the connections, the adventures of trying to get to your happy or your life change, that is ultimately the goal, not the sunken treasure or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Leave that for the fairy tales.
My Journey to Happiness
I can’t say that I am happier because of my lifestyle and constant location change, but I can say that I don’t go to bed because I have to get up at 5 am. I go to bed because I’m tired and it’s time to go to bed. I no longer wake up to an alarm; I wake up when I am rested.
Some days I work 10 hours; others I work 4; others not at all. Some days, I go on a 3 hour bike ride, others, I go on a 30 minute walk. Others I find myself at the gym. Others, I am just plain lazy and drink great beer, eat great fries, and binge watch Friends. Some days my office is a very cool coffee shop, others a picnic table, and most times, it is my extremely uncomfortable dining table in my RV.
Am I happier? Maybe some days? Am I loving the journey to see if I’m happier? Most days that answer is a resounding, “Hell, Yes! Sometimes, though, I wonder what in the hell was wrong with my mind when I chose this nomadic lifestyle. Everyday, though, I am grateful for the ability to make that choice.
Humans are creatures of habit. We fear change. We fear failure. We get comfortable in our daily lives and that comfort begins to feel like happiness.
That comfort could be the exact cause of your perceived happiness or in truth, unhappiness.
You are in control of your life. Of course there are things that happen that you have absolutely no control over, but you still control your reactions. You are in charge. You are powerful. You are the only one that can change your mind.
My Constant Companion – Change
Besides my sidekick, my husband, I have embraced and fought and created and fought yet again, another constant companion, Change.
Change is both my best friend and my mortal enemy. Change, in my personal dictionary, is a synonym for time. And time is the one thing I just cannot quite figure out. I think I may just have to accept that I will never conquer time, or change, or whatever synonym your dictionary defines it as.
So, in my constant journey to change my mind in order to change my life, I have found, created, realized, etc. a few “magic” tricks, maybe even a “formula” to accompany me on my never-ending journey. Maybe a few of these will tag along with you on your journey to
Finding Happiness – The “Magic Formula”
Create a Sit Spot
This is exactly what it sounds like. Find a place – nature is best, but life doesn’t always let you get there – away from people, no cell phones, just you. Get comfortable and commit to at least five minutes of just sitting. Let your mind relax, watch the ants, watch the clouds, watch the cracks in the pavement, if you must, but just sit. Just breathe and watch the world around you. For more information on Sit Spots, click here.
Change Your Perspective
There are so many ways to do this, but the best way is to travel more. If you are disenchanted with people, travel more. You will quickly realize how alike we all are and how kind we all are. Of course, there are grumpy humans, even evil ones, on the planet, but people are generally very much amazing creatures. If you can’t travel more, then read more. And by that, I mean memoirs, historical books, travel blogs, pieces that take you all over the world without ever leaving your couch. And don’t just read books that support your opinions and beliefs, read the other side. Join book clubs, have intellectual discussions, and learn how to agree to disagree.
What we have now is all we have. So, wherever you are now, is where you are supposed to be. Embrace it. Be with it. Yes, plan (in moderation) for tomorrow, but live for the moment. Time is not your enemy; it is your friend. I could go on forever about this, and this is the hardest part of the “formula” for me. In fact, I’m not sure if I will ever conquer it (I have such great FOMO), but I am getting better, and if any of our readers out there have any advice on this, please share. I think this is one of humanity’s great errors. If we were present more, we might actually be happy.
Not Every Moment is a Stout Moment
We talk a lot about living a Stout Life, one full of intention, passion, and purpose. Realizing that not every moment in life is stout, can actually bring the pressures of life down to a manageable level. Strive to live a purposeful life, yes, but sometimes life is really all about taking a moment to watch a silly movie, or sip on a coffee at a cafe while people watching.
Eat the Cinnamon Roll
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, explains what I mean by this in the best possible way.
“I am so tired of saying no, waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it. I have no interest in being obese, I’m just through with the guilt. So this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to finish this pizza, and then we are going to go watch the soccer game, and tomorrow we are going to go on a little date and buy ourselves some bigger jeans.”
Quotes to Leave You With
“Happiness is an ideal of imagination rather than reason.” (German philosopher, Immanuel Kant.)
Author, Eric Weiner brilliantly summed that up, “We create our happiness, and the first step in creating anything is to imagine it.”
And as my son so often reminds me, “You don’t know!”
May the unknown team up with your imagination resulting in the best damn partnership you ever created! Cheers to your journey!