When I think of my happiest moments, it is usually at times in my life when I am bringing the people I love together. There is something about connecting people and watching those I love, love each other that makes it extremely worthwhile for me. There are times however, when I look back at those very same moments that made me most happy, that I remember this feeling that it was not enough to have all of these people in the room. There was a longing for that "right person" otherwise known as the "fixer upper" who I was into at the time to be there as well, and if he didn't show up for some reason I felt frustrated and dependent.
I have started to really think about what makes me happy. Happiness starts with knowing what makes you sad, and breaking free from those constraints. It is often said, "ignorance is bliss." While I do not believe this, I know that I ignored a pang of unhappiness for years to embrace this immediate feeling of elation so in some regard I was choosing to be ignorant. While I always knew that the tumultuous relationships I would sometimes get myself into and dependency on others for happiness didn't feel 100 percent right, it was only until recently that I was confident and brave enough to make the choice to listen to this feeling of discomfort.
As I get a little older and a little wiser every day, I learn more and more about the person I want to be. I met with a friend, Anna Goldstein, who is also a life coach for lunch who wanted to meet up after reading my last article on "Investing in Potential" and she said, "You are exactly where you are supposed to be at 26 years old, you know what you don't want and you are breaking free from that. That is happiness." This idea of breaking free is liberating and also terrifying. While these decisions can lead to happiness, it is hard to walk away from things, jobs, and people that are seemingly bringing you happiness, but deep down you feel that scratching feeling that something isn't right. It's easier to choose that feeling of ignorance than it is to break free from it and really explore if this isn't happiness, what is?
As I was living a life of running away from myself a few months ago, traveling every weekend because of this "off" feeling, I went to visit Tony Hsieh and explore his Downtown Project in Downtown Las Vegas. Tony has created a movement called "Delivering Happiness." He has created Zappos based on the foundation of matching the culture of his company to the culture of his employees. Zappos' 10 Core Values provide a framework for the type of employee he is looking for. Some of these include: "Build a positive team and family spirit, pursue growth and learning, create fun and a little weirdness and build open and honest relationships with communication." By using these as the foundation for his company and choosing his employees based on these 10 core values, he creates "serendipity" in the Zappos headquarters by bringing together people that are similar in their mental and emotional framework. More so, after he brings these people together, he provides so much support and fun for his employees that it allows for anyone that works at Zappos to thrive off of the other individuals around them as well as be the best version of him/herself.
He is taking it one step further and moving his entire headquarters to the City Hall in Downtown Vegas and "delivering happiness" to the surrounding area, which currently is a lot of empty plots and a few restaurants, cafes and bars. He is creating this "hub of happiness," this community of support by truly getting to know the individuals that currently live in downtown Vegas. He is creating 250 new jobs and allowing for the people that live in this community to provide insight and input on what is needed and then working with them to create these jobs and services. He essentially is tapping into what makes these people feel at their best and happiest to create a culture and world where they will be supported and can support each other. This not only gives the entire community a soul, but it also feeds everyone's soul who is a part of the community.
After I visited a few months ago and stayed up all night reading Tony's book titled Delivering Happiness before my Zappos tour, it was one of the first times I started to analyze what my personal culture and core values are. What is my foundation? When do I feel at my best and am I aligning myself with people and situations that help support me? I knew that the "happiness GPS" inside me was telling me to make a choice. It made me evaluate the fact that happiness is a choice, and sometimes especially when you have this awareness of this choice, it isn't an easy one.
I speak to a lot of people in a week and it seems as if it all comes together for what's on my mind at the moment. My dear friend Hunter Heaney, who is founder of the nonprofit, The Voice Project, sent me his new fundraising campaign a few days ago. The Voice Project uses music as a platform of forgiveness. Mothers whose children were abducted in the Congo and have no way of telling their children -- it is OK to come home and use radio and song as a way to initiate this powerful conversation. One of the first quotes on the page was:
The song was to all the people in the bush, and the song was full of mercy and forgiveness, for all the people who are in the bush to come out. I heard the song on the radio. When I heard the song I felt happiness in my heart that surely people at home are really caring for us that they are longing for us. Though I was abducted twice, that message was always still in my heart, that was the energy for my escape. -- "Martin," 25 years old, Voice Project interview
This spoke to me especially because I just wrote an article last week on forgiveness. It made me analyze how forgiveness plays a huge role in achieving happiness. This young man was plagued and imprisoned by the guilt and shame he was feeling from being forced to kill. The Voice Project provides an opportunity for the mothers in these communities to show their forgiveness and rid these young individuals of this pain. The radio becomes the "happiness GPS" leading these men to a better place of happiness and embrace. These children who were abducted can feel welcomed back and supported to become the people they want to be, but never got a chance to be. They never had a choice.
But we do. It is a powerful and scary feeling to know that I have the choice to determine my "culture of being". That is a freedom in itself, this choice that is so often overlooked and taken for granted. I am fortunate enough where I don't need the radio to lead me to a better place. My personal GPS tells me when I'm going in the right direction, or when I have to break free from the chains I have created for myself.
The Holstee Manifesto says it very poignantly when it states, "This is your life, do what you love, and do it often, if you don't like something change it... If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love." While I feel beyond lucky to surround myself with strong, powerful people who understand happiness, I know that is only one piece to the puzzle. First and foremost, I need to know what makes me my best, what defines me and stick to it even when its hard. The same way I have chosen my support system and my network of people that I love is the same respect and attention I have to give to myself, and while that is harder, I know that sometimes the hardest decisions are the ones that will lead me to the happiest of places.