by Gopi Kallayil: When I think about fully living life, these questions come to mind:
Are you hopeful? Are you contributing?
Are you living the life you want?
Are you making a difference?
Are you pursuing what’s important to you, what aligns with what you value most?
I decided long ago that the three things I value most are peace of mind, freedom, and happiness. I believe these values are held dear by all human beings.
My hope is that my book, “The Happy Human” can help accelerate this state of happiness.
The key to my happiness comes from embracing the “human” in “Happy Human.” It’s not just about being happy, it’s about being human. For me, that means being completely true to who I am, to what matters to me.
If that means leaving my native country to seek uncertain employment in an unfamiliar country because seeing the world had long been a dream of mine, then so be it.
If that means quitting a lucrative job that would shoot me ahead on my career path because I realize the work isn’t resonating with me, sign me up.
When we’re true to who we are, when we revel in and express our authentic selves, embrace our human flaws, feel compassion for ourselves and one another as we make our way in life, we can discover enormous inner freedom, even if circumstances prevent us from external freedom.
We can feel peace. Joy. We can feel happy.
I attribute much of my happiness to a combination of the wisdom practices I learned growing up in India. I’ve found fulfillment by working in the tech industry. It has provided billions of people with access to information and tools that otherwise would have previously been unavailable to them.
I often tell people I feel lucky to have won the ovarian lottery, meaning I feel incredibly blessed to have been born into a culture where practicing yoga and meditation have been a part of people’s daily lives for hundreds of years.
My yoga and meditation practices help me tap into and foster a deep sense of joy. They also help provide me with the confidence to embrace the human experience fully—going for it, full-out, even if, maybe especially if, I fall on my face.
And I have. Many times.
I sang live at Burning Man, even though I sing slightly off-key. I was terrified. I entered a triathlon, which involved swimming in a lake.
Before that, I’d only swum in a pool, always within four feet of an edge to grab on to. I nearly drowned.
I spoke at Toastmasters, just a few months after arriving from South Asia with no job and $7,000 to my name. I was awful. But I learned. I kept going. I got better.
Without failure, I wouldn’t have had the successes I’ve had, both in my personal life and in my professional career.
I wouldn’t feel the sense of freedom and joy.
Working in Silicon Valley has helped me take risks, because tech companies encourage failing, and failing big.
One of the keys to Google’s success is their willingness to fail.
And we fail most of the time.
But because we fail so much and so often, we learn a lot, experience a lot, and we then become successful.
It’s fascinating that an industry that’s all about the artificial—electronic brains, social media personas, driverless cars, fake store greeters who offer us movies and books the minute we log on to Netflix or Amazon—also embraces human fallibility more than almost any other industry.
How do we fully embrace ourselves and the human experience?
How do we find the confidence to risk, fall on our faces, get back up again, and live expansive lives?
What are the internal shifts we can make that will get us to this place of joy?
Studies show that people who are happiest, most resilient, and unapologetic about embracing life have found a deep sense of purpose, one that resonates, that lights them up, and in turn, lights up others.
How do you find that purpose?
You sit, listen, observe.
You pause. “Pausing,” writes Rachel O’Meara, “offers you a chance to remember what ‘lights you up.’” And deep down, you know what that is.
It doesn’t matter if you pause for two weeks, two days, or even two minutes.
The point is, you need to be by yourself.
Pausing is really creating a little bit of spaciousness inside, and in that pause, that space, you reconnect with yourself.
Happiness takes commitment, action, love.
Journeying toward happiness is itself cause for happiness.
Remember, these are the crucial pieces:
1. Finding purpose in our lives, which gives us meaning and direction.
Even as a somewhat anxious, angst-ridden adolescent, I wanted to explore the horizons of a life beyond the confines of my home, and finally, I was quite drawn to exploring the inner life through yoga and meditation, from which I derived an incredible sense of joy.
Over time, I arrived at my own meaning and purpose in life, which is to live to my highest potential and to help others realize their own. My meaning and purpose stem from a place of deep joy.
2. Reframing the stories we tell ourselves that make us unhappy or imprison us, which will empower us.
The importance of reframing events and retelling the story in your head because at the end of the day, happiness is actually driven not by events but by your interpretation of them.
As Stoic philosopher Epictetus said 2,000 years ago, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things.”
I’ve been blessed to meet people around the world who’ve survived horrendous experiences, reframed their stories, and gone on to live deeply meaningful lives.
3. Being comfortable in our own skin, absolutely 100 percent true to and happy with who we are, which will enable us to go forth and live a full life, without apology, spreading our purpose and our 100 percent fallible, fully human, joyous self with others.
And letting your own story unfold as opposed to someone else’s life and someone else’s expectations and someone else’s mood.
Just be yourself and live the life that you want to live and are meant to live, which sets you on a path to inner freedom and happiness. That takes courage.
When you’ve got these three ingredients down, it’s so much easier to take risks, to make a difference in the world, or, as Steve Jobs said, “Make a dent in the universe.”
As you read through my book, “The Happy Human,” you will move from self-discovery to resilience to grabbing life by the tail – totally happy with who you are.