Decision-making can be excruciating, especially if it's an especially important decision. If you are like me, your mind swirls with worry about making the “right” decision or the “best” decision, endlessly swinging between options like a pendulum out of control. You try to take every possible factor into consideration: “How will this person feel? Am I letting someone down? What will the future be like if I go this way?” (And so on, and so on, and so on...for hours or even days.)
I’m happy to report that I've finally figured out a better way to make decisions, and it's made my life a whole lot easier.
Ready for it? Here goes:
If you’re happy, keep doing what you are doing.
If you’re not, something is not right and a new choice is needed.
Well, mostly. In order to put this into practice, we've got to define happiness. After all, if you don’t define it, it’s pretty hard to use it as a compass that guides you to your best, most fulfilling life.
So, how do you define happiness? What is the recipe for happiness?
That’s the question I started pondering one day. I thought of the happiest times in my life—some family vacations as a child, meeting my husband, our wedding day, my book tour to Romania, adopting our baby girl, the day I helped a person I cared about heal from a serious illness—and tried to figure out what the common elements were that made those events truly happy.
Here’s what I came up with, and I think it really works:
In all those moments, I felt truly respected and accepted for who I was. There was also a component of love, whether it was romantic, friendship, or self-love. And, there was always a sense of hope, whether it was hope for the future or hope for a new way of life or just hope in general.
That, to me, is the recipe for happiness: Respect + Unconditional Love + Hope = Happiness.
If you have those elements, you have happiness. If those elements are missing, something needs to change, because it’s quite likely that you are unhappy. And if you're unhappy, it can't really be the best situation for you, can it?
It really can't. If you are unhappy in a relationship, work situation, or business, it's time to make a change. End of story.
Now, let's put it into practice...
Using the recipe for happiness to define your dreams and make the best decisions for you:
No more sleepless nights worrying over making the right decision for you! Using the 3 elements that compose happiness—respect, unconditional love, and hope—you can KNOW that you are being guided to the right decision every time.
Go ahead; try it now. Pick a current situation that’s causing you stress or difficulty. Then, take a look at whether you are experiencing respect, unconditional love, and hope, using these questions as a guide:
Do you feel respected in the situation? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a personal, work, or volunteer situation, you’ll either feel like you and your ideas are respected or not. If the answer is “no,” you need to make a change.
2. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
Do you feel accepted for who you are, or (to put it another way) unconditionally loved? We often think of love as only a romantic notion, but the truth is that unconditional love is an essential element for a good friendship, partnership, or even group dynamic. Unconditional love allows you to be yourself completely and to be safe to do and say what is authentic to you. Conditional love will never lead to happiness––never. So, do you feel accepted? Essentially, can you be who you really are and feel like you are safe to do so? Or do you have to hide aspects of yourself to fit in? Worse, are you put down or made fun of for core aspects of yourself? If you are not accepted in the situation, there is no path to happiness here. Make a change.
Do you feel hopeful about the situation? When you wake in the morning, do you look forward to interaction with key people or experiences here, or do you dread it? As you look to the future, do you honestly—in your heart and soul, not “what you think you should be thinking”—do you honestly feel that this situation will blossom and grow in a positive way? If there is no hope, if you are weary of everything about it, if you look to the future and see only more of the same, there is no path to happiness here. It’s time to make a change.
As you look at the situations in your life through the lens of these three aspects that compose happiness, it becomes much clearer when you should stay and when it’s time to move on. It’s also so much easier to define your dreams, because you can make decisions that head you in the direction of what REALLY makes you happy!
By paying attention to the signs that something’s off and trusting yourself to know how to make a good decision for you, you will begin to lead yourself to a truly happy state of being and situations that are completely fulfilling.
At the end of the day, isn’t that really what we all want?
I think it is.