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Currently in Dubai, UAE

  • Zach

Learn what makes you happy, let that guide you.


like this, but every day!
  1. "The unexamined life is  not worth living."  A sentence attributed to Socrates, and one that many find controversial.  There are certainly plenty of people out there who live mindlessly and seem pretty content.  After all, ignorance is bliss, to quote another aphorism.   And what is ignorance but a lack of examination?   Our modern world often seems structurally built to avoid contemplation and examination and critical thinking.  A world of reality television, Tic Tok, Snapchap, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, and thousands of channels of content seems custom tailored to avoiding any sort of introspection.  At the first hint of boredom, we can (and do) whip out our smartphones, instead of taking the harder road of looking inward.   Today, however, I want you to try it.  Just one simple exercise that could change how you spend your time, money, and energy.  I want you to list 10-15 things that make you truly happy.  Not just the sugar-high of buying a new shiny toy that quickly fades, but real, lasting joy, where you know you've done something that lines up with your values.  If you're not sure what your values are, that's OK too.  This exercise can help you determine that as well.  Think back to times in your recent memory that you felt energized and fulfilled, and you can look back on those things with pride. In case you're wondering, here are mine: 1. Helping kids get to that "A-Ha" moment where they understand something new.

  2. Helping people get their financial lives in order.

  3. When the whole class is working hard without me having to keep them on task.

  4. Playing music with my band.

  5. Getting obsessed with things and learning everything I can about it. 

  6. Going to the beach.

  7. Spending time with my girlfriend and family. 

  8. Cooking and sharing the food with people.

  9. An evenly matched game of chess.

  10. Photoshoots where the subject is interesting and into interesting ideas and maybe I have a co-shooter. 

  11. The first few days of a vacation (max 2 weeks)

  12. Getting really into a good book or tv show.

  13. Saving money. Now, a follow up question: Which of yours require you to spend money?  For me, 5-6 of them required any spending at all, and a lot of them actually are things that I do in my job as a teacher and musician that help me make money and increase my net worth.   From now on, I have this list to help guide my future decisions.  Will my action contribute towards my happiness?  If not, can I eliminate it?  Sometimes you can't, because not everything in life is what you enjoy.  But if you're spending large amounts of money and time on things that don't make you happy, can you stop?   Can you stop spending money on things so you don't have to earn as much?  Would that allow you to get a less stressful job or retire earlier to be free of the corporate rat race?  Can you say no to things in your job that don't bring you joy and just focus on the things that do? For me, I've been the Curriculum Leader for English at my school for the last two years.  But nothing about that middle management role made my list of Happy things.  So, next year, I'm stepping back from that role to focus on the things that do, the interactions I have with my students.  It's a bit of a pay cut, but it brings me a great deal of joy.  Some people even use this exercise as a way to determine if they're in the right career at all.  If nothing you do at your job brings you joy, there's a good chance you're in the wrong job or career.  It is easier than ever before to learn the skills you need to get certified to do other things that can get you a promotion to a new job or the knowledge that unlocks different career paths.  The internet allows us to network with people all over the planet to get first hand information about what is required to get hired, and those same contacts can be your "ears on the ground" in case a job is opening up.  That's how I just found the job that hired me for next year, a former colleague at a school I've dreamed about working at for years helped me get my resume to the top of the pile and helped me clean up my resume, as well (THANKS AMANDA!). You're not locked in to your current situation.  If you determine what are the things that make you feel alive, you then can strategically arrange your life so you're doing those things more often.   

If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!