One step forward, two steps back? From ‘the search for happiness’ to ‘a search for meaning’

So since my last post about ‘finding my mission’, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. About how to try and live a happier life, and how to reorient myself professionally towards a ‘mission’ that would be more fulfilling.

In the last couple of weeks, I did a bunch of reading and thinking about my search for ‘happiness’. It turns out, I didn’t really have this search framed quite right.

Let me explain.

What I realised belatedly in the last couple of weeks (I’m sure basically every philosopher in history and psychologist practising today, would have spotted this instantly!) is that what I was looking for wasn’t really happiness at all. Continue reading

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I have a job. Now I need a mission

After the last couple of weeks hiatus (though I did go for a little walk), here I am back with a new blog about the changes taking place in my life.

This week I finally started my new job. To recap on what this is, after some false starts and random applications, I decided what I wanted was:

  • a job that I could do well without re-training, but that wouldn’t be deadly dull
  • for an organisation doing good work in the local community
  • something low-stress and less intense than my previous job
  • A job which didn’t pay loads, but covered my bills, with a little bit every month left over for hobbies
  • A part-time post, which I could leave on time every day- to leave space for my other goals. (That’s the important bit we’ll come back to!)

Having worked my first week at the new job, I’m feeling encouraged that I’ve found the right thing. The workplace seems friendly and not obviously a toxic workplace or sick system (see Issendai’s interesting blog post on sick systems  which has rang true for me several times, over my years in non-profits!). I’m also really moved and motivated by the results I see coming in from the colleagues working on the ground. They are doing good work, with people who really need it.

So no major red flags, and I can turn my attention to what’s next.

Continue reading

Next steps.

I have been writing today while listening to music, something I haven’t done for a while. While unemployed, I’ve cut back on luxuries, which included streaming subscriptions, so it’s been less enjoyable to listen to music as it’s interrupted by adverts. However, I now put up with them as a necessary evil.

So I was writing and stopping to stare out of our skylight, kind of vacantly. Suddenly an airplane appeared between two black phone wires and hung there as if suspended. It moved slowly across my eyeline and I felt like there was an invisible thread, connecting me directly to all those people far away in that tiny plane. It was strange how a two-dimensional view suddenly became so layered. The plane traveled along the wires and then it was gone, past the windowsill and out of my sight and the view was flat again.

Continue reading

Finding happiness ingredients Part 2: What don’t I need?

So, everyone, sorry for the delay in producing Part 2 of this post. My life suddenly became full to the brim with the task of moving (from a largish 2 bedroom house with a garden) into a smallish flat, with all the associated hassles that entails. Including: fighting our ex-landlady for our owed deposit, and speaking to lots of call centres to change addresses and pay ‘transfer fees’ for our insurance and so forth (grrr). Yes, there was a spreadsheet. Yes, it was colour coded. No, it was not fun.

Plus, given the reduced space, my partner and I have had to fairly drastically reduce our stuff. Basically what this process looks like is me saying brightly while holding up various items (mostly his, if I’m honest): “What about this? Does it….. SPARK JOY?” and being met with a raised eyebrow, a muttered ‘Fuck off’, and a rapidly disappearing back. (Life lesson: Don’t try and KonMari your life partner’s CD collection.) I’m currently typing this sitting surrounded by the ‘things we have to get rid of’ pile, which despite all the stress, is satisfyingly big.

Anyway… I was talking about happiness.

In my last post, I examined the factors that I thought I might have contributed to a feeling of joy I experienced on a recent overseas trip. I was focusing, then, on what I’d added to my life that might have contributed.

But I think it’s just as important to look at what I took away– what wasn’t there on that trip, that created space for happiness to thrive. Here’s a brief list of the biggies I’ve come up with.

Continue reading

Finding happiness ingredients: what makes up happiness?

Last week, I talked about identifying ‘happiness ingredients’- the things that I think led to me waking up happy every day while on a recent overseas trip. What, of those ingredients, can I salvage for my life here in the UK? It’s important to me that I work this out, because I’m unemployed, and I need to start building my working life from scratch- I want that life to be a better one.

As an exercise, I wanted to think through in more detail the trip- which was a volunteering placement on an organic farm/homestead. I wanted to identify what I added to my normal life during my stay that hadn’t been there before, as well as examining what I took away from it, to see if it gets me any closer to understanding what happiness is for me.

Here’s the list of what I added, first of all (I’ll look at the stuff I removed from my life, in a future post).

Continue reading

Well, I’m unemployed.

Montage of scenes from my average day this week

I got up at 8am when my partner left for work. “Have a good day.” he said, brightly. “I will”, I responded, equally brightly, then spent a good five minutes looking at the wedding photos of someone I haven’t spoken to in six years on Facebook.

I rolled out my yoga mat and did some yoga in my pyjamas. I alternated between trying to breathe slowly and regularly… and accidentally forgetting and holding my breath in for minutes at a time (while I replayed a conversation in my head with our letting agent, who is infuriating by the way). STOP. AGH. BE IN THE MOMENT. BREATHE.

I finished yoga and stared at the ceiling, thinking about different recipes for risotto, until my bare feet got cold and I remembered I had to actually get up off the floor if I wanted my day to continue. While NOT getting up off the floor would result in me being found lying on the living room floor by my partner when he returned after work several hours later. He would be startled by a limp ‘hello’ emerging from somewhere in the gloom, the room having darkened around me in the hours that had elapsed. It’s a scenario that seems unlikely but I can’t quite discount. This thought, luckily, jolts me up off the floor.

Continue reading