Updated: Feb 1
Happiness has been a constant problem in my life. Actually, I should say the lack of happiness. I’ve always been one of those serious people who didn’t care too much about being happy. I’d rather be focused, serious, smart, determined, accomplished, etc. Happy was never on my list of things that were desirable.
I spent years working on accomplishments and got quite a few of the big things that I wanted. I’m the first person in my family to have a bachelor’s degree. I got a job working for a NASCAR driver as a PR manager, which everyone told me was impossible to get. I moved across the country by myself a few times and established myself in a new city very quickly.
But I still had this problem: I wasn’t happy. The things that I thought would make me feel good didn’t. They left me feeling lost and confused, constantly searching for the next accomplishment to feel something good.
I have a problem
I’ve recently been learning about the 12 step program used in Alcoholics Anonymous. No, I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m related to people who were – many people in my family actually. Plus I have other addictions in my life, things like food and social media, that I thought maybe the 12 steps could help me with.
The first step
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.” That saying is true, but it misses the second part of step 1 which is that you are powerless to fix your problem.
This hit me pretty hard when I read it. You see, I like to be in control. I like to think that I can fix all the problems, especially my own. I’ve been living on my own since I was in college. I moved 1,000 miles away from my family and my mom was scared. She kept asking me “what are you going to do if” questions.
“What are you going to do if…
Your car breaks down
You get robbed
You get a flat tire
You don’t have enough money
You can’t find a job
You can’t find an apartment
Every one of her scenarios were “worst case.” I just kept telling her that I’d figure it out, whatever scenario she came up with.
I’ve figured out a lot of things. I’ve been through depression, being laid off, losing multiple jobs, moving across the country a few times, traveling internationally alone… so many things. I’ve always figured everything out. I pride myself on my ability to take care of myself and figure out whatever comes up. So the idea that I have to admit that I don’t have all the answers and that I am powerless to fix everything alone was more than a bit off-putting.
Witness your fear
Once I dug in a little bit deeper I realized that it was fear that was causing the resistance. I was afraid to even admit to myself that I don’t have the answers and that I need some help. Fear is one of those sneaky emotions that comes up a lot when you don’t even realize what’s going on. When it goes unchecked, it holds you back from a lot.
Most of us let fear run rampant in our lives. Maybe you’re afraid to ask for help because you’ve been rejected before. Maybe you’re afraid to follow your dreams because you’re afraid that you might fail. Mostly you’re afraid that people will see you fail and that seems like it’s unbearable.
When you become aware of your fear, a powerful thing happens: you can change it. You can choose something different. You don’t have to stay locked in that same box for the rest of your life.
Be willing to change
When you live a life that’s free from fear, you have the ability to change, but it may still feel like a lot, especially when we’re talking about happiness. There’s still a feeling of resistance. I want to change, but it still feels impossible. Shifting away from that resistance is as easy as being open to something new.
Don’t think about actually changing your life right now. Don’t focus on the details and all of the things that bring up fear. Simply surrender with an open heart and a willingness to be happy, a willingness to feel good.
When you are willing to change you surrender your need for control and allow a higher power to lead the way. You no longer need to be charging forward. You just need to be present and continue to surrender.