Maximizing Happiness? Sometimes you just need to chill…

I know it seems like a strange, obvious topic… but I thought I would post about something that’s really important to me… happiness! What’s the point of living if not striving or pursuing happiness in our lives. Although it’s probably always been in the back of my mind, recently I’ve been trying to take an active approach in considering the issue and taking it seriously in my life.

One of the interesting traits I learned about was that I am definitely a “maximizer”.  This means that I always try to find the best option, and do tons of research.  However, this is linked to anxiety and stress in life.  In Ghana I have found that I’m more of a “satisficer”… this means you still search for good options, but you stop as soon as you find something suitable, and don”t stress about it afterwards.  I have found this leads to much greater happiness.  So, are you a satisficer or a maximizer?

I’ve always claimed in job interviews that my “biggest weakness” is that I’m a perfectionist.  This is a bit of a #humblebrag but is also kind of true because it has been proven to be linked with unhappiness.  The research shows that this is especially true of young women, who are not only supposed to be caring and beautiful, but also athletic, strong, and saving the world.  They have to do all of these things perfectly, which is both stressful and impossible to attain.

I have a super Type A personality. I plan, I organize, I have very high expectations and get disappointed when things don’t go my way. In Ghana, this is not an otpion. You can plan and organize all you want, but if the power goes out, or you’re stuck in traffic, there’s really nothing you can do to change the situation. This has made me much more patient and accepting, and I hope I can keep some of this attitude when I return to Canada. Of course I still have some of my planning ways (I just got really excited over ordering a really great planner for next year!  :P)

I found this great quote that really resonates with me.

“Frankly, expectations are a heavy burden that I no longer want to carry. Generally, they’re programmed into us by society, past experience, our parents, etc. They’re the things we think we’re SUPPOSED to do or have or be. And “supposed to” is not a path to anywhere I want to go.”

For example, a few weeks ago I was in Accra. I only had five weekends left in Ghana, and at least two of them I was going be travelling (it actually turned out to be four of them). For this reason I wanted to get the most of my time and do things I can’t do during the week! I wanted to go to the weekly Saturday Polo match (which I haven’t attended yet but have been thinking about for months). I wanted to check out a museum, the lighthouse, and maybe a couple parties. I wanted to buy souvenirs and Christmas presents at a local bazaar, but in the end I did nothing. That’s right, I stayed home, cleaned up a bit around the house, read my book, and watched some movies on my computer. It was so relaxing, and exactly what I needed.

All those other things weren’t what I really wanted to do, just what I was SUPPOSED to do (according to my own agenda I had been thinking about with anxiety for months).  I found the same thing in South America, where I felt we were supposed to go see the cathedral in each town, even though we’d already seen plenty and I didn’t care much to see another.  Instead we slept in, got ice cream, and happened upon a random parade in the street.  It was one of the most fun and relaxing day of my entire vacation, and I regret nothing!  These days when I’m trying to drag my butt to go somewhere “fun”, but I’m still feeling lousy, I think to myself “Do you really want to do this? Or do you just feel like you’re supposed to do this?”.  I find asking this questions really provides clarity, and allows me to accept that sometimes I just need (and want) to chill.

If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, or some practices to improve your everyday happiness, you can check out the Happiness Course course too if you want. Although the official timed course is just finished, the material will be available on their website indefinitely. This means you can flip through some of the articles, practice exercises, and videos however you wish. So to all those people who said “I wish I meditated” or something along those lines… here’s your chance! You can register for the “go at your own pace” version of the course until May 2015.

So go and seek your own way to happiness – I’m sure you won’t regret it!

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Opinions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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