“How are you?” This question used to be answered with a simple ‘good, thanks!’. But these days when you ask your colleagues, friends, or strangers the standard answer has shifted to ‘super busy’, ‘crazy busy’, or another version of it.

Your initial instinct is to declare how busy you are, trying to match their level of busyness if not trump them, affirming how much worse off you are. Working, achieving, and filling every minute of your waking hours being ‘productive’ seems to be the new way we measure our worthiness in society.

Taking 4 days off for vacation a couple of weeks ago (the first since taking 2 days off back in February), some were passionate enough to give me grief about it. Apparently, I’m not ambitious enough taking vacation when running my own business. Who came up with this thinking? And is it true?

A hospice nurse who spent time with dying patients asked them what regrets they had and what they would do differently, and common themes emerged over and over again.  Right at the top were… 

1) “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” and…

2) “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

When asking a highly successful person like Richard Branson “What is the key to success” he says “happiness”. More specifically Richard wrote …people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too.”

So, the question becomes how do you measure YOUR happiness? Do you think it can be a combination of professional achievements and personal contentment and experiences? I do. And when I say achievements I include things that you can measure in numbers ($$, number of happy clients, etc.) but also those that nourish the soul (meaningful relationships, exploring through travel, a good night sleep, appreciating Mother Nature, and so much more).

When considering my respond to the person who felt the need to call me out for taking vacation I realize that I don’t need to respond at all. Why spend effort explaining myself to someone who has such different values. Each of us has the right to live our own life in a way that makes us happy and there is no need to justify ourselves. 

I encourage you to focus on two things…
  1. Sit down and define what success looks like for you? What are your values? When you’re on your dying bed how will you want to have lived your life?
  2. Then start living your life more closely to your own values. There is no need to make drastic changes overnight, but having defined your own measurements of success, take one or two small steps towards living your life that way and gradually exchange old habits with new ones.

And the next time you’re asked ‘how are you?’ I’d love for you to say “I’m doing good/great/wonderful/phenomenal”. With these words you’ll stop the chain reaction of spreading negativity and defeat to sharing optimism and positivity. Because your happiness is contagious…

Are you ready to get out of the rat race? What is one step you could take today to nudge yourself closer to being happier?