That’s my twitter bio. I wrote it on a whim one random day, but it is a pretty accurate paraphrasing of my much longer mission statement. And most of all, it spells out one of the things I’ve found to be most true and least discussed about happiness: it takes guts.
Courage. Bravery. Whatever you call it, I believe that the kind of happiness that both stirs and roots your soul requires doing tough stuff. Here’s why:
Happiness calls for vulnerability.
Happiness is all about connection, and connections are deeper when we let someone see and love all of us. But doing that demands vulnerability. It demands showing our weak spots. There’s simply no way around it: you can’t be accepted completely if you don’t reveal yourself completely. And that can be scary as hell.
Happiness asks for acceptance.
Buddhists, zen masters, and playwrights remind us that the way to be happy despite dark days is to learn to accept them. Life is not perfect, and happiness isn’t about pretending otherwise. But acceptance lets us at least keep breathing through it, lets us acknowledge what is instead of constantly fighting against what we wish it was. The hard part of acceptance is having to sit still in the dark, to let the pain come and wash over you if it needs to. Acceptance sounds like a serene and peaceful state, but it is a courageous act in practice.
Happiness comes from knowing yourself.
Knowing yourself is awesome. Getting to know yourself can be much less awesome – especially if you’re afraid of what you might learn. Just like showing all of yourself to someone can be scary, revealing who you are to yourself can be just as frightening. Plus, you have to dig up all the fears and insecurities, all the things your brain actively works to keep hidden. But doing that brave work lets you see and accept all of you. It’s worth it.
Happiness demands change.
There’s no avoiding it. Our brains crave change and life insists on giving it to us. We cannot be happy without it, and yet we are also hardwired to fear it. Facing that change, embracing it and finding the joy in it, that requires a whole heap of guts.
Remember this when happiness feels hard.
Remember this when you’re faced with something that scares you. Remember that the doorway to happiness is shrouded in fear, and that all you need is the guts to walk through it.
And remember that you are brave.
I’m not just saying that. I believe that because you are here. You are looking, reading, thinking about how to be happier tomorrow than you are today, or happier tonight than you were this morning. Not everyone does that. Not everyone has the courage to go looking. But you do. So I mean it when I say this to you:
I know that you have the courage to be happier.
And it’s a good thing, because you’re going to need it.