Guest Blog By Anne Hartley
When my dad was conscripted into the army and went to war at the age of 21 he made the choice to begin and end each day on his knees in prayer. Even though he was regularly ridiculed by the men who he shared his accommodation with, but he never let that stop him. Ever since his teens my dad has been very clear about who he wanted to be and what he believed in. He made a very conscious commitment to live by those beliefs and has never suffered any mid-life crises that many people do today. At age 87 my dad is fit, healthy, independent and happy. He is a great example of how to live a happy life.
I believe that most personal crises are really identity crises that present us with opportunities to make new choices. We first experience this opportunity in our teens when the personality is formed. Adolescence is a time to break away from our parents, choose our own beliefs and establish our identities. Although some people do this to some extent very few people are as clear and committed as my father was and therefore they often feel confused or experience a lot of small personal crises.
Until you have a strong sense of self, it is easy to be influenced by other people and indulge in low energy behavior. When you don't have a strong sense of self it's easy to mistakenly think that the achievement of external goals will fulfill all of your needs. Many people go looking for romantic love feeling that they will find themselves and their purpose when they find love. Others go looking for achievement, needing the acceptance of others to validate their self worth, and some need material possessions in order to feel good enough or to gain attention. All of these are temporary fixes. Choosing your identity is the most important choice you will ever make because this is how you connect with your spirit and find peace.
As I see it identity is made up of your character (that is the values you choose to live by); your spiritual beliefs (or code of ethics) and your commitment to live by them; and your needs both material and emotional because they motivate you to become all that you can be. Your identity sets the foundation for a happy life.
Your attitude determines whether you will build on that foundation or not. Many people go through life feeling unfulfilled even though they have the best intentions. We are all born with a personality, some people come into this world happy and always look on the bright side, others come into this world as pessimists. Although we all have a natural tendency either towards optimism or pessimism, you can always make a choice as to who you will be. Optimists find it easier to achieve goals for a number of reasons. People naturally gravitate towards optimistic, cheerful people so a natural consequence is that they get more support. Optimistic people are also not discouraged easily, their belief that there has to be a way means that they are naturally proactive, persistent and willing and all of these traits enable them to achieve most of their goals. Even when they don't they can turn a disappointment into another opportunity.
An optimist friend of mine was at a stage in her life where she didn't have many people to socialize with. Although she joined groups and did classes she still didn't connect with anyone, so she chose to spend more of her alone time in silence. In the silence she connected with her spirit and found peace. She has yet to meet more people but I believe it is only a matter of time until she does so because a peaceful person is far more likely to connect with others than a frustrated, desperate one.
Set your goals by all means but if you want success and happiness to last, take the time to set the foundation for long-lasting happiness.