One of our readers wrote in from Germany and said he has a strong desire to do more with his life but can't seem to determine what he wants to do. Klassy Evans wrote back to him as follows:
When we are young, there are things we want to do, but often we are told we can't or it isn't appropriate or you're too young or too old or not smart enough or don't have enough money or something. I suggest to you that you may not feel a burning desire for anything because what you really want to do is no longer on your list of possibilities. I suggest to you that it's possible you might have turned away from the one thing you would most enjoy doing. I know at least that I did.
I'd like to share a little process that literally changed my life. It helped me see what I really wanted to do with my life. It might help you. It's simple. It'll only take a little time over the next couple of weeks.
Here's what you do: Get a little notebook, small enough to keep with you at all times. Now, during the day, try to remember times you were happy. When you think of a time — even if it was very long ago — write down where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.
If anything happens to you during the next couple of weeks that makes you happy and brightens your spirit, write that down the same way. Just those three things: where are you? who are you with? what are you doing?
At the end of a couple of weeks, go over your notes and see what common thread runs through those moments. Then, find people you trust and without telling them what you saw, ask them what they see common to all those times.
I did that process many years ago and realized I'd always wanted to be a teacher, but I'd been told many times that "those that can, DO, and those that can't, teach; and those that can't teach, teach teachers!" But the truth is, I loved to teach and over the years I've become, what I jokingly call, a "freelance teacher." I give talks on things I think will help others. I love doing this. It's makes me feel like I'm doing what I was born to do.
Collecting that little list of things that made me happy got me to see that I'd turned my back on something I really wanted to do.
Maybe the little happiness notebook will be your compass to your purpose in life. I hope so.
And one last tip: You can also discover your interests indirectly by monitoring your level of effort. As interest increases, the effort required to do the task decreases. Given a high enough interest, it can be hard to stop doing it. Like reading a great book. But try to read what you are not interested in and the effort to get through the material inches upward as your interest in the subject declines. So, sometimes when you can't figure out what your interests are, look to the level of effort you're using to do the task at hand.
I just want you to know that you can find your purpose and desire in life. You can. Even turning ever so slightly in the general direction of your purpose will increase your strength. It brings out our best to be going after something important. The more important the task, the more strength we have to do it. We are all capable of more than we imagine. The challenge will bring out your best.
I wish you well, Klassy Evans
The man from Germany wrote back, very happy, and thanked Klassy. To which she replied:
You are welcome! Adam and I actually taught a course for awhile that was called, "the Happiness Course" and helped people find what they loved to do because doing what we love to do brings out our best.
One couple comes to mind and I thought I'd just give you a little bit of their story. We did that process with the notebook to collect times they were happy. The man realized that though he would not be able to quit the job he had and do what he loved because he needed the money and security of his job, he DID manage to go back into radio and found a small town station that had a Sunday morning spot open. So he went back on the air for his two hour show each Sunday morning. Now, you might think that only doing what you love for two hours a week wouldn't do much, but it made a big difference in his life. All week he had something to think about and look forward to. I tell you this, because sometimes you can only add a little bit of what you love, but even a little bit will make your life happier. In his case, much happier. He had his little radio show and he had the money and security of his "regular" job. Sometimes it doesn't really take that much to make us happy.
And his wife found out that the only times she was really happy was when she was having lunches with her lady-friends and talking about stuff. Well, you might say, what are you going to do with that? She decided to start a little women's group that would meet once a week, which she did. Then she started to charge a little fee for coming. Then she realized she really and truly did love talking with women and helping to support them and she went back to school and became a counselor and now has her own practice. It took a few years, but we grow older anyway whether we're going to school or not.
By the way, you're only 36. That's a great age to be. You have enough experience to guide you and enough years left to make a change.
Happiness is not a slight thing! Happiness literally makes us healthier. When we're happy we have more access to our intelligence and we make better decisions and our character is stronger. Plus, all those around you — your wife, your family and your friends — will all benefit from your happiness because you will be a better person in their life.
Hesiod said: If you should put even a little upon a little and do this often, soon you would have a lot.
Little changes now can totally change the years ahead.
Bye for now, Klassy
Klassy Evans is the co-author with Adam Khan of Fill Your Tank With Freedom, What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It, and How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).