Does it stress you out when people ask you to define what makes you happy? The question everyone seems to be asking is ‘What makes you happy? What are you passionate about?” as if by answering that you will unlock the mystery to your potential. I always find that a hard one to answer definitively because some days, one thing makes me happy and other days, it might be something else. I can be passionate about something for a while, and then it will fade a bit as I lose interest or the passion evolves into some variation of it. What if the questions were different. What would you say if asked, “What stresses you out?” instead?
What stresses you out is the key to your happiness.
There are a million ways to “be happy”. Get fit. Grow your nest egg. Rock climb. Take the trip of a lifetime. Build friendships and influence. Build a business. Stop smoking. The list goes on. The directions in which you can go to find happiness, or be happy for a time, are daunting and expansive. If you want to really get a clear direction in what will make you happy, look at what doesn’t make you happy. Look at what stresses you out.
I find that when I make a conscious decision to figure out how to reduce my stress in certain areas, my mind it freer to focus on other things. For example, one stress in my life is clutter. I think my kids make a game out of seeing how much of it I can tolerate. I can ignore it for awhile, but when it gets to critical levels I literally cannot get past it. I feel my blood pressure rising every time I see a pile (especially when I had nothing to do with the pile!). My temper gets shorter as the clutter multiplies. I indiscriminately swing accusations of inefficiency at those under my leadership…AKA my offspring.
I know that one thing that stresses me out is clutter whether or not I try to pretend that it is not a big deal. The reality is that it robs me of happiness and creates disorder in my soul that goes beyond the external. Only in managing that stress can I build a solid foundation of worthwhile pursuits of happiness.
Turn stress into Momentum
The first step is to identify the main things that stress you out. The next step is identify ways to eliminate, reduce or manage the stress so that it is not an anchor. Nothing like revving up a motor only to realize that the parking brake is on. Recognizing and managing your stress factors is like releasing the brake and greasing the pistons. Your other efforts will gain momentum because they are not being held back by your stress roadblock.
What are your stress factors?
Here are some examples of common stress factors and simple first steps to tame them. One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was a reminder: don’t say I HAVE to do something. Say I GET to do it. It will put you in a positive action mode and make the stress factor a challenge to be conquered rather than a weight to be drug around.
- Clutter. Clutter takes more than your happiness: it takes your time, your money and your relationships. It is one area that you gain control of now without any one else’s permission or participation. Stop bringing things into the house; set a timer for 15 minutes at a time and clean out a drawer or pick up a room; decide to leave a room neater than when you entered it. Start with a small habit and stick to it. Read Marla Cilley’s book to jumpstart your decluttering. Sink Reflections: Overwhelmed? Disorganized? Living in Chaos? Discover the Secrets That Have Changed the Lives of More Than Half a Million Families…
- Task/Schedule Overload. Cut the non-essentials, delegate what you can and schedule the important things. We fill our days with impossible task lists in the name of being busy. Being busy isn’t enough. You need to be busy doing what’s important.
- Kids & Parenting. Be consistent with discipline. Love your kids no matter what. Consider it a privilege to raise another human being–not a chore. Look for opportunities to model good behavior. Lots of books out there on how to discipline, how to raise responsible adults, etc.
- Finances. This is oftentimes the root of a lot of stress. There are only two ways to alleviate this problem: spend less or make more. Re-evaluate how you spend your money. Cut where you can until you can build up a rainy day fund. Having enough money is a huge stress relief and can improve other areas of your life. Need to get out of debt? Refresher course on setting and following a budget? The best support for that around is Dave Ramsey. Check out his The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.
- Friendships. Not all friends are created equal. Some require far more work than they are worth. Look at the relationships in your life that leave you feeling drained and/or depressed about yourself. If a friendship is toxic or is creating stress in your life, then maybe its time to get some space. Learn about boundaries and how to set them with Dr. Cloud Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life.
- Physical. Sometimes its just a matter of your body not getting what it needs. Start walking. Get fresh air. Cut back on sugar. Look at how you treat your body and how you nourish to see if there is anything that can be improved.
- Spiritual. Spiritual stress can exhibit as worry or anxiety. If you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders because you forgot to ask for help, maybe its time to hit rock bottom and reach up for help. Only when I realized that I couldn’t do it without grace was I able to ask for the spiritual help to give it to God and trust in Him.
Whatever it is that is keeping you in a state of stress or negativity, think about small ways to correct course. Your stress is holding you back from really living with Momentum. Don’t let it win another day.