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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Please note: Despite the title, this is not a rah-rah political post.

We are a country that believes in the pursuit of happiness. It’s one of the three unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence.

I’ve made the mistake of believing that the pursuit of happiness should be fun, easy and effortless; that once I’m on the right path to happiness everything will be smooth sailing.

But that doesn’t seem to be how it works. The pursuit of happiness is actually a risky business—and the risk is necessary so that we grow.

Our forefathers started a war in order to secure their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

They were also brilliant because they didn’t say happiness should be guaranteed. They said the pursuit of it. You know, the whole “It’s the journey, not the destination” philosophy. While it may be cliché’ it’s also true.

But this does not mean the journey is easy and without risk.

I work with people who have fledgling dreams, dreams they are sometimes shy about sharing because what they want goes against cultural and social norms, requires changes to a standard of living, and might just seem outlandish, unrealistic and irresponsible to others.

I’ll argue that the scariest, most courageous thing you can do (besides having children) is to live your dream.

Because you have to face yourself — all your insecurities, all the ugly stuff you’ve hidden behind conventional wisdom, the parts of you that you don’t like and you wish would just go away.

It’s terrifying to pursue your dreams.

When you decide to go for it, you strip away all the other excuses about why you aren’t happy.

I’m here to tell you that’s when you really start to get to know yourself, and begin the process of real growth. You begin to see how you get in your own way.

Here’s an example.

I was working with a client today and we recalled how hard it was to decide NOT to apply for a job that would’ve given him some of the things he desires, like a steady paycheck and stability for his family.

Summoning the energy and motivation to apply for the job was like pushing a noodle up the wall with his nose. Exhausting. Frustrating. Hard.

When he decided not to apply and the deadline passed, he started to panic. What was he thinking???

A week later, his dream job was posted and he was asked to submit his application materials. When he wrote the cover letter, he got emotional, which was also hard and required energy to write through it.

But it’s the right kind of hard. It's the kind of difficult that makes you more of who you are.

It takes courage to let other people see the real you, your real dreams — and then to pursue them and allow other people to see your false starts, mistakes and your insecurities play out. And, there's always the fear of "What if it doesn't work out? Then what?"

So why bother? Wouldn’t it be easier to stay complacent?

Sure it would. But humans are meant to evolve. Plus, that’s not why our forefathers fought a war.

Make them proud. Go pursue your happiness, and let the fireworks begin.

Have a happy and safe July 4.

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