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Listen to Your Heart, and You’ll Find Happiness

I was floored by a recent work development.

One of my clients keeps me on retainer, and I work directly with their head copy guy – a very smart, hard-working copywriter who I’ll call “Pete”.

Pete has built his career over the past few years doing what I do: he’s a freelance copywriter. He writes marketing copy for finance companies while working out of his home office. He travels to Austin, Texas to work with our shared client on-site on a regular basis.

In February, I flew down to Austin as he drove 10 hours to meet up at the client’s offices for the week. There, he told me that he was accepting a full-time position at the company, and he would be selling his home in Kentucky to move there.

After several years of freelancing and working from home, I could tell in conversation that there were some things he was going to miss about working from home. Adjusting to a 40-minute commute from no commute at all, clearly would be a challenge to him. But it didn’t strike me that it bothered him all that much.

Weeks went by. We were all working towards the idea that Pete and his family were moving to Austin.

But then, a couple weeks ago, Pete gave me a call – he wasn’t going. After all the planning, and even selling his house, and about a week or two before the trigger needed to be pulled. When asked why, he said: “There were some things that just kept nagging at me. My heart wasn’t in it.”

Is Pete in the wrong here? Maybe his timing wasn’t great. But would you rather have a guy break it to you a week or two before the switch, or be in town for a month and then decide it’s not for him?

The boss was mad, but there was a lesson here: don’t ignore your heart.

How can you apply this?

Put together your definition of “happiness”

Hey, happiness is different for everybody. Some of you are happy with the structure of an office job. I’m not. Some would prefer to be single for the rest of their lives. I wouldn’t.

Everybody wants to be happy. You hear it all the time – but what does that mean? That’s the first step.

You gotta figure out what happiness means. If you’re just blindly running around trying to be happy, but you don’t know what that end goal is, you’re screwed. You’re destined to be miserable for the rest of your life.

And here’s a quick summation of how to determine what happiness is to you: Figure out where you want to be, not where you don’t want to be.

Does that make sense? Find the finish line and run toward it, don’t run away from the starting line.

You need to know what you’re trying to do. If you are just trying to figure out what you want to avoid, again, you’re screwed.

Let me give you an example: you hate your job. Quitting your job won’t make you happy. You’ll just wind up in another crappy job that you hate. Instead, bide your time there while you collect a paycheck and work on figuring out what it is you really want to do. Take the steps to get to that job, and then quit your lousy job.

Find a goal. Find a target. Run towards, not away.

Ask yourself, “Will this make me happy?”

Easy enough.

Now that you’ve defined happiness, you have a benchmark to measure your decisions against. This section is short, and I don’t care. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

When faced with a decision, just say, “Hey, will this help move me toward that definition of happiness that I figured out?”

No? Don’t do it.

Yes? Give it a shot.

Give the decision time

The worst thing you can do when faced with a big decision…

  • …buying a new appliance…
  • …buying a car…
  • …spending more than $50…
  • …proposing to someone…
  • …getting a new job…
  • …moving to a new city…

…is rush the decision.

Sloooooow dowwwwwn.

Let your brain process the decision. As humans, we are driven by emotion way too often.

Our brains are great at fooling ourselves. We can talk our way into anything, especially when we want to like a decision. We like the car. We like the girl. We like the idea of a new city.

But is it the right decision? You don’t know that yet. That’s why car salesmen try to get you to buy as quickly as possible. The more you think, the more you entertain other options. And you need to do that.

It sounds lame to say “Make a pro’s and cons list!” That’s what a sitcom has a nerd say when making decisions. But it works. A lot.

Figure out your options and consider which one will drive you closer to that definition of happiness. Take the route that leads to it.

What’s left? What does your gut really say? Define happiness, weigh your options, and take your time.

Pete’s decision had bad timing, and that happens. But at the end of the day, he made the right decision.

What do you think?

decisions, emotion, goals