How happy are you? Yes, that’s a deep question isn’t it? I thought we’d start off with something light and jovial. And I hope you’re on your second cup of coffee before you answer, because I’m serious. Are you happy? Do you feel joy and fulfillment every day? If you answered yes, congratulations! But if you didn’t, do you know why? If are you looking for the secret sauce that would finally help you love your life more than you covet anyone else’s, I’ve got your answer.
In my job and personal life, I deal with many people every single week from all different cities and even from different countries. And it is easy to see that many people just aren’t that happy. People are grumpy, stressed, cynical, sad and definitely insecure. There are a number of reasons I think people are generally unhappy, but I think the main reason is often that they are comparing themselves to others. You know, the Grass is Greener syndrome? There is a quote that says “Be too busy working on your own grass to notice if your neighbor’s is greener.” But that is often easier said than done.
Insecurities and a general lack of confidence is epidemic these days, in both children and adults. I’ve always had a healthy dose of confidence which I credit to my parents, because they gave me so much unconditional support both as a child and now as an adult. But I know that many people don’t have this kind of support system, and it can really take a toll. Everyone wants someone to make them feel like a million bucks. But what everyone needs even more than that, is to learn how to make yourself feel like a rockstar all by yourself. And no, I’m not kidding or being funny. But more about this novel idea of being responsible for your own happiness in a bit. But first…
Don’t compare yourself, ever! And I mean never, ever. I love the observation that pastor Steven Furtick mentions in this quote, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes, with everyone else’s highlight reel.” In this day of social media, he couldn’t be more right. Nothing makes people less happy than to compare their perception of themselves to their perception of others. And yes I said perception, because I know very few people are able to be honest and objective when comparing their own lives to the lives of other people they admire, are inspired by or that they envy.
The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. – Steven Furtick
The truth is, doing any sort of comparing at all doesn’t pay off. Social media makes it very difficult to not think of what other people are doing, where they are traveling, or what their homes and bodies and spouses and children look like. And for a lot of reasons, I love social media, but this idea of showing our perfect selves is not one of them. Believe me, I am guilty of it at times, too. But I realize it can be hard on us some days, when we aren’t confident and happy in our own lives and our own skin, to see the seemingly perfect and successful “version” of life being played out by others on Instagram or Facebook for everyone to see. It can make us feel like we don’t measure up.
We are all amazing! Here’s the thing. Everybody has something of value in them. Everyone has greatness and everyone has things they would love to change. Happiness and Joy (they are different you know) come when you focus on your gifts and your talents, your strengths and your skills, instead of focusing on other people and what you think they have that you don’t.
If you are regularly thinking thoughts like “everyone has something to be proud of but me”, you are not giving yourself credit. You know that thing that you do that seems so easy to you? It’s your talent, your gift. You’re certain anyone could do it, but they can’t. It’s uniquely yours. So why are you comparing your gift to other’s gifts? Just think, a flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.
If you want to be truly happy, then you have to believe that it doesn’t matter what others are doing. Focus on your own stuff. Bloom where you are planted. The goal is not to be like everyone else, or better than everyone else. But you can strive to be better than you ever thought you could be. And remember, successful people never worry about what others are doing.
The best advice I’ve ever received is no one else knows what they are doing either. – Ricky Gervais
Be happy for others. Not comparing yourself, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be happy for others and their successes. I find that the happier I am for everyone else, whether it’s my friends or my competitors, it always comes back to me in positive ways. Jealousy is a huge killer of happy. So be happy for other’s wins and successes. But also, learn to be happy for yourself.
Be your own cheerleader. It may sound silly, but I do this all the time. If I design a gorgeous room for a client, I stand back and smile and say “Dang I’m good! I should have been a designer” and then I laugh because I am one. But I feel all warm and fuzzy and proud inside. And I know I am good at what I do.
And when I cook a great meal or bake a yummy dessert and I take a bite, I don’t say “this is so-so, I’m not that great in the kitchen”. Nope, I usually say, “Wow. this is fantastic! Man, I’m a great cook.” and my family all smiles and says “and a humble cook too!” and we all laugh. But you know what? I believe it. I am a good cook.
It’s not arrogant to give yourself validation. It’s not stupid to tell yourself where you are remarkable. It’s not conceited to toot your own horn, as long as you are kind to others in the process. It’s called confidence. And if you don’t believe in yourself, who else is going to?
Identify your gifts. Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” So what are your gifts? Cooking, singing, grocery shopping, being a friend? What are your skills? Negotiation, conversation, design, entertaining, sports? What do you love to do? Knit, travel, collect, organize, work, golf? You see we are all so very different and we are all great at something–actually lots of things, even when we think we’re not.
And if we practiced reminding ourselves of what we are great at on a regular basis, instead of feeling inferior all the time and comparing to others, think of how far we could go towards reaching our potential. Think of the happiness and joy we could bring to others. Think of how we could influence the world for the good. There are dozens of ways you could give away your gifts to make others come alive. And giving life to others, gives life to you.
No, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it. You have to find happiness and joy in the day to day, the ordinary, the mundane. There isn’t a magical day when you will be standing on the other side of the fence and the grass will suddenly be greener. You see, what you haven’t noticed, is your grass is already green. And when you water your own grass, the possibilities are endless.
I know my grass is green and I am grateful. I know I work in my sweet spot as a designer and consultant everyday. I know that I am good at cooking and entertaining, so I do it often. I know that I am a pretty good writer, and a great organizer, and good business person. I know where my strengths are, and I keep them honed by using them. I enjoy being me and I enjoy using my strengths and talents to benefit and share with others. And that gives me confidence. That makes me comfortable in my own skin. That makes my grass green.
You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you. Go work with it!
The more you sit around and think about how inferior you are to everyone else, the more miserable you will become. And the more you take action using your strengths and talents to make the world and other’s lives better, the happier you will be. My daughter and I cooked every single day of her Winter break and we shared dozens of meals and baked goodies with others. It made us happy. We were proud of our food. And it tasted great! When is the last time you took action with one of your strengths or talents to make yourself proud and bring joy to others too? That’s the secret sauce for happiness. It’s where the grass is as green as can be.
So here’s my question again…Are you happy? And if not, what could you do today to find joy while using your gifts? Can you cook a meal for others like I love to do, that you can be proud of? Ok you hate to cook and you actually can’t boil water…no worries! Can you help your child learn a new sport that is your forte? Can you organize your closets and stand back and look at your handy work, and have so much less stress because you and your family will know where everything is? Can you volunteer or teach or lead others? Can you write a blog or a book? Can you take photographs, or be a good listener, or help someone move to a new house? What can you do?
Good luck using this secret sauce to make your own pastures as green as they can be.
And speaking of green, how about a recipe for my favorite green smoothie. I drink these every morning before I go face the world to share my gifts and talents. It makes me green from the inside out, so give it a try.
Tobi’s Favorite Green Smoothie:
1 banana sliced and frozen
1 1/2 cup of almond milk (unsweetened, non GMO)
1/2 cup of blueberries (you can add other fruit–strawberries, pineapple, or peaches work great too!)
2 cups of fresh baby spinach (could be frozen, but I use fresh)
1 Tablespoon ground Flax seed
1 Tablespoon ground Chia seed
Mix well in your favorite blender (which for me is a Vitamix) and enjoy making your health a little greener too. Cheers!