It’s a new academic year! Create some happiness for yourself.

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“When I went to college, I realized the world is a wide place and I am responsible for my own happiness.” My beloved niece, Allie, said this to me when we were chatting the other day.

She went on to explain that soon after she got to college she became aware that there were so many things to learn and do, and it was up to her to figure out what interested her, what she cared about and how she was going to create happiness for herself. She said this insight was a big turning point for her.

If you’ve read this blog much or my books, you know that I am fascinated by the stage of life right after adolescence, when many people are heading to college or moving into full time work. It’s that moment in time when you start to realize that you are in charge of your choices about your life path and your choices are going to have consequences. It’s both thrilling and terrifying.

Allie’s insight is a snapshot on that moment of stepping into adulthood; that moment of realizing, “it’s up to me to figure it out.”

As school starts up again, it is worth pondering what it looks like to “figure it out” and start taking responsibility for your own happiness. 

It is going to look different for each of us, in part because, tragically, life isn’t fair and the playing field is often uneven. And yet, starting where we each are, we can pause for a moment to embrace the day ahead, developing the intention to move in the direction of greater happiness.

So what does it look like to take responsibility for your own happiness?

Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Reset your focus each day. Remember, each day is unique, and you’ll never have this day again. Every day is a chance to start again. Step into the day with fresh expectations.
  2. If you’re in school, go to class to see what you learn, not just to get a grade. No matter the subject matter, remind yourself you are there to learn something new.
  3. When you meet someone new, ask questions and be curious about who they are instead of worrying about what kind of impression you are making on them. Everyone is different and interesting. Get curious!
  4. When you notice yourself gossiping about someone else, or silently comparing yourself to someone else, see if you can switch tracks. Without judging or criticizing yourself, move your attention elsewhere. Comment on something positive or think of something you feel grateful for. 
  5. Spend less time in your head thinking, planning and worrying. And more time in your 5 senses. In this moment what do you hear? What can you touch and feel? what do you see? What can you smell? What can you taste?

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What does this all boil down to?

Show up and be present for each day. Spend less time worrying and regretting and planning. Instead bring your attention to what is interesting and engaging and positive in life. And then make choices based on this non-judgmental, present-moment perspective. 

Do you have other ideas about taking charge of your happiness as the academic year begins? Or do you remember something that worked for you before? Please share in the comments below .

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The Mindful Twenty Something by Holly Rogers
“Wise, but not obscure. Practical, but lighthearted and inspiring.”

— MIRABAI BUSH, co-founder and Senior Fellow of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Learn more about the book