This guest post was written by Chris Gaddis.
I want to thank Marc and Angel for allowing me to be a guest on their blog. Marc was nice enough to appear on a radio show I host in New York (download my radio interview with Marc here). He knew I was starting my own blog at chrisjgaddis.com and he was more than generous in allowing me this opportunity.
As I was thinking about this opportunity and what to write I thought back to the whole reason that I am now doing what I am doing for a living. I will spare you the long story and just give you the key info that you will hopefully find useful.
The secret to happiness is not in doing what one likes,
but in liking what one does.
– James M. Barrie
My wife and I graduated from Keuka College, a beautiful college on Keuka Lake in New York. Graduation weekend is always held on Memorial Day, so my family and my wife’s family decided to rent a house on the lake for the weekend. Ever since then, we’ve made it an annual family tradition. Every Memorial Day weekend we rent a house on the lake together as a family.
In 2009 during our annual stay at the lake, through a long series of events that I feel were truly meant to be, our dog Athena ended up getting hit by a car and died. Looking back it seems as if my whole life’s purpose flashed before my eyes in this one solitary moment. The events and occurrences of my life up to that point seemed to fit together like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle – everything fit, but the message of the puzzle was still unclear. But in that moment of tragedy, the different pieces came together in a more enlightening way than they ever had before.
Needless to say it was a pretty sudden and unexpected death that affected my wife and me greatly. I could not shake the feeling it was somehow meant to be and immediately tried to decipher why that was. What I learned, summed up in one sentence is, “Life is too short not to follow your heart.”
A New Beginning
And this is what my blog is all about. I decided that I wanted to spend more time with my wife and kids. I wanted to work for myself and stop making other people rich from my efforts. I came up with a plan to do this and I have now implemented it.
This is not an easy thing to do. Athena died almost two years ago. This plan was supposed to be implemented within one year and I am just beginning to make significant progress now. I feel a bit guilty I did not get it done sooner. Unfortunately, life is like that. We all have the best intentions, but ultimately life gets the best of us and we find ourselves 15 years later asking, “How did this happen? Where did the time go?”
In the end, happiness is different for everyone. It could mean any number of things. I am a firm believer that happiness is a choice we can make. Whether it is being happy with our self, our spouse, our job or something else. To find true happiness you have to follow your heart and intuition. You have to be who you are and follow a lifestyle and career that fulfills you; no matter what that entails or what people say about it. And it is never too late to do so.
After Athena’s death, and in my search to help it all make sense, I put together a personal action plan that followed six simple steps. It helped me take a snapshot of my life and analyze where I am now and where I want to go. So I want to leave you with this 6 step process to getting what you want out of life.
- Create a mission statement. – Mine was simply “To translate what gives me joy, fulfillment and makes me genuinely happy into a career that will allow me to work for myself and spend more time with my family.” This meant starting my own business as a coach to help individuals and small business owners get what they want out of their life and business. Formulating this sentence allows us to create a short mission statement that summarizes exactly what we want from life, which will help to keep it in the forefront of our minds when we’re making important decisions.
- Make a list of your primary priorities. – This list will make your decisions easier as you will know what’s most important to you. Anytime there is a conflict consult this list and make the decision based on your priorities. Here is an example of my list: Family, Church, Health, Work / Money, Service to Others, Hobbies.
- Take an inventory. – List every single major entity in your life – the people, organizations, career, hobbies, and anything else you spend time on in your life. Write a short summary of each. Explain what each one means to you, what you get from it, and if you are neglecting other areas of your life because of it.
- Make decisions. – Take this list and make a decision on every aspect of your life. Decide whether time you spend on certain activities could be spent helping you achieve goals in other areas of your life. Decide if you will continue some activities, change others, or start a new one. Time is the most precious commodity we have; do not waste it.
- Develop a plan. – Develop a game plan of what has to take place to reach your dreams and make things happen. Setup measurable goals for your life. Break it all down into time frames of a week, a month, a year and then longer – 5, 10, 20, 30 years out. These will constantly change and evolve so check them and update them frequently.
- Schedule it, tell everyone and take action. – The most important step. By scheduling your goals and your action items it allows you to set definite deadlines. That gives you a better chance of sticking to it. If you tell everyone what you are doing you are now creating ownership of your goals. And of course nothing can stand in your way as long as you’re taking decisive action. If you find yourself making excuses, stop!
I know it may seem crazy that some dog changed my life, but it was the lessons I learned from Athena’s accident that changed my life. We all learn differently. And despite my loss, I’m grateful for the lessons and the opportunities that have risen from it. If you’re looking for further guidance on creating happiness in your life I recommend the short but powerful book The Four Agreements.
If you liked what you read here please feel free to visit Chris Gaddis’ website at chrisjgaddis.com and subscribe to his blog. If some of you need assistance in creating your own Personal Action Plan he would be happy to e-mail you a copy of his. Just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by: Luca Nicalli