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My Entire Life Changed When I Finally Realized This

I stopped doing what I thought I should do — and did this instead.

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animation illustration of woman bouncing on happy bouncy ball, energy, happiness, peace
Ana Curbelo
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It’s a Friday night, and we are on the cusp of a summer holiday weekend. My three older teens have plans with their friends, and I’ve already turned down two invitations from family and friends.

I’m staying in and am ridiculously excited about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the invites, and if I were in a different mood, I would totally go.

One of the great things about being almost 50 is that you know yourself. Like, really know yourself in a way you didn’t before. You’re able to see into the future in a way.

Let me explain.

I was looking forward to lighting my favorite candle and reading on my sofa with my dog all week. Spending this time in peaceful solitude would bring me more happiness than going out. It was a trying week with a lot of anxiety, and I wasn’t in the right mindset to carry on a conversation and get to bed too late.

There was a time when I would have gone out no matter what — without checking in with myself. I would have changed my clothes and oozed energy I didn't even have socializing. I probably would have spent most of the evening waiting for the moment I could leave without seeming rude.

I’m not saying this would happen every time I went out. But it happened enough for me to realize I should stay home if that makes me happier. So, I stopped doing what I thought I should do and did the thing that brought me joy.

You can Marie Kondo your life, and I suggest everyone do it.

I’m not talking about normal adult things like paying bills and laundry. Nobody wants to do those things, but alas, we have to. When I took back some of my time, I realized I had more control over my happiness than I thought. That’s when my life changed.

I used to believe what made me happiest came from other people: good friends, a supportive partner, buying things I wanted and making a certain amount of money. All of those are fantastic, and while they do make me happy, they aren’t what make me happiest.

I’m happiest when my children aren’t busy, and we get some quality time together (even if it’s for a short while), when I get enough sleep, when I unplug and allow myself to be unproductive for a bit, giving me time to appreciate all the wonderful things I have in my life, when I move my body, when I’m doing something creative and when I'm trying new things.

When I accept every invitation, taking on too much, I neglect what I truly want to do and don’t feel the same sense of peace.

We all have different things that make us come to life. And those things can change by the day, week or even the hour. The key is to pay attention to what truly brings you joy, even if you think it goes against the grain.

When I started taking notice of what was affecting my happiness, I got good at letting things that didn’t matter go. It became clearer than ever that certain relationships and friendships weren’t worth holding on to because they made me feel more dread than anything. I took a hard look at some of my self-sabotaging habits, like procrastinating and beating myself up for very human mistakes, and knew I had to change them.

Zooming in on what brings you joy from the inside out will change you in ways you never thought possible. And you will wonder why you’ve waited so long to focus on yourself.

What really brings YOU joy in life? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle