Happiness in Just Three (Easy) Steps!

This past week, as some of you may know, I was at a conference for work with other student affairs professionals. When I returned to work on Thursday, people asked, “How was it?!” I responded with one phrase: “life-changing.”

“Why?!” everyone asks.

My scripted (and entirely true response): “It was life-changing because I felt educated, inspired, and connected.”

Over the course of this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about why those three feelings contributed to the overarching sense of “life-changing.” And as I thought about it, I realized that these three feelings – educated, inspired, and connected – were also relevant to a twentysomething life. Maybe even life in general for people of all ages. Here’s why:

  1. Educated
    • At the conference, I learned something at almost every single session I attended. For other conference goers, you know how rare that is! But after each session, I walked away with pages of notes and dozens of new ideas to bring back to my campus. Student affairs professionals like to use to term Lifelong Learners, and it applies to all of us. Having a feeling of growth is a major component to happiness, and that includes your brain. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, suggests picking up three new magazines every month that you would have never read otherwise. Or watching a documentary on something that interests you and learning even more about it. Either way, the point is to learn. Forever. Becoming a life-long learner will absolutely contribute to your happiness.
  2. Inspired
    • The amount of times my job has come up through the course of this blog might be one too many, but here’s a plot twist: after this conference, I LOVE MY JOB! And more than that, I love the field of work that I am currently doing. It was a reminder of why I’m doing the work that I’m doing, and why I love it so much. So how do you start to feel inspired when you are feeling completely lack-luster? Well, I would ask yourself, why? Why am I doing this job? What made me want to do this job in the first place? If that doesn’t fill you with passion and inspiration, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Another idea is to check back in with yourself about your goals. When you first started at your job/company/office/etc, what were your goals? Have you reached any of them? If not, are you currently working towards them, or did they kind of fall off the bandwagon? Realign your work with your goals. Goals provide a purpose in your work, which in turns provide a sense of inspiration.
  3. Connected
    • By the end of the conference, I was able to look around the room and feel connected with most of the people in the room. Some I knew before the conference, some I met while I was there, and others were just a friendly face that I had gotten used to seeing over the past four days. Again with Gretchen Rubin (she really is great), but she says that people/connectedness is another contributing factor to happiness. So how are you connected? What are you doing to get involved, get connected in your office, or in your community? We are always telling college students to get involved, but we need to practice what we preach. No matter what your job is, get involved. Make an active positive presence for yourself. Join a committee, attend events that are not required, offer guidance to a coworker in another department, volunteer on the weekends. Soon enough, these additional responsibilities that at first may just seem like extra time commitments will soon pay off in having connections and in having some really amazing people in your life.

So, I guess that’s it folks. The three key factors of happiness: Feeling educated, inspired, and connected. Although I know it’s not that simple, it may be a good place to start.

What are other ways you feel educated, inspired, and connected?