The Duty of Happiness

A Boy And His New Bestie
Photo by Alicia Jones on Unsplash

Stress had gotten the best of me. I was stressed out to the point of being tired and irritable all of the time. Finally I hit a point where I realized something important. The job was not going to change. This was the new normal.

Something had to change.

That something needed to be me.

So I started mulling it over: What did I need to do to be in a better place if my situation wasn’t going to change?

Right around the same time, I had a conversation with a co-worker. She was complaining. I entered the conversation with the intention to just be someone who would listen while she obviously needed to get things off of her chest. After a few minutes, I realized – almost as though I was a third party watching myself – that the words coming out of my mouth were a full agreement with what she’d said even though I didn’t agree with her complaints. The negativity brought on by my stress had become so ingrained that I wasn’t just a sympathetic ear, I was encouraging her complaints.

I knew then that I’d crossed a line. I knew that for myself and for my team I needed to turn things around lest I become a toxic element in my workplace – something I NEVER want to be. I took it upon myself to accept the responsiblity to find positivity in my situation.

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
― Robert Louis Stevenson

I like lists. They’re not for everyone, but they work for me. I sat down with a pen and pad and made a list. It could have been a list of things that would make me happy. It could have been a list of what would get me into a different situation. But it was neither of those things. I am in a place that I have chosen, and which is good for me (despite the stress). And merely looking for things to make me happy wasn’t goint to cut it. I needed to change. I made a list of things that would give me back control of the path my career is taking. I had been pouring all of my energy into tasks that would “keep the lights on,” and had begun doing so at the expense of the things I needed to do for myself.

The next day at work, I picked something off of my list, and made 15 minutes for it. Then I came home and picked another thing off of my list and made 30 minutes for that. And then I resolved to turn those 2 things into habits. Not necessarily daily habits, but at least weekly habits.

I then looked for something positive and fun to fill the moments when I needed to unplug and just be happy. Although I’m not normally a situation comedy sort of person, it ended up being the TV show No Tomorrow, a sit-com about a woman who falls for a guy who’s living for the moment because he’s convinced the world is going to end.

Lo and Behold – The character kept an Apocalist of things he wanted to do before the world ended.

About the time I’d realized that my stress levels were spiraling out of control, a friend had suggested I create a bucket list and actively work to cross things off of it.

So I made another list. This time of things which would make me happy, give me a sense of accomplishment, or that would let me check off things I’d just never made the time for.

The next evening, I picked one thing off of my second list and did it. Now, my own apocalist isn’t all things which I can knock out in a night, so working through it will take some time, but the act of working toward those personal goals – both big and small – nudged my focus one step further into the realm of hapiness.

Now, armed with my two trusty lists, I had made it my responsibility to be happier. It was time to take that one step further. It was time to use my new attitude to positively impact the people around me.

This is a process. It’s not going to be done overnight, and I’m going to slip up sometimes. Nonetheless, I’m in a better place, and I can see the personal benefits that I’m already reaping. Am I seeing tangible results in those around me? Not yet – at least, not that I’ve noticed. But I’m not giving up.