by Linsey Lanier
If you’re familiar with the type of post I usually write, you might be thinking, “Okay, Linsey. What kind of joke are you going to make out of that title?”
But this time, I mean it. Really.
A few weeks ago, I gave a talk about self-publishing and I mentioned how important it is to know what you really want in life. Not what your mother wants for you. Not what your kids want for you. Not what your husband wants for you. But you. What is it that really makes you happy?
In this talk, I mentioned a few books I’ve read that have helped me along in my own personal quest for happiness and I thought I’d tell you a bit more about them today.
The first book I added recently to my collection. It’s by one of my very favorite authors, who has been a guest chef here on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales.
1. Get a Life! 8 Steps to Create Your Own Life List (a how-to short) by the very talented Stephanie Bond.
When I saw this book on Amazon for 99 cents, I downloaded it right away.
Stephanie cautions this isn’t a To-Do list. She says it’s “a list of dreams and goals.” I think of it more as a Bucket List, but you start right now and keep working on it for as long as it takes.
True to its title, there are a lot of lists in this short how-to book. Stephanie suggests classifying the things you would like to do in life and she has suggestions for all sorts of categories from charitable activities to health to travel and adventure. One thing I learned about Stephanie in this book is that she completed a course to become a private investigator. Now that’s impressive.
Reading Life List was so inspiring, it made me want to do something wild and crazy–like get a stagger-on role in The Walking Dead. I just might do that someday…
2. Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-By Step Lessons by Barbara Sher
If you’re having trouble coming up with you Life List, you might want to give this book a read.
I love Barbara Sher. Her honest, self-deprecating style makes you feel you’re sitting with an old friend, sharing intimate thoughts.
For example, she freely admits standard methods of motivation like affirmations and New Year’s resolutions have never worked for her. Years ago she realized she needed a change. Now she says, “Twenty years later, with no noticeable self-improvement, I have managed to get myself a great life! I still can’t stay on a diet or an exercise program, I can’t learn a language or a musical instrument, much as I want to–I can’t even make myself try very hard. And yet, I’ve build a life I love.”
“You will never be happy unless you are using your gifts,” she warns. And she tells you just how to figure out what those gifts really are.
One of her secrets is to understand your feelings. And she has a chapter dedicated to learning how to do that. She encourages you to name your feelings, even the negative or “problem” feelings, to learn how you respond to things. It’s about learning to respect the things you cherish and getting rid of toxic feelings. Because, as Barbara tells us, “Your feelings are your compass. If you know how to read them, they will direct you toward what you love.”
And if narrowing the gift that makes you most happy down to just one thing makes you feel depressed or anxious, you’re probably a scanner (like me!). If this rings a bell with you, you’ve got to check out Barbara’s Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams.
3. How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People–Their Secrets, Their Stories by Rick Foster & Greg Hicks
The beginning of this book isn’t very happy. The Prologue is the story of a someone the writers call Kathryn, a woman who loved to dance, but who followed her family’s career admonitions instead. She became so unhappy, she left her husband, quit her job and took off. She ended up broke and bulimic and selling her body to survive. She hit the bottom. Yet, Kathryn is one of the “extremely happy people” the writers interviewed. Because she turned herself around by doing what made her tick.
Rick Foster and Greg Hicks were business consultants, but they became fascinated by people who “moved through life with warmth, grace and an elegance that was both alluring and mysterious.” So they went across the country interviewing people like this. They discovered what these happy folks had in common were nine conscious decisions they had made. I don’t have room to cover them all, but the first one is Intention.
They write, “The intention to be happy is a mindset that propels us toward living as happily as we can, predisposing us to make each day as joyful and significant as it can be. It’s the point at which we stop responding unconsciously and actively decide we want to be happy. We make a promise to ourselves, a commitment to happiness that becomes our compass, guiding the decisions we make and the actions we take.”
Needless to say, I really love this book.
I hope I’ve lifted your heart today. What are some things that make you happy?
Check out excerpts of my books on my blog (links on the right!)