We are what we love. It’s as simple as that. If we do the things we love, we show our real selves to the world. If we show our real selves to the world, that will give us the best shot at living a happy life.
So try it.
Start making a list of all the things you love.
Include everything: people, places, states of mind, activities, food and drink, objects, times and seasons, nature and senses.
Nothing is too trivial. If you love it, list it.
The little spit sink at the dentist.
Getting a letter in the mail.
The more things on the list, the better. Get subtle. Get nuanced:
Looking down at the ground from a plane.
The faces of kids in line to see Santa.
The smell of viburnums.
List it all out. List out at least 100 things. Keep the list on your phone and add to it as you think of more and more things. Add to this list for your whole life.
List out all the things you dislike or hate, too:
Try to get at least 50 things on this list. We are also the things we don’t like.
Why do this?
Because when you know what you love, you know who you are. You have self-knowledge. This self-knowledge allows you to make conscious choices about who you hang out with, what you do for work, and how you recreate.
If you know you love the outdoors and talking face-to-face with people (because you have these on your list) you’re less likely to take a cubicle job in a call center. You might not know what your ideal job is, but at least you won’t make that mistake.
Your list can function as your “true north.” You can consult it whenever you feel bewildered, or have to to make thorny decisions.
It is incredibly helpful to have a printed list of who you are, because even though we think we know these things, we forget. Then we get lost. And then we make really big mistakes from this lack of self-knowledge.
Mistakes which might have been avoided if we had just consulted our list. It’s like forgetting to get the milk because you thought you’d remember. You should have put it on the list, dummy.
We frequently forget that we are a complex composite of all the random and incongruent things we love. We forget that if we want to be happy, we can’t forget the milk.
If our friends and our work and our fun activities are all aligned with the things we love, that is our best shot at being happy.
That’s why we need to put it on the list. So we’ll remember.