In Stumbling on Happiness Daniel Gilbert writes, “For most of recorded history, people lived where they were born, did what their parents had done, and associated with those who were doing the same. Millers milled, Smiths smithed, and little Smiths and little Millers married whom and when they were told. Social structures (such as religions and castes) and physical structures (such as mountains and oceans) were the great dictators that determined how, where, and with whom people would spend their lives, which left most folks with little to decide for themselves. But the agricultural, industrial, and technological revolutions changed all that, and the resulting explosion of personal liberty has created a bewildering array of options, alternatives, choices, and decisions that our ancestors never faced. For the very first time, our happiness is in our hands.”
It’s in our hands. And it can be overwhelming. Because with all the choices come all the responsibilities. We decide what to wear, what to eat, where to live, who to befriend, who to marry, where to travel, what to study, what to do for a living. And when things go wrong we second guess. We regret. We judge. We wonder about the grass on the other side. Even though the journey is a lesson. As life coach Tony Robbins said, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.”
And since we have to make so many choices, sometimes we hesitate because there is so much to consider. In Jeff Goins book Real Artists Don’t Starve, he writes, “Many of us take the safe route in life. We become lawyers instead of actresses, bankers instead of poets, and doctors instead of painters. We hedge our bets and hide from our true calling, choosing less risky careers, because it seems easier. Nobody wants to struggle, after all, so we keep our passion a hobby and follow a predictable path toward mediocrity.”
What parent hasn’t advised their child to take the route where you have something to fall back on?
Many people can find happiness on their chosen path. But what if they aren’t happy? What if they dread Sunday nights and start thinking about Friday on Tuesday? You don’t have to quit your day job but you could start dipping your toe into a world that inspires you. Run a marathon, join a book club, start painting, attend a conference, try hot yoga. You never know where you might find your tribe. And a new beginning.
Our happiness is in our hands. We don’t have to stay where we are. It’s time to fly.