holding-designers-on-instagram-olivier-rousteingEverybody I know says that they want to be happy and it sounds like a pretty normal thing, but rarely do we explore what happiness is and how we can get there.

Happiness is often defined as some perfect combination of pleasure, joy, exhilaration, bliss, contentedness, enjoyment and satisfaction. Sounds good, right? But if this is something that we really want, then why is it so often missing from our lives?

I invite you to look at how much energy you are willing to put out to be happy, and if you’re willing to be temporarily uncomfortable as you change your life and take a chance on happiness.

From my work as a psychotherapist, I’ve learned that to really be happy requires that we take risks. We need to do some things differently than we’ve done in our past. For most of us, this kind of change feels scary and makes us anxious.

Doing the same-old, same-old is familiar and easy; making changes to be happier means disrupting our habitual routines. Herein lies the problem: we want to be happy, but often we’re not willing to do anything different to get there.

One thing I do with my clients is to look with them at what has brought them happiness in the past (the reality) versus what they thought would make them happy (their fantasies). I help them to see the disconnect, the expectations and the ultimate disappointment. I ask them: “Did you learn from it or are you still repeating the pattern?”

In addition, as LGBT people, I wonder if we have different expectations of happiness than straight folks do and if it’s smart for us to buy into heterosexual definitions of happiness.

For example, let’s look at money: at this point in time, we LGBTers don’t typically have as many children as heterosexuals do. Therefore, let’s ask ourselves: do we really need to make as much money as heterosexuals with children, who typically have life-long obligations to support them? If not, let’s re-examine if our money/income/job is making us happy or not. Perhaps we don’t need to work as hard/long/much. Perhaps working less would make us happier.

And what about our homes: do we really need such big homes? So much space? So many rooms? Straight folks with kids may need all those rooms. Do we? If not, why are we paying such expensive rent/mortages? Isn’t this financial pressure draining our happiness? Would we be happier with smaller residences that cost us less and allow us to need to make less money and have fewer financial pressures?

The above two examples (money and homes) are just two of the ways that we may want to examine what really makes us happy and consider adjusting our lives and taking a chance by breaking long-assumed heterosexist paradigms of happiness.

From my years as a psychotherapist, I’ve observed that when we, as LGBT people, do what heterosexist society says will make us happy (e.g., have a big house, work at a high pressure job with a big paycheck, work out at the gym to have a body to be admired) and these actions don’t bring us happiness, then we think there’s something wrong with US. Typically, then we internalize that WE are doing it wrong, rather than questioning heterosexist assumptions about happiness.

Let’s start questioning what we thought would make us happy. Because, often, it doesn’t.

In the short run, this can make life feel kinda shaky. Taking a chance on happiness means taking risks…experimenting… perhaps not initially succeeding…but isn’t it important to take the chance to discover what honestly makes you happy?

No one can tell you what will make you happy…you are the one who calls the shots, controls the experiments you make, takes the chances, runs the risks and is willing (or not) to be uncomfortable as you move past your old definition of who you are.

I invite you to take a few minutes, sit down, relax and ask yourself this question: “What risks am I willing to take to have a happier life?”

Let your intuition respond. Keep an open mind. You may be surprised with what you hear.

Enjoy the process.