I was asked the other day how I’ve changed since high school.
I responded, “I’m a lot less bubbly…less naive… and overall, just more critical in the way that I perceive and understand the world.”
But an unfortunate corollary to this which I didn’t say at the time was, I’m less optimistic, less cheerful, and to be quite honest, less happy.
And it’s my own fault.
Back when I was 14, I stumbled upon a blog called www.zenhabits.net which changed my entire perspective on life. Rooted in Buddhist and other Eastern influences, this blog is grounded in the philosophy of simplifying your life, being in the present, and what changed me most fundamentally, was, being grateful for the little things we have.
Somewhere along the journey from high school to university, I got caught up in this pressure to perform, and subconsciously set these expectations and standards for myself that I would inevitably fail to meet. I really bought into the quote
“Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss you will land among the stars.”
But there were days where I would dread even trying, because missing wasn’t a chance I was willing to take. And when I mustered the courage to take a shot, and fell amongst the stars, all I could see was the distance that embodied my failure – of where I wanted to be verses where I had actually landed.
One of my Top 5 Strengths according to the StrengthsQuest test was ‘Achiever’, and in it one line stood out to me the first time I read the description:
“As an achiever, you must learn to live with the whisper of discontent”.
But sometimes this whisper would churn in my stomach, deep with disappointment and shame, and grow to a deafening scream yelling “YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”
And then with every aspect of my life, from my work, to school, to even the people I meet, I could never escape the feelings of inadequacy…
I would run away at the first sign of someone being angry or disappointed at me. Criticism would become impossible to take. And the feelings of self-doubt and insecurity would spiral and multiply in my head, until one of two things occur: I would either:
- 1) Sit in my pity party and dig a hole deeper and deeper into my tub of ice-cream and self-doubt, or
- 2) Work fervently to achieve what I refused to be an unattainable goal until I hit rock bottom out of exhaustion and disappointment. Emptying myself of my own mental and emotional well being, and the tub of ice-cream.
But then spontaneous things would shine some light on my gloom: a professor giving me the benefit of doubt when having received a surprisingly poor quality assignment, a heartfelt, wonderfully encouraging email from a friend who says I inspire her, or the glance at a residence momento with some encouraging notes from some amazing people… and I think, wow. Am I ever lucky.
And then the clouds clear away and I can see a little clearer, and I realize that life is filled with so many wonderful things that I often take for granted. Because I’m so focused on everything that I need to DO, I forget to appreciate everything that IS and everything that has been DONE. And the evidence behind scripting is so strong that we WANT to define ourselves by our accomplishments and not our failures, our lives by the positives rather than the disappointments.
“I’m convinced that we can write and live our own scripts more than most people will acknowledge. I also know the price that must be paid. It’s a real struggle to do it. It requires visualization and affirmation. It involves living a life of integrity, starting with making and keeping promises, until the whole human personality the senses, the thinking, the feeling, and the intuition are ultimately integrated and harmonized.” Stephen R. Covey
Thus, this all has been a long-winded way to introduce my motivation and commitment to the 100 Happy Days Challenge.
This simple challenge encourages you to take one photo a day of something that makes you happy, so that we can appreciate all the amazing things in life and be happier as a result. People who are successfully completing the challenge claimed to:
The website says 71% of people who have tried to complete this challenge failed, due to “lack of time” as the main reason. But I’m committing my time to this challenge, and to keeping up with this blog, and everyone knows I’m no fan of failure…
The next 100 days will also be an interesting time in my life, since at a little past the mid-way point, I’ll be moving to Bangalore, Karnataka, India for 12 months for my Specialist Co-op internship. In a new place and a new culture, with new languages, new friends, and inevitably new emotions and hardships, I’m excited to appreciate very moment and share at least one photo a day of my life in India with family and friends back home.
I’ve already registered, and today is my first day!
Inaugural #HappyDayChallenge photo for my inaugural blog post!