I have spent much of my adult life in the search for real happiness…. Searching for the next thrill, the next adventure, chasing the feeling of being alive, developing myself, peeling back layer after layer of my emotional make up, fearful of the mundane and robotic nature of staying still for too long. This quest has had me addicted to change. I’ve moved cities, travelled the world, built multiple careers and lived different versions of myself. In each move I sought new experiences and learnt new skills. I consciously left behind aspects of myself that I had outgrown and no longer served me be it habits, job titles or catchphrases. I evolved and developed a multifaceted set of skills. Each change has brought forward a new and improved evolution of myself answering a call to be a well rounded and accomplished human being.
The happiness secret
I hate to break it to you…. Happiness has a dirty little secret. The problem with happiness is that your life purpose is a moving target. As soon as you achieve your goal and fulfil your purpose, a new goal and purpose will start to be yearned for. Nothing lasts forever, even satisfaction, and that’s how it should be. We humans need to continually evolve. What makes you happy today will wear you down and lose it’s sheen when it becomes commonplace in your life.
And so, the search for happiness has reared its head for me again as I enter my 40’s. This time, however, I am being asked – how can I use my skills and experiences to create good in the world? What is the impact I’m to make on the world? What is my purpose?
This question started out as a passing fancy but got progressively louder and demanding of attention. What could it be? For a long time I was paralysed into inaction because I felt as though my skill set was so complex, so varied, that it was difficult to succinctly verbalise let alone mesh together. I thought myself a generalist, I’ve a decent understanding in quite a lot of different fields. How do I choose one facet of my life over another when each is so valuable to me?
The need for purpose became an ache in my soul, and so I answered the call the best way I know – to change things up. I quit my day job, sold all my worldly belongings, donned my trusty backpack and hit the road. I undertook a journey of self-discovery, by literally going travelling. Because If I can’t define my life purpose for myself, how can I coach others into finding theirs?
My happiness journey
There’s a reason why the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ style journey is becoming the go-to technique in the quest for happiness. It’s because it is the most powerful way to come in to your own self, meet yourself. The solo traveller connects with their inner compass and removes the blinkers of the society. When you go travelling you break free from routine, the mindlessness of the daily auto-pilot and you spend precious time alone, clearing the way for the answer to your search for happiness to become apparent.
My solo travel expedition took me first to Europe. I toured the sights of Europe in a trusty campervan, dividing my time between visiting friends and family and going wild, visiting mountains and forests and seasides. Having lived in Europe for many years, this time I revelled in taking in the lesser seen places, the pockets of wildness that still exist in this domesticated world.
It was a slow process of unwinding from the many years of routine and stress that I had put myself through in my ‘real’ life. I slowed down and stepped away from the to-do lists, the constant need to achieve and the addiction to busy-ness. Through reconnecting with old friends over countless cups of tea in England and glasses of wine in France I peeled back the layer of myself that was always on the go and let myself move in to a new frame of mind, one that lives in the present and appreciates the now. My search for happiness was well underway.
Solo travel for wellness
After four months I bid farewell to my little Marymobile and took my journey to the next level. I flew directly to Ecuador. This time I was really alone. No visiting friends and re-visiting places I had been before. This was my first time in South America and I was ready for the challenge of learning a whole new place, an unfamiliar language and learn a new culture. I started out with a month living by the beach taking daily Spanish classes and living in a budget hostel.
This period of staying in one place meant that I could develop a new routine, re-instigate my yoga practice and get my diet back on track. It was here in Ecuador that some of the biggest personal shifts came through for me. This time where there was very few demands on my time and I could just ‘be’. Be with my thoughts, be my own boss, my own best friend.
We are all on a journey, myself included. And as a coach my job is to create the space in your week to put your life under the microscope and sense check your routines. I provide the safety and support for you to answer the big questions, to allow your purpose to open up to you, using my own journey and my experiences to inspire you and to share my wisdom and give you the tools to gain leverage from them. Then cheer you on as you make your dreams come true. I facilitate your search for happiness.
How will we know when our happiness search is over?
What I do know for sure is that whatever my ultimate purpose (or purposes) is, I will know it by how it makes me feel.
I know this because I definitely know how I DON’T want to feel. That feeling of dissatisfaction with life with its innate sense of discomfort, like a dull ache in the pit of my stomach, bored, apathetic, uninspired.
There have been times when I have just ‘known’ that things had to change. I can give you some examples. I was once in a relationship with a lovely man. He came from a good family and he adored me. But while I liked him well enough all I really felt was trapped, confined in some way. It was difficult to get out of the relationship and he, bless him, he really fought for me – but it was no good. I couldn’t explain it, I just had to get out. Months later and with the benefit of hindsight (and living in a new city – typical Mary-Helen). Now I could see how incompatible we really were, how the life he wanted would have completely stifled me.
In my career I have also experienced deep dissatisfaction. I loved my job and I was good at it, well respected in the industry – but it no longer challenged me. I had grown into the role and then I had grown past it. The longer I stayed on in the role, chasing that original feeling of meaning and satisfaction, the more the role wore me down. That dull ache of dissatisfaction grew into a low level roar in my ears. The feeling was leaking into my personal life, I was becoming jaded, quick to dismiss new ideas and losing motivation and creativity. The job no longer served me and my life purpose, it was time to move on.
Your purpose is a seed already planted inside of you, it now needs the water and sunlight to allow it to grow.
When you’re in alignment with your purpose you feel in flow. There’s a positivity in you that sidesteps obstacles and grabs hold of opportunities. You feel open, you feel free. Deep gratitude for the beauty of life fills you up. You will know your purpose when you no longer need to search for happiness, you’re already there.
Now that I have learnt to connect in to this feeling. I need only to find a quiet space to acknowledge myself and the feeling of contentedness wells up in me. This feeling can be yours too. Your plan of action lies in your choices. The things you choose to spend your time and energy on. Choose the thoughts and behaviours that give you that warm juicy feeling of being ‘locked on life’. You too can choose the contentment of being aligned with your purpose and… happy!
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