How are those new year resolutions going? Happy yet? New York Times bestselling author and stylish self-help guru Gabrielle Bernstein makes the same resolution each year—it’s based on the simple (yet elusive!) goal of using your happiness to determine if you’re following your true course (versus making resolutions that are forced and aren’t really you at all).
Every New Year I practice a ritual. (It doesn’t involve noisemakers or confetti, but it definitely can if that’s your jam.) What I do is simple: I write down my intentions for the year to come. For the past three years I’ve made the same commitment—to measure my success by how much fun I’m having.
I came to this intention after spending a lot of time measuring my success by how stressed I was. For a while I got totally hooked into the belief that stress equaled productivity. And then, predictably, I hit bottom. I was a stressed-out ball of tension. I accepted that I was wrong and I surrendered to the fact that true success must be based on happiness.
It’s easy to measure our success based on how much money we earn, our relationship status, or our job title (or even the car we drive or the labels in our closet). But what I’ve come to learn is that nothing outside of us can make us feel truly happy. Happiness really is an inside job. We can take pleasure in life’s accomplishments, but we must focus on the greatest success of all: living a fun life.
Sounds obvious, right? But in today’s “achieve, achieve, achieve” society, fun has become an afterthought. It’s our job to find the fun in everything. Some of the most happy people I know have the innate ability to find joy in the most joyless scenarios. My Kundalini teacher Gurmukh is a fantastic example. At the age of 70 she exudes the innocence of a little girl, finding joy in everything and everyone. She smiles at strangers, asks all kinds of questions, notices every color and tastes every taste. Her life is filled with joy regardless of her given circumstances.
What I’ve learned from Gurmukh is that her joyful state is a decision that she’s made. Even though she’s a dedicated yogi she still has to commit to peace every single day. No matter how dedicated you are to your spiritual practice, maintaining a sense of joy is a moment-to-moment commitment. The energy of the world around us can take us out in an instant. Our job is to stay in the flow with joy.
To apply this principle in your own life, begin by making a commitment. Post this affirmation on your desk, mirror, car dashboard, whenever you can see it often: I measure my success by how much fun I’m having.
Then for the next 40 days begin each day with this affirmation. Make the conscious commitment to choose joy upon waking. Throughout each day, consciously look for joy in all situations. Taste your food, feel the blessing of a smile from a stranger, become more curious about your surroundings. Act like an innocent child and actively create more joyful moments in your life.
(Here’s an idea: The next time you find yourself zoned out in front of the TV, jump up and do something active instead. Try a 10-minute dance cardio workout, break out a coloring book for grown-ups, whip up a new healthy recipe, or just take a walk to buy fresh flowers for your coffee table.)
This new habit will have massive benefits for your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In 2016, commit to having all kinds of fun. —As told to Erin Hanafy