Here’s a lesson that I only learned recently in life.
Find joy in where you’re at RIGHT NOW.
For far too long I put off happiness while in pursuit of my goals.
When I was in Law School, I completely put my life on hold. I remember telling myself, “just put your head down and accept being miserable for three years. You can be happy after.”
So that’s what I did. I focused on my studies. I did very little outside of actual schoolwork. In all fairness, Law School is extremely hard work and a lot of my attitude was warranted, given my course load. But I was always looking into the future. Once I graduated and passed the bar, ONLY THEN could I start my life and be happy.
I performed well in Law School. Ended up with good grades. Graduated with a 3.5 GPA. Even passed the Maryland Bar on my first try. Except, after all this success, nothing really changed.
I still found myself looking into the future. How could I start my life when I don’t have the PERFECT job? I couldn’t be “happy” until I was making at least six figures, right? I never gave much thought to what I ACTUALLY WANTED TO DO – especially outside of the law.
So, I put my head down and started grinding. First with my father’s law firm, then at a judicial clerkship, then an investment bank, then another law firm, until finally two years later I circled back with my father’s firm.
Why did I jump around so much? Because I finally started to follow my gut. This was step one for me. I wasn’t happy in any of the jobs I had. I didn’t enjoy the work, the subject matter, none of it. However, I did enjoy the people. At every job I worked, I loved the people I worked with. Had an amazing work environment. Made great friends. But it wasn’t enough. Something just wasn’t right.
During my time practicing law, practicality still ruled my life. I didn’t think that leaving the law was an option. You can’t just casually walk away from the law after taking the LSATs, being admitted into Law School, spending three years studying the law, graduating, and then passing the bar – right?
It wasn’t until I started working at my father’s firm for the second time that I started to think about what I ACTUALLY wanted to do.
I’ve always had a passion for film. Had always wanted to be an actor. Had always wanted to write creatively. But these passions had been suffocated by practicality. At this point, I had also just gone through a breakup. Although difficult at the time, it really helped me put things into perspective. It opened up my eyes and allowed me to focus on myself. I started thinking about what I truly wanted to do – and it ultimately had nothing to do with the law. So that’s when I finally said fuck practicality, moved to Nashville, and dramatically changed careers.
Had I finally broken my habit of putting happiness on hold until I reach some hypothetical goal?
When I first moved to Nashville, I was still wired to set goals and put happiness on hold until I achieved them. So I immediately signed up for acting class, improv class, got headshots, and started auditioning. Once I start seeing some success, I thought, only THEN will I allow myself to be happy.
So that’s how I lived my first six months in Nash. I was considerably happier but still had my head down waiting to achieve goal after goal.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized my mindset wasn’t conducive to the life I wanted. What if I kept my head down, put off happiness, pursued goal after goal, and then woke up one morning to find that I’m old and wrinkly? That fact terrifies me. Mainly the wrinkly part.
So I changed.
I didn’t stop setting goals or work any less. I actually did the opposite. I set bigger goals and became more focused. HOWEVER, I did switch my mindset. I started enjoying the little things. I started finding joy in my journey. I started finding joy in my study of acting, in my writing, in my side jobs, in my social life, in everything. This tiny switch dramatically improved my well-being.
I now no longer feel as if my life is on hold. I’m more motivated to pursue my goals. I’m more focused than I’ve ever been. I am happier than I’ve ever been. Why?
Because even though I have BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS goals, I understand that my happiness is not determined by whether or not I achieve them. Instead, my happiness is derived from whether or not I try.
Do yourself a favor and find joy in where you are RIGHT NOW – this second. And you’ll be infinitely happier because of it.