What does it mean to “find our way” in the world, and how do we do it? Finding our way can mean many things. Perhaps it means simply freeing ourselves (somehow) from the burden of the flawed and complicated existence of being human. Or, it could mean that we are on a quest for a better way of life, a life that essentially makes us happier because we are following our dreamsWe all seem to want happiness but how to we find our way to it?

Finding our way to a happier state of being comes from figuring out exactly what it is we want, and where we want to go. Being open to new ideas, and changing our mindset and lifestyle when the opportunity presents itself helps us move closer. There will always be the inevitable twists, turns and gnarly roots to trip us up from time to time, but we must learn to treat them as temporary obstacles. In addition, having too much of a set plan in life defeats and stifles our natural curiosity and adventurous spirit. There is a profound difference between really living our lives, and just existing. When we let go of joy and wonder, we stop living and simply start waiting to die.

So how can we find our way to happiness before we die?

We can crawl inside ourselves and stay a while. When we turn inward toward radical self care, we get to know who we really are.  When we stop extending ourselves to everything and everyone, we let go of the resentment that comes along with the territory of saying yes all the time. Once we recoil, we can figure out what makes us tick, what we really think about things, where our strongest feelings come from, and why. When we go exploring within, we often unearth bits and pieces of ourselves that have remained dormant, or undeveloped. In staying away from the people and life circumstances that sap our energy, we can “work” on ourselves. With the gift of room to breathe, we can make our way to our truest self, and in doing so, become whole again. In order to find our way to happiness, we must know ourselves deeply.

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need.” ~Jerry Gillies

We can empty our glass and fill it back up again with other things. When we become disillusioned, or tired and bored with life in general, it’s probably time to mix things up and try something new. Is it a new career? It can be tricky to do so, but it’s really okay to switch gears and move in a different direction. It’s also okay to end a miserable relationship. Just because a change is big, it doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t. If we are tired of the same old thing, the same old thoughts, the stagnant routine day in and day out, we must take action to bring excitement and fun back into our lives. New doors open, when we open new doors. For example, consider the following scenario: You never learned to swim. Though terrifying, you finally decide to learn, and you take a few classes at the Y. One day, at a pool party, you jump in the water to enjoy some free time with friends and you are introduced to an interesting person, who also happens to work for a publisher, who would be more than happy to read your manuscript because she finds you and your story delightful.  If you hadn’t learned to swim, you would not have ventured into the water, thus preventing a meeting that could change your life. When we “empty our glass, and fill it back up with other things,” it changes the roads we travel down and the people we meet along the way.

“I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.” ~ Alice Roosevelt Longworth

We can understand that we can’t avoid pain. We must go through the pain in order to heal ourselves – we can’t simply skirt around it, or run away from it and somehow become better, happier people in the process. Change can be painful. We tend to not like or want too much change in our lives, however, the painful process of change is something we must learn to trust.  When things change in our lives unexpectedly, we must try to recognize the value of walking purposely through it. We will then have the strength we need to find a different path to happiness. Pain and grief are necessary agents for real growth in our lives. We learn from pain. Our way to a happier state of being, and what it is we truly want and need from our lives sometimes requires processing many painful truths.

“The cure for pain is in the pain.” ~ Rumi

We can hone our unique power play. What’s the one special thing you do well? We all have something, and it’s important to figure out what it is! How can we make our unique mark on the world? Our power play can be big or small, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that our “power play” helps us lead the way to self discovery by building confidence through expertise. When we lead the way in our own lives, we do not get caught up in other people’s problems, philosophies, actions, or judgments. Knowing we can do something well brings about fulfillment, which is  a necessary ingredient in the happiness recipe. 

“Use those talents you have. You will make it. You will give joy to the world. Take this tip from nature: The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best.” ~ Bernard Meltzer

We can choose to be guided by a compass instead of a map. Instead of adhering to a rigid plan with our hearts set on an exact result, or absolute destination, it’s more important to point ourselves in a general direction and see what happens. Life happens while we are busy making other plans. Life can be wonderful, and fulfilling, and good during the in between moments, when we are waiting to do something. It’s great to land squarely where we set out to land (accomplishing goals and such) but all of our life adventures should allow for spontaneous changes of course. When we do things with the sole intention of feeding our soul, we venture down less beaten paths and dirt roads, instead of crowded 6-lane highways.

“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.” ~ Roman Payne 

We can purge all the inessentials.  We can relieve ourselves, for heaven’s sake, of all the inner and outer baggage that drags us down. All that useless stuff we carry around. In addition to the outer stuff that crowds our homes, we can purge inner stuff like jealously, resentment, rage, and the feeling that we are being treated unfairly. Toss it out the window and work on your life and your own self, so that none of what anyone else has or does will bother you the least little bit. Shed your skin like a snake, empty your belly of the bile that poisons your soul. It’s only weighing you down along your journey. We must clear the path in order to see it!

“Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” ~ Tina Turner

We can stop making excuses. We can’t find our way if we keep putting it off. We can’t discover ourselves if we keep making excuses. Not enough time is a poor excuse. We have our whole lives to figure things out, but if you look around, you will notice that lives are so often cut short. What would you do today if you knew the exact date you were going to die? Every day is an opportunity to find time for what we love but we must reorganize our priorities and decide which excuses are holding us back.

“We may place blame, give reasons, and even have excuses; but in the end, it is an act of cowardice to not follow your dreams.” ~ Steve Maraboli

We can put one foot in front of the other. It’s a simple concept, but one that rings true. When we put ourselves in motion, we begin. Runners, for example, often say that the most difficult part of any run is lacing up their shoes. Follow what ignites passion even if it’s short lived.  Following a spark may lead to other interests and talents we didn’t know we had. The only steadfast rule about finding our way is that we must move in order to get there.

The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~ John Bingham

The only place and time in our lives when there should truly be nowhere left to go, and nothing left to do is on our deathbed. Sadly, we waste a lot of the time we are given. When we seek to find our way, what we are doing is looking to find our true selves, which is essentially our happiest state of being. When we seek our self, we find our way to purpose, serenity, core beliefs, passions, and exciting opportunities. The closer we get to who we truly are, the closer we come to living the life of our dreams – and life is way too short to give up trying.