Happiness is battling your own demons and knowing that you have the upper edge.
There will always be superheroes because there will always be villains. Your personal demons will never leave you (drinking, smoking, procrastinating, being selfish, etc.), they will always be present. But it is up to you to decide how present they will be. It is up to you to control how much effect these demons have on your life. Throughout the past three months, I have talked about a number of problems I have and how I have attempted to overcome them. I have been successful in a few areas, and unsuccessful in others, but the point is to keep improving because I feel I have too much work to do to let self-created problems get in the way.
But this is not easy.
You know what’s easy? Failing. Procrastinating. Not doing something you said you were going to do. We fall into these traps so much every day that we have become comfortable with the lesser versions of ourselves.
Happiness does not mean “comfortable” to me. I was comfortable for my four years at Northwestern. I was comfortable with procrastinating and waiting until the last day (or night) to work on a paper. I was comfortable with studying a day before an exam. I was comfortable with not paying attention in class and not going to class altogether. And I was comfortable with making excuses for my failure. In fact, I was so comfortable with failure that I became numb to it! So why were these actions so comforting to me?
Because they were easy.
You know what wasn’t easy? Deciding to work on increasing minority enrollment at NU when I knew the odds were stacked against us. Deciding to run for Academic Vice President when I was scared out of my mind to lose and be embarrassed in front of thousands of students. Deciding to run for student body president when I was taking five classes and in eight different student groups. These were hard decisions, but guess what made me the happiest?
All three of these decisions.
These decisions set off a trigger that could not be pulled back. Deciding to do something larger than yourself is the hardest and the easiest step you can take.
Hardest in the sense that the toughest decision you can ever make is whether you will actually do something. Once you take that first step or make a firm commitment, it is more difficult to turn back than to go forward. At the same time it is the easiest decision you can make because you haven’t really done anything yet. You have stated that you want to work on something, fix a problem, believe in a cause, but you haven’t actually worked on it. This is where the process comes in.
To me, the process is a set of decisions you make everyday based of a decision that you have already made. Confused? If so, here is a personal example:
If you have read this blog before, you know my goal is to become a front-end web designer. That was a major decision I made. After making that decision, there was not some automatic process waiting to lead me down a path of success, I had to decide what to do next.
How do I learn this? Easy enough, I’ll go on the internet and search for tutorials, read books about design and apply those principles, the list goes on and on. But another important question comes next: what steps will I take to commit myself to learning? This is where the rubber meets the road. What will you do to back up the ultimate decision you made? Will you decide to procrastinate when faced with a difficult situation? Or will you decide to focus your energy on solving the problem? Procrastination is the easy choice and will leave you with short-term satisfaction, but what happens when that feeling leaves?
In order to succeed, I needed to build an army. The framework of that army was a routine that made me get up at 6am everyday, work before work at 9am, go to work from 9-5am, then work for 2-4 hours after work. The soldiers in my army were equipped with the Pomodoro technique, which maximizes my focus and efficiency to get things done.
Have there been roadblocks? Yes. Have I had to change deadlines for certain projects? Yes. Have I moved backwards at any point? No. When I have been faced with a problem, I either work on that problem until I fix it, or I move to another area of improvement. Having a problem with HTML coding? I’ll reference a chapter out of Head First into HTML to figure it out. Having a problem with a Photoshop design? I’ll read up on CSS tutorials to see how I can code design right into the stylesheet instead of banging my head against the wall. With every roadblock there is an exit to get onto another highway, but the beauty is each road is moving forward. There are so many areas that I want to improve in my life that there is no reason to fall backwards. With a mindset like this, it gets harder to feel sorry for yourself when you could actually spend that time improving yourself.
There is no magic to what I am doing. I’m just doing it. Happiness does not come right away, you have to decide that you want to be happy, and then you have to work at it. You have to have patience, determination, and resiliency to reach that constant state of happiness. With each small win, it gets easier to go for the next win, and the win after that, and so on and so on. Once this feeling becomes routine, it gets harder to fall backwards, it gets harder to procrastinate, because you begin to feel bad when you are not doing work. Procrastination doesn’t feel “kinda” bad, it feels sickening, almost to the point that you can’t function unless you get the task that is nagging you done.
It is that this point that the feeling of achievement – both in quality and efficiency – becomes more powerful than the feeling of procrastination and failure. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which path you want to take.