The practical daily path to happiness.
Am I the only one who feels duped by the advice to “live your passion”? I have so many interests - do I have to pick just one? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the search for passion itself may be the problem. After all, the directive to pursue our dreams didn’t come with an instruction manual. The marching orders were incomplete.
We all have different things that inspire us and give us energy. If each day, we could maximize the time spent on those activities, isn't that what matters? If every day of your life was fulfilling, doesn't that mean your life, the days all strung together, would be as well? If every day was a success, what would be the success you seek?
Imagine a time from your past when you were content. Experience it again in your mind — marinade in it. What circumstances surrounded it? Who were you with? What were you doing? In all likelihood, at that moment, you had less prestige or material wealth than you have now, yet for some reason, our natural gravity is look toward those very things for salvation. Odd how we forget this simple fact.
We get stuck in the pursuit of more. We are on the treadmill and forget we can get off. We don’t have to keep increasing our pace. We just have to move our feet a bit to the side. In the same place, but knowing it again in a different way — a shift in our orientation.
“Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?” - RUMI
The life we are searching for isn’t outside of us. It isn’t based on some random event like a promotion or meeting your soulmate. It isn’t going to show up all at once. The opportunity for joy is right now — this very day. In fact, any sense of lacking is a direct result of the incorrect belief that happiness is out there — apart from us. In the distance and out of view.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard
We want it all. Amazing parent. Successful businessperson. Pillar of the community. “All” is a lot to do. Where do we start? What is the right focus? Where will we find the time? Can you feel the pressure enveloping you like a heavy blanket? Again, expectations of the future soak us in dread, paralyzing us.
Does this sound familiar?
To find our path we must zoom out. A bit of space, some distance from our specific desires will clear the brush. From afar we can see that while we are each unique in our ambitions, we are also, in very important ways, the same. We all have two arms and two legs. We breathe air, and most relevant for our discussion, our human needs are universal. Our desire to connect with others, to grow our skills, maintain our physical health, and enjoy it all in the process.
Life is lived in the everyday.
What if we focused our attention on these fundamental experiences and for a moment, let loose our grip on our arbitrary future idea of ourselves?
I encourage you to run the experiment. When I did, I realized that I felt at peace when making daily progress in these universal areas of life. Surprisingly I also discovered that it is not a matter of how much progress we make that matters, but rather, the essential ingredient is that we are moving. Even the smallest step forward is enough.
Progress is the engine of satisfaction.
Small, daily actions are the levers of your life. Luckily, there is a simple way to translate this idea into action in your life. A practical approach to experience happiness everyday. It’s called Epic.
E. P. I. C.
Exercise, Play, Improve, and Connect.
Tend to these four dimensions of your life and experience daily joy.
Exercise (E). Move. Exercise is one of the few things proven to improve your health both mentally and physically. It can be a short walk, taking the stairs, lifting weights, yoga, walking, whatever. Have you ever worked out and felt worse? Nothing pulls you out of a rut faster than movement. Don’t think, just do. Make it automatic and the watch the flywheel of your day spin.
Play (P). Relax. Do something you love simply because it makes you happy. Have fun. Rent a movie. Remember laughter? Watch a comedy show. Sketch and draw. Ponder the stars. Pray. Do that thing you love to do. Ignore what anyone will think. Life is more fun when you take the time to serve yourself. You deserve a little joy. Indulge, guilt free. Treat yourself. This is your time and it’s a critical part of life.
Improve (I). Get better. Remember, we sustain ourselves economically by providing value. Increase your value to the world. Learn something new. Dive deeper into what you’re already good at. Build skills. Hone your talents. If you’re in finance, get steeped in metrics and ratios. If you run a business, dive into the latest research on managing people. Maybe you’re a watercolor painter — pick up sculpture or simply work on your brush strokes.
Connect (C). We are social animals. Like a good meal, life is best lived in the company of others. Reach out to an old friend you haven’t talked to in years. Hug your wife. Tell your kids why you find each of them so amazing. A small show of love and compassion for the fellow humans endeavoring to find their own way. Be there for them.
Here is the plan. Do one Epic action each day. It’s so simple. Keep the actions small. Very small. This are no minimums and no time commitments. You should feel 100% certain you can do your next day’s activity — if not, make it easier until you are confident. Small, daily action will take you to amazing heights. It only takes a moment to change your life.
The Epic Challenge
Big things have small beginnings.
If you’ve made it this far, something struck a chord. The idea of living each day with purpose and presence rang true in you. Maybe you’re excited or nervous — don’t ignore what you’re feeling. Capitalize on that energy right now.
Make a commitment today to live each day fully. Momentum is your secret weapon. Try living the Epic life. Each evening before bed, identify the one Epic action you will take the next day. If you miss a day, that’s ok, get back at it the very next day and experience how every part of your life is transformed.
If Epic works for you, share your success with others so they can experience it for themselves. Tell them about how you’re making every day Epic. Share it on Facebook or Twitter (#epicDay). Together we can lift others up, but we have to start with ourselves.