What defines a good day?
What defines whether or not we “get” to be happy?
These are very personal and challenging questions – questions that everyone, at some point, will address. Humans are unique amongst the animal kingdom in that we are “meaning searching” creatures.
I’m not a scientist, but I often read science and evolution books. They are fascinating to me. As far as I am aware (and I would be happy if one of my readers corrected me on this subject) we are the only animal that openly speculates and plans around the “meaning of life” and whether, and in what form, life has a purpose?
Everyone will answer the question of life’s purpose in their own unique way, and their answer, will, for a large part, determine whether or not they are happy.
For many, many years I defined my happiness in reference to the results that I was obtaining in various pursuits. This was a very dangerous method. It always seemed like there was someone better than me, someone who was achieving more than me, someone who was better than me in the exact pursuit that I was burning the candle at both ends trying to achieve in.
The “validation by reference” method that I was using was systematically flawed.
It was hopeless from the beginning, because if I could only feel good about myself, in the event that I was achieving, or in the event that I was the best, then I was 100% guaranteed to be disappointed, as I had not factored in the possibility that there were many things that were outside of my control.
At some point – I think it was because I “failed” in my first career choice (in some people’s eye’s, not my own), I changed from a “validation by reference” paradigm to a purely “validation by self” model.
This alone, I believe, is the most critical factor in the day to day well being that I now feel.
In order to control your happiness, you have to be the architect of your well-being. To do this you have to first define what the rules are for whether or not you can define a day as a good day, and you can define yourself as a success.
If you allow these rules to be set by the world you will never be happy. If you take control of them yourself you can also “validate” yourself in the process.
For example – I now use a “checklist” system that I have created to determine whether or not I should feel good about a given day. This system is entirely within my control. I’m not advocating anyone to use this model – happiness is a personal journey. However, I can share what I do because it may help someone else – and contributing value to others is one of my primary values.
Here is how my checklist system works:
I define several acts (all of which I can control) that I want to accomplish in a given day – things like writing 500 words, or working a certain number of hours on our business.
These acts are all related to the long term goals that I have. I also include certain things in line with my paramount values – such as how I want to treat my family, and physical fitness goals.
Every single act on my checklist I have the power to accomplish. I judge my worth, and the quality of my day, by whether or not I have completed my checks for the day.
I’ve been using this model for years. My wife jokes about all the “grids” she sees in my office, but she doesn’t quarrel with them because she knows that this system is at the heart of my well-being.
At the end of the day I get to “self-validate”. As I make my checks I feel quite good about myself, and my day, and the best part was that it was all in my power.
There really is no magic to this, it is just a simple little tool, that I’ve built into a habit, that allows me to define my self-worth by reference to my “self” rather than by reference to other people (and what they do), and I have found that this habit has paid huge compounding returns in my self-esteem, and sense of general well-being.
So if you struggle at all with any of these – my advice – develop a system where you, alone, get to determine your validation. You get to “self-validate”.