One of my earliest memories of being my happiest (you know that child-like, butterflies in the stomach, bubbling over with joy happiness), was my 5th birthday when Dad took time off work to cart my Sisters and a group of my friends in his 1965, 5 metre long Bedford bus out to the coast for the day. We had a BBQ lunch and birthday cake on the beach; it was an amazing fun fueled adventure. I look back at photos now and still remember how loved and important I felt and the sheer excitement of sharing this day with my favourite 5 year-old peeps.
Fast-forward 10 years I said I was at my happiest when I found my first “true love”. I was 15 years old. He walked me to and from school, held my hand at lunchtime, wrote me beautiful poems and told me he loved me. Life was covered in a rose tinted haze in those first 6 months, new senses were ignited and emotions experienced like never before. I was the happiest girl in the world. That was until my “true love” had too much to drink at a party, forgot how much he loved me and ran off with the most popular girl at our school. All of a sudden I was a bewildered, blubbering mess and the “unhappiest” I’d ever been!
When I was in my early twenties I left the safety of my family and home country and travelled to the other side of the world. London became my new home; but during weekends away I would find myself wine tasting in Burgundy, canal boating in Venice, bike riding in Amsterdam or sail boating in Turkey. The world seemed so big and options were endless. I was outside my comfort zone; meeting new people and experiencing new sights and different cultures. This meant I described myself as the “happiest” I had ever been.
At 29 years old I was living back in New Zealand. That fast and furious London life soon became a distant memory, I was engaged to my new love and building a successful career. Weekends were spent renovating our first home, walking our dog and planning a wedding. It all felt so right and I announced to my friends I had finally reached that ‘grown up’ destination I (thought) I had been longing for my entire life. I was the “happiest” girl in the world.
That was until the relationship came to an abrupt end and I found myself, single, depressed and sharing a house with another single woman who was even more depressed than me. Oh dear, suddenly I was back to the “unhappiest” I had ever been!
My constant dance between happiness and unhappiness depending on life circumstances became a reality in my early thirties. At this point I contemplated the question, perhaps happiness did not have to depend on life rules, order, ideals and what if, there was actually no particular destination to reach?
My first introduction to a different way of thinking came as a gift through my employer in 2003. Over the course of 12 months and throughout several workshops our company would become a “Values Based Organization”. We would learn and study the meaning of Life Purpose, Vision, Values and Happiness in a personal and professional sense. I was given a valuable opportunity to explore who I was outside of a relationship, my core beliefs, self-limiting behavior, my values, ideals, my strengths and also my fears.
My learning’s through this programme became a stepping-stone to so much more. I completed a series of further Personal Development courses over the following 3 years. I came to realize that knowledge and growth were important values and that the art of learning and exploration directly impacted my state of happiness.
When I was 38, I took a sabbatical from my senior role in Corporate Travel and completed a 200-hour intensive Yoga Teachers Training course on the tropical Island of Bali. Up to 4 hours of physical practice every day including a comprehensive introduction to ancient scripts, philosophy and the methodology of yoga. 30 days of turning myself inside out, discovering abs I never knew existed and connecting with inquisitive minds similar to my own. The day I received my teaching certificate and celebrated the fact I had accomplished this enormous feat bought many familiar feelings of reaching a destination and feeling the “happiest” I had ever been.
But it didn’t end there! The quest continued, what was next? Behind every decision, the question has always lurked, what do I believe will make me happiest? Is there a wrong way and a right way?
This year I am part way through studying a Diploma in Positive Psychology. No longer working in the world of Corporate Travel, I am privileged to work for a company dedicated to personal and professional growth, providing strategies and tools and a learning environment for individuals to truly flourish. To inspire and assist others on this path of growth and towards cultivating their own inner happiness is extremely rewarding.
My wish is that we can all embrace the concept that happiness is a way of being and that it will always ebb and flow. That we can accept change is a constant, that self-study and knowledge is powerful, that we as humans are courageous beings and despite external circumstances, we are always capable of shining our brightest light. To believe and trust in these ideals, I think is the only destination we should strive for.