Ask yourself: Does this make me happy?

I had a period in my life that took me very heavily. I felt that a lot of things went wrong, and no matter how much I struggled, I couldn’t seem to get it right. My life was not going as I thought it should be going. And it didn’t for quite some time already. It all added up in a terrible year and when things really collapse around me, I was left all alone in an empty, rented apartment. My relationship ended just before Christmas, and I really struggled to get through the days. Trying to start my life over was incredibly tough and I was totally overwhelmed by how to do this. I struggled with trying to be happy with what I had and what I do, but I was not able to accomplish that feeling. Not being able to be grateful for feeling fulfilled with what I did in my work or in my personal time. All my days were the same. I felt I was wasting time. I realized everything around me kept moving, but I was standing still. I was stuck. So the three biggest things I realized were; ? I did not feel fulfilled after spending a day doing things either professionally or personally. Before going to bed and looking back on the day it was not a day to be remembered. ? Every morning I woke up I felt empty and unmotivated. Knowing the day would not challenge me, I needed to get through it anyway. ? I felt panicked about missing out on life (anxiety). I felt like I needed to be somewhere, but I wasn’t there, and I had no idea how to get there. That dream where you need to run, but you feel this huge resistance holding you back. And this was draining my positivity… This was not how I wanted to live my life. And one morning, on the weekend, I knew things needed to change. I needed to change. And to change I needed to make different decisions. But that was easier said than done. How do you make decisions to change your life? How do you know which decisions to make or where to look for things to decide? As a software developer, I did what I always did, break things down into manageable pieces, manageable problems that can be solved. Make it simple. The smaller the pieces get, the easier it is to decide and the less impactful it is when you realize it was the wrong decision. You can just make another decision to correct it. But I always needed to have focus. “Does this make me happy?” I needed criteria, I needed benchmarks and I needed to know if I was going in a direction that would make me happy or if I needed to change something that was off course. And in the beginning, this was hard. I needed to get to know myself. And being alone really helped enormously. But the most important thing was to start with the mindset that I needed to be OK with me making mistakes. ‘Let me figure it out, and if I do it wrong, I will learn from it and I will correct it.’ And as soon as I was able to accept this, I was able to truly, honestly, look at myself and see what was important to me. Not how I wanted others to see me, but who I am. I was able to overcome the fear of trying out new things and the fear of failing. And it struck me as funny in an interesting way that when you’re not afraid of failing, you don’t really fail anymore. Not in the classical, old way anyway. Now, failure was good, preferred even. It gave me a chance to learn and grow. I started searching for new things, things to do that I didn’t know, things that would challenge me and make me grow. I tried so many things. And the trying-new-things became the hobby. And I failed in some, becoming frustrated even, but knowing that it was just data I could process and knowing my emotional reaction gave me more insight into who I am. I didn’t need to be successful all the time, no, the divergence in failure vs success is what gave me focus and momentum. One huge decision I made what starting to dive. I always wanted to do it, but I never got around to starting. I always thought that it was too expensive, and therefore postponing it indefinitely. It was more a dream than something I could undertake. And the more I dreamt of it, the more it stayed a dream. Something that you would love, but you know that you will never do because it’s a dream. I got too comfortable with that idea until I ‘woke up’. I found a course for the open water PADI Diving and I just signed up for it. This time, my dream became a reality. And on the hind side, it was so simple to just start it. I did the course in the Netherlands, a country not known for its clear waters or interesting underwater life. But what I learned was technique. Because there is a maximum of 4m visibility in the water, you really needed to use your compass and depth gauge to know where you are. You need to remember the map and always keep an eye on your buddy. All these rules and tools to help dive gave me so much guidance on getting better. It was exceedingly helpful to measure how you were doing. And the rewards were instant. My buoyancy improved and with it came the relaxation and control that I recognized with my instructors. During the advanced course, I met my current partner and we both shared our passion for diving. We expanded our water adventure to Thailand with its colorful fish and coral, the Maldives with the reef and whale sharks and mantas, and Portugal where we dove on multiple wracks (and we still do). And with a growing respect for the ocean, we participated in cleaning up the beach and whale shark research in the Maldives and we spent more time working on other projects for a sustainable environment whenever we can, the latest being in Tanzania. I have never stopped wanting to grow again. I’m always searching for new things and I’m passionately comfortable when things don’t work out. It’s not hard anymore to make different choices. Situations change, and I adapt, constantly. And this kind of control makes me feel good. It makes me feel happy and I can dedicate time to following that which I’m passionate about. I do the things I feel are important to me. And at the end of the day, I can look back and say to myself, this was a good day! I learned how to reflect on my challenges and to keep looking inwards to see how my behavior, my values, and my environment match. I am aware of what my passions are and I love seeking them out in any way I can.

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