Many of us make big decisions based on what we think we should do. But what if we made decisions based on what truly made us happy? Kate Holmes challenges us to do just that.

We’ve all heard of the people who love getting up in the morning and are ready for the day. (Crazy, I know.) They may get a rush from having a career they love, be energized from spending the weekend on their favorite hobby, feel a peace and calm from traveling, or confidence from being in control of their finances.

These early birds have found, created a plan for, and gone after their happiest life.

Now, it’s your turn.

[header]Finding Your Happiest[/header]

Think about the following question for a moment, then write down the first answer that comes to mind:

[subheader]When are you happiest?[/subheader]

This can be a tough question to answer, so let’s rephrase it slightly:

[subheader]When have you been happiest?[/subheader]

Do you have a signature story or fact that inevitably comes out when you meet new people? That’s usually your noggin reminding you of your happiest, or a time you were on the path to your happiest but came upon on a detour.

Let’s dive a little further and keep exploring:

  • Where are you happiest?
  • With whom are you happiest?
  • What about the people, place, and/or activity makes you so happy?

You may be thinking that finding your happiest sounds great, but it’s not very practical to go after those things full time. That’s OK. We’re not aiming for practical here.  Jim Carrey said it best in a recent commencement speech:

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Are you ready?

[header]Create an Action Plan[/header]

You’ve now got a great picture of your happiest life and you’re probably craving getting there as soon as possible. The good news is, while we often overestimate what we can do in the short term (today or this week), we underestimate what we can do in the long term. Here’s what I do: I target one-, three-, and five-year goals.

I quickly realized these don’t do a heck of a lot of good stuck in my head, though.  They need to be set free! I write these goals down, old-school style, on a piece of paper and plaster that baby where I’ll see it every single day. My favorite place is my bathroom mirror, so I start each day motivated to tackle that list (and my bed head).

[subheader]One-Year Goals[/subheader]

I was amazed at how much I can accomplish in a year, so don’t cut yourself short here. The momentum and energy builds quickly when you’re going after your happiest life.  Remember, I focus all of my goals on moving towards my happiest and start each day seeing that list of goals.

At the top of your list should be the very best thing you can do for yourself: Find your people.

Seek out people that are going through or have recently gone through the same thing: traveling abroad, changing careers, going back to school, turning a hobby into a business, or purchasing a home. They don’t need to be in your neighborhood or local coffee shop; the internet brings the whole world to us and it is amazing how generous, supportive, and encouraging people are when they know you’re working towards your happiest.

[subheader]Three-Year Goals[/subheader]

These usually build on your one-year goals. For instance, I want to become a full-time writer within three years, so I started picking up freelance work to earn a little cash, establish credibility, and hone my craft. This longer-term goal is working out incrementally as I continue to tackle my short-term goals.

You don’t have to wait for the one-year goals to be completed before making progress on your three-year goals.

[subheader]Five-Year Goals[/subheader]

These may change over time, but five years flies by. What would you love to look back on in five years and know you accomplished?

[subheader]Next Steps[/subheader]

It may be saving a little more each month (preferably in a dedicated account with no checks or debit cards), enrolling in a course, or building a simple and inexpensive template website. Whatever your action items are, keep moving forward. Keep yourself surrounded (even virtually) with those who lift you up, hold you accountable, and believe in your wild and crazy dreams.

As I’ve done all of this, I noticed my mindset start to shift. Those $150 jeans didn’t look as appealing when I realized that money could buy three nights in a nice hotel in Southeast Asia. That $80 I didn’t spend on a ticket to a sports game I wasn’t super into anyway? I bought a stack of books on starting my own virtual business and living a life I love instead, and devoured them while my friends spent the day at the game.

[header]Run Toward Your Happiest[/header]

Does it all sound a bit scary? That’s a good thing. It’s the scary things that are usually the ones most worth doing. Look at all aspects of your life and see if they contribute to when you’re truly happiest. If not, make changes.

And as you’re faced with decisions going forward, revisit the questions above. Be honest with yourself. No pussyfooting around here. Don’t do what others expect of you. Find, go after, and stand up for your happiest you.

Kate Holmes, CFP®, is the founder of Belmore Financial, LLC, a location-independent financial planning practice she started on her quest towards living her happiest life. Kate works with professionals in their 20s through 40s who are ready to challenge the status quo and go after their happiest life.

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