the pursuit of happiness

“It was at that time that I thought about Thomas Jefferson writing that Declaration of Independence. Him saying that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I thought about how he knew to put the ‘pursuit’ in there, like no one can actually have happiness. We can only pursue it.”

— Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word “happiness.” What it means to different people. How some people seem to have too much and others seem to never have any. Why we spend our entire lives pursuing it, in the hopes of finding our “happily ever after.”

When my alarm goes off at 6:30 Monday mornings, I can certainly tell you I’m not hitting the snooze button out of joy. There are times I find myself drifting through my days, as if I am a shadow version of myself, going through the motions of mundane routine. Wake up, shower, brush teeth, watch Boy Meets World while getting ready (what can I say, I need my daily dose of Feeny), drive to work, yell about the traffic, spend the next 8 hours in my cubicle, only leaving for the occasional bathroom break, stumble out into daylight at 5:15, pick up the fiancé from work, drive home, yell about traffic, make dinner, watch TV, pass out by 10.

While I understand, and for the most part accept that work life isn’t always glamorous, I guess you can also say I wasn’t so prepared for how dull the lull of a routine can feel after a while. We spend the majority of our lives at work… anywhere from 40 to sometimes 60 or even 80 hours a week – more time than we spend with friends, family and loved ones. So if you’re not happy with the way things are going, you better figure out how to fix it.

I realize I am the creator of my own happiness and that I need to take matters into my own hands, rather than whining about a situation that will remain dull and stale if all I do is complain about it. So I’ve decided to do a few things to add some spice into my spice-less daily routine.

  • Change my surroundings. If you sit in a small grey cube long enough, there is no doubt you will lose your sanity. Aside from bringing in some personal mementos, like pictures of my cats, cards from friends and inspirational quotes to get me through the day, I’ve also decided as fun as I make my cubicle, I still need to escape from it every once in a while. Which is why I am mandating that every day, for at least 30 minutes, I find somewhere else to do my work. With the ability to take my work laptop virtually anywhere on my organization’s campus, I’ve decided I’m not going to let this beautiful weather go to waste and will find time to do some work from the picnic tables outside. Sometimes all it takes is a change in scenery to spark your motivation and creativity.
  • Cultivate a new skill. While I absolutely love writing and actually enjoy creating press releases and editing op-eds, it isn’t the only thing I like to do. Job descriptions do a great job of telling you what you’re responsible for, but it shouldn’t limit you from learning something new. I’ve always been interested in learning more about website development so I volunteered my first week to manage our news archive on the website. I have also taken the time to introduce myself to our website developer who was thrilled to hear about my interests. As a result of my introduction, we are planning to find a time to sit together so she can teach me more about what she does and how to build and maintain a website. Make time to learn something new every chance you can.
  • Make a list of everything I’m grateful for. Whether it’s that I’m lucky to have a job in my chosen field or that I’m at an organization whose mission I am passionate about – I need to remind myself daily why I wake up every morning to come to work. Sometimes I get caught up in writing and editing so many releases that I need to take a step back and realize the work I am doing has a direct contribution to saving the lives of millions of animals around the world – something I have wanted to do since I was a child. When you’re feeling extra stressed or down, pull out your grateful list to remind yourself not to get caught up in the little things.
  • Pay it forward. Doing a selfless act for someone else in need of help always makes me feel good inside. I’ve already become an active volunteer with a local animal rescue, picking up dogs and walking them during adoption events in the hopes of finding their forever homes. However, I’m also enjoying lending a helping hand to students who have been reaching out to me for help on job/internship advice or making their resumes and cover letters really shine. I wasn’t able to make it to where I am today without the guidance of a few mentors along the way and I thoroughly enjoy being able to help others after so many have been kind enough to help me in my own journey. If you continue to pay it forward, it will eventually make its way back to you tenfold.

While happiness may not be an inherent right, we certainly have the right to pursue it. And while life is full of peaks and valleys, and the climb can often prove difficult – I know the view from the top will certainly make it all worth it.

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