real life

'Within 7 months, I ditched my career and left an 18 year relationship. Here's what I learnt.'

It was 2014 and from the outside looking in I had the perfect life. A high flying corporate executive at a global giant, a beautiful home with a white picket fence, a husband and a small child, a couple of European cars in the driveway and international travel. I wanted for nothing but I longed for a different life.

A life that was more humanly connected, more invested in positively impacting the lives of others, more present and more creative. So, I did something a little crazy. I turned my whole life upside in pursuit of happiness. 

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Within a seven-month period, I left a 16-year career at the top of my game, relocated my family from Perth back to Melbourne, left an 18-year relationship and started my own purpose driven business. I gave myself the title of Happiness Hacker and set myself a bold mission to teach 10 million humans how to intentionally adapt in order to future proof happiness by 2025.

When I couldn’t find anyone to help me hack my own happiness or with a way to support me in navigating the path I went out and created it. I used myself as a guinea pig and dived into what I now term imperfect experimentation.

I’m now six years into my hacking happiness journey and there’s no end in site but there’s so much that I’ve learnt about myself and where happiness is found in the process. 

1. Happiness is found at the intersection of longing and avoidance. 

Look closely at what you are longing for and why you have avoided taking action. More often than not we hold ourselves back out of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of loss even though we know in our hearts that long term this change would make us so much happier. 

I know that the greatest opportunity sits on the other side of this intersection so I hold up the mirror and challenge myself constantly to lean into the avoidance and see where it might take me.

2. You are capable of so much more than you realise. 

If someone had told me six years ago that I would be able to live my life in alignment having created a job as a renowned Happiness Hacker enabling me to travel the world sharing my experience, writing books and on the cusp of my own TV show I would have said they were nuts. 

It was fear that led me here and I’ve learnt the more I use my fear as a green light to lean into the possibility the more the universe provides in unexpected ways. The practice of micro bravery has become my greatest asset. Pushing myself to do one small thing daily that scares me has built the courage and confidence to lean into bigger fears over time unlocking potential I just couldn’t see. 

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3. When I started out my goal was to find happiness. But I soon realised happiness is not a goal nor an end state, it’s a way of being.

The best chance we have at happiness is by cultivating daily practices that orient our behaviour to the person we want to be. 

A great example is that I now gift myself the start of each day. Investing my time without distraction, setting the tone for how I want the day to play out by giving it the best chance of being a happy day. I start by connecting with how I feel and allowing those feelings (good and bad to be processed), setting intentions and charging my energy levels with movement. 

4. There is no perfect plan in the realm of hacking happiness. 

There could be a thousand right paths and waiting for the right one to appear will only stand between you and the life you long for. I learnt to trust my intuition (my gut feeling) and allow my actions to breed the clarity on where to go next. 

Giving myself permission to become an imperfect experimenter meant that I could try anything no matter how uncomfortable or unfamiliar it was. There was no failure in experimentation, only opportunity to learn and grow in the process. 

5. Productivity is a disease and you don’t want to catch it. 

My focus on 'doing' had compromised my 'being'. I’d bought into the 'busy epidemic' and the belief that if I filled every waking moment, I would be successful but it was a fast track to burnout. I came to realise that busy = bullshit. The word contains no useful information and more often than not it is code for something else… anxiety, distraction, FOMO, loneliness…

I removed the word 'busy' from my vocabulary and I watched how it changed the noise in my head, the depth of the conversations I had and how I showed up in each moment. 

I learnt to embrace the indulgence of inefficiency by creating the space to think and just be. Ironically, the more space I created for being, the better my work became, the more impact I had and the more fulfilled I felt. I later learnt that it is in the boredom that our brain does its best work, it’s where the dots connect and we solve the big problems. 

I’ve learnt that the joy is in the journey when it comes to hacking happiness, the destination is overrated. True happiness in my eyes is being able to ride the wave of every emotion that life throws at you (because let’s face it, life can be tough) but knowing you can come out the other side just a little better than you were before.

Penny Locaso is the world’s first Happiness Hacker on a mission to teach 10 million humans how to intentionally adapt in order to future proof happiness. She is the author of Hacking Happiness (Wiley $29.95). Visit www.hackinghappy.co 

Feature image: Supplied.

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