Your life is full of potential meaning - but how do you find it? Here are ten top tips to find happiness
I am an atheist.
It's probably best to get that out of the way up front because for some reason it shocks American readers (though not British, as we're a godless lot). In other words, I don't believe in a deity, nor that 'God' that has a purpose for us all, nor that we were put on earth for a 'reason' ('walking petri dishes for our genes' is more like it, as a friend of mine once said).
But that doesn't mean that I think my own life lacks purpose. I believe that our lives are what we make of them - but that finding the right path can sometimes be difficult.
Mid-life is often a time when you're floundering slightly and aren't sure in which way your life should be headed. Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you've got most of your material needs sorted out (house, car, internet access yadda yadda). You're probably old enough to have done a bunch of things in your life, some of which were good and others which you regret, and you had a number of plans for yourself, some of which have worked out, while others haven't. So what now?
The person you are may or may not be the person you thought you would be, and here you are, half way through. However, midlife is a great time to take charge - knowing that there is more sand in the bottom of that hourglass than there is left in the top can focus your mind wonderfully. Try these ten tips to help you focus on how to be happy.
1 Write down what your strengths are. Are you using those strengths? If not, set about using them. Happiness largely depends on focusing on our strengths rather than regretting our weaknesses.
2 Write an advert about yourself as if it was for a personal column. Are those glowing adjectives about yourself really the way you live your life at the moment? If not, why not? Set about becoming the person you secretly know you are inside.
3 Write down the things you do in your life and note which things leave you feeling good about yourself and which leave you feeling down. Now work out ways to do more of the former and less of the latter - don't waste precious time on things you hate (I'll tell you for nothing that after doing this exercise, I jacked in a job that I hated and have never regretted it for an instant).
4 Ask yourself: If I won the lottery tomorrow what would I do differently in my life? Now find ways to do those things without actually winning. If you can't go and live in the south of France, could you decorate your house in the Provencal style? Buy daylight bulbs so the house is full of light? Take a holiday there?
5 Ask yourself: What would really make me happy in life? Now find ways to do it.
6 Ask yourself: If I only had two more years to live, what would I most want to do? Now find ways to do it now. Don't keep putting off the important things in life.
7 Ask your friends and family what things they think you're really good at. Keep a list, then look at your life and work out whether you are using your strengths. I you're not, work out how to do it. You may be surprised at how glowing your references are from the people around you.
8 What did you always dream of doing as a child, when you about six or seven. Have you done those things? If not, can you still do them?
9 What values did you support when you were a young adult? Were you active in a political party or a social group: did you want to do VSO? Did you continue to support those values? If not, would they still be important now? Many of us get cynical and twisted as we get older, and lose our idealism.
10 Imagine your epitaph/headstone/obituary. Decide what you'd like those to say and set about making it happen!