Friday, May 27, 2011

Centering Life Around Activities That Bring Me Joy (by Saying No!)

In How We Choose to Be Happy, Rick Foster & Greg Hicks studied happy people all around the world and noticed that the people they interviewed all spent time identifying activities that make them happy and then centered their lives around those activities.  Since finding the courage to break up with my boyfriend and move out of our shared apartment two weeks ago, I have been taking steps to do just that – to focus my life on activities and pursuits that bring me joy.  Some of these activities include Biodanza, meditation, dance, yoga, watching Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, going to my Awakening Joy class, reading, and studying career development.  I am increasingly realizing that they do not include happy hours, wine tastings, bar meetups, watching Mystery Science Theater, “singles” events, and taking doctoral courses just because I think that I “should.”  The jury is still out on where bicycling, board games, skiing, and cooking fall into the mix.

Making these kinds of choices is not easy to do because it sometimes requires saying “No” and turning down invitations from other people – something that I am not ordinarily very good at.  I tend to be a “go with the flow” kind of person and will generally say yes and try to enjoy just about any activity – especially if the person inviting me is determined and really prods me to do so.  I agree that compromise is an important quality and a necessary component of every relationship, but I think that I have underdeveloped my discretion over the years, and I think it will be crucial for me to tap into my intuition and improve at voicing my truth(s) in order to successfully move into the next phase of my life – simply going with the flow is not by itself going to get me where I want to go.

I had an opportunity to practice this skill this week when I received materials for the 120-hour Career Development Facilitator course that I am going to be taking this summer and realized that it is going to be a lot more work than I initially realized.  As I looked through the box of books and the syllabus, I came to the conclusion that something (and perhaps even more than that) was going to need to go in order to make room for this course, which is very important to me and very much in line with my intentions.  With swift, “Joan of Arc” type certainty, I realized that the doctoral course on Ethical Organizations which I was signed up to take this June was not on a topic that compels my interest, would take valuable time away in my evenings and weekends from studying and happiness activities, and was really only on my list of “to dos” because I felt that I “should” be taking at least one course this summer towards the Ed.D. program in Organization & Leadership which I am still on the fence about.  With a strength and conviction that I do not often exhibit, I went online and dropped the course the next day and wrote an email to the teacher and advisor explaining my reasoning – note – not asking for permission as I might usually do.

Reflecting on dropping this course and breaking up with my boyfriend has helped me to recognize an important truth about myself.  I don’t suffer from a lack of intuition – I’m just hesitant to listen to my intuition when it means having to say no or introduce conflict into a situation.  When something is right – such as the new apartment that I just picked out or the first Biodanza class that went to last November – I know it deep down in every fiber of my being.  My forehead is smooth, I feel rooted in the ground, I feel an “Ahhh” sense of relief, and I know with certainty that it is right and I want it in my life.  When something is a good fit for me, my intuition works just fine – I am not a commitment phobic person – and I generally speak up to say “Yes” and welcome whatever it is into my life.  The harder thing for me is knowing when to say “No, Thank You” and walk away.  Increasingly, I am learning that when I find myself working hard to convince myself that something is right, thinking that I “should” be accepting something, trying to force something to stay a part of my life which no longer fits – for me, that means it is not for me – and it is time to move on.  Perhaps for me, “maybe” really means – No!

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