8. Prioritizing Your Happiness (hint: Prioritize Yourself!)

Teacher’s Perspective

As I stated, I have worked as a high school teacher; it’s a rewarding and challenging career path. However, one of the greatest challenges that came with it was getting students to focus on what was important! They tend to focus on the immediate gratification of hanging out with friends, rather than focusing on future-oriented thinking. There is actually a lot of science to back up this point, and more can be read at How Stuff Works.

There was a speaker who had come in to one of the schools I was working at and for the life of me I cannot remember his name right now. But his speech to the kids was to prioritize their lives. He wanted them to make decisions which would be beneficial to them in the long run. I paraphrase “When your friends ask you to go to the cafeteria, but you want to go try out for the dance club… make your own decision and don’t be swayed by your peers.”

I appreciate the sentiment behind these words, and hopefully some of them did listen. But let’s face it… you don’t have to be a teenager to realize how strong social pressure can be when it comes to decision making when peer pressure is involved. Decision making can also be tough when it comes to choosing between something hard (like working out) vs something easy (staying sedentary). How can we get past these issues?

Goal Setting

An important part of making decisions is setting your goals and your purpose for achieving those goals. In Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours she talks about core competencies, things which we are inherently good at, and how to use these to establish our goals. Perhaps you are a good writer, and you wish to write a book; great! Goals and core competencies should go hand in hand if you wish for results relatively quickly. What is important to you?

However, let’s say you wish to learn Mandarin and you are now 26 years old and have never spoken a lick of any other language other than English. This is still possible. Even if language learning is not your core competency, the growth mindset, as discussed in Carol Dweck’s Mindset, is a great tool to achieve it.

I have discussed these tools and techniques in previous posts, hyperlinked in this article, but if you have not read them, please do take a moment! I have tried to scaffold my blog so as to talk about these issues in a step-by-step manner.

Ultimately, the goals you set should be meaningful to your life, putting yourself first. I discussed in my previous post the importance of making yourself a priority. In order to truly achieve a goal, you have to constantly remind yourself “Is this in MY best interest?”

How to Prioritize Happiness

Along with asking yourself if something is in your best interest, you should ask yourself another question when you make a decision. “Do I love myself enough to do this for me?”

Here’s poet Ashley Wylde, on YouTube, who did a spoken word session about how to love oneself. Her technique is to look in the mirror, and as awkwardly but meaningfully connect with yourself and say “I love you.” She explains how the exercise over the course of months became natural, meaningful, and sincere.

We should all care about ourselves, and often we think we do. But take a look at the decisions you are making. Are you really in control of them? Or are you letting yourself be controlled by those around us? Make happiness a goal!

“Do I love myself enough to do this for me?”

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