I decided a while back that this is a subject I would revisit on a regular basis in my own time and in my own thoughts and consequently in this blog.
This week I am in Thailand with my family enjoying some winter sun and fulfilling some of the travel ambitions of my youth. Last week, however, I was at a large trade show in London. I spent a couple of days in meetings, talking with people about the industry in which I have worked for 12 years. It was great to meet up with some people and talk shop for a while. Invariably I discussed my own availability as a consultant with some, and the single refrain that I found myself saying over and over was my willingness to work on time-limited projects.
Having quit the rat-race to structure my life in a way that gives me greater freedom and enjoyment, time-limiting projects is crucial. This doesn't need to mean only short term projects, but it does need to mean that they are not full-time. This blog and this site is my main focus and the reason behind this is that it makes me happy. Not that other things don't, but this blog is a reliable constant and it drives me to do things.
Although my tastes have evolved as I have grown as a person, and as my expendable income grew in years of fruitful employment, happiness was never dependent on these changes, and the reason is that I was pretty content when I had nothing.
So the question I intend to put to myself on a regular basis is:
What made me happy when I was in my late teens and early twenties and am I doing enough of it now?
Avoiding one or two rather base responses... the answer is that, as an 18 year old, I spent hours imagining myself outdoors; visiting wild places - particularly wandering in the mountains - and writing about it. I derived so much enjoyment from a day in the Peak District, three weeks in the Italian alps or just tramping around the footpaths of Lincolnshire on a day off. And I enjoyed writing.
Like many a naïve youngster, in the years after university, I submitted a couple of articles to travel magazines but if truth be told I hadn’t done anything of interest and I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to go about learning how to do it better. I drifted on the currents of life, an ambition unfulfilled.
Many years later, when embarking on this life-changing journey to step away from full-time employment and the safety of a single source of income, I have figured out that this question of happiness is more pertinent than ever.
Whatever I was going to do had to be enjoyable. As a child you test the world - picking things up and casting them away just as quickly. But, by the time you reach your early twenties I think you kind of know what things give you pleasure and of course, at that age the vast majority of us are doing those things with next to no money. In the pursuit of happiness there is much to be said for things that cost little.
Just as, 20 years ago, I used to take a walk in the Lincolnshire Wolds or go off to the Peak District for a weekend when I didn’t even own a car, now I can step out of my house and find this same identical enjoyment in the surrounding countryside. A few weeks ago it started snowing. It is was horrible, windy, wet, sleety snow that stood no chance of settling on the already sodden ground. My wife, probably seeing my excitement, offered to do the school run, enabling me to go out earlier and enjoy the “awful” weather. At some point I sat on a log and drank a flask of tea. My gloveless fingers were numb, the boots that I hadn’t worn in ages were starting to give me blisters but what I felt inside was the same uplifting feeling I got as younger man. My zeal untamed, I felt the same happiness of youth in the simple pleasure of being outdoors.
This has not been the case for a good part of the last 10 years or more but, again thanks to the pages of this blog, I have now embarked on a journey to ensure that I do a lot more of what makes me happy.
Now enjoy this massive dinosaur type thingy that joined us for lunch the other day... it also made me happy.