Looking for Answers in Life? Here's your Key...

Photo: Amparo Torres

So many of us are feeling stuck in our lives, searching for something we seem to flirt with and skirt around through life: true happiness.

We attend motivational conferences, read self-help books, change careers, see counselors, and take up meditation and yoga – all in the hopes of finding that nugget of information; that light at the end of the tunnel; the “aha” moment; that magical idea which will lead us to a truly happy place in our lives.


Sometimes using these methodologies we find what we need, and go for it.


And sometimes, we leave that motivational conference hopped up and, well, motivated, only for the adrenaline from the event to dissipate within a week. We end up searching for that perfect career/partner/balance/life all over again.


I write about this because I’ve done it all – over and over again. My bookshelf was stacked with self-help issues. I took courses and saw career counselors. I put myself through aptitude tests and attended conferences. I did yoga with the best of them. I filled my agenda with so many activities in search of a happy life, ultimately I burnt out entirely.


And although I am still constantly searching for something (hence the life of a nomadic Professional Hobo – travelers are always searching for something), I can also honestly say I’m happier now than I ever have been, and have found a calling of sorts.

I got the golden nugget; had an “aha” moment; and ran with it. Here’s how you can do it too:



Think of five moments in your life when everything flowed.

All was good, and you found yourself the happiest you’ve ever been. Everything just clicked.


Write it down.

Describe those moments in as much detail as you possibly can. What happened? Where were you? How old were you? Who was with you? What were you doing?

Bring yourself back to those very moments as much as you can, right down to the smell in the air.


See? You’re already feeling happier. But you’re not finished yet.


Find the commonalities between all these moments.

Is there a theme at all? Were you in solitude or surrounded by people? Were you outdoors or in? Was it summer or winter? Working or on vacation? Were you a child, teenager, or adult? Were you on stage? Learning something new? Or teaching somebody?


If you can’t connect the dots with a theme, try to discern what exactly it was about each moment that made you happy and define that instead.




How can you get to that happy place again?

If you realize the biggest common denominator was one of mentorship or teaching, what can you do now to incorporate it into your life again? If you’re not up for a career change to become a teacher, can you volunteer as a big brother or big sister? Or start a small side business or club showing other people how to do that thing you love, like scrap-booking or climbing?

If the common theme was that you were on vacation, then how can you change your life accordingly? What specifically about the vacations made you happy? Exploration? Adventure? Something different and new? Doing absolutely nothing? Or just being away from your crappy job? If it’s the latter, then your first big step is obviously to get another job! And maybe that job could be abroad…


By bringing yourself back to those “happy places” mentally and emotionally, you stand a chance of getting back there again. It’s along the same lines as creating vision boards, playing the prosperity game, and brainstorming up a variety of ways to change your life with no restrictions or judgment.

Just get yourself thinking about the possibilities, and remembering the good times, and you just may find that “aha” moment you have been searching for.


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Guest's picture

This exercise is a great way to identify what makes you happy, which is important to know if you want to live IN the happy. I think happiness is a lifestyle. Once you know what makes you happy, you can start building your lifestyle around it.

I think there are a lot of things that we all have in common that contribute to getting and staying happy - I'll be writing about it over the next few weeks.

Guest's picture

Things to do next spring break..

Guest's picture

Great post. To me, it's all about making active choices. Many people stay unhappy because they let life flow by without making any choices. "Have to" and "should" are the most common words in their vocabulary.

When you realize that everything is a choice that "aha" moment arrives. And when I say everything, I mean everything right from the choice we make each day to continue living.


Guest's picture

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Guest's picture

Congratulation! very interesting story. Good stuff.

Guest's picture

...5 happiest moments :

- growing up in Africa between the age of eight and fifteen, feeling like a "little prince" (I was born in France)

- traveling "hobo style" sleeping by the road around Quebec at the age of nineteen with a friend, experiencing true freedom

- emancipating myself for the first time of my life by working and traveling on my own around Ireland at the age of twenty-one

- four years later, landing in Belgium after a six hours flight in the bay of a cargo airplane then taking a 1000km train trip to be with my family again, safe and alive after a one year job experience in Africa that didn't work out so well

- driving a 4OOkm gravel road up north in Quebec, during a 4 weeks/7500km roadtrip with the same old friend eight years later after our first visit to Canada

now I'm twenty-eight, a good job with good money for the first time of my life but incredibly feeling stuck and unhappy with it.

I don't know how and when but I'll figure my way out, I'm working on it. Maybe it will be something sounding like "travel" and "Canada"...

Thank you Nora Dunn for your insights.

Guest's picture

Nora, that was great. At 5a.m. this kind of reflection on times that were harmonious is a sweet way to start the day. Thank you. Oh, golf, a handful of friends, good wine & conversation, experiencing the Pacific Northwest, and being exhausted by the end of the day....those are the 5 themes working for me. All the best.

Nora Dunn's picture

Thank you all for the great comments!

And beatenbutnotbroken, it appears that maybe embarking on the life of being a Professional Hobo like me might be what you're shooting for...maybe I'll see you on the road! Check out my personal blog if you want some more information...

Guest's picture

On the surface, this sounds great and feels good. Upon further reflection, it feels and reads like the "wisdom" of a young, naive person. Good luck to you.

Guest's picture

Life was easy when you were single and didn´t have children, if you are married and have kids you can feel like you are trapped in a life where you have to work to feed your family and thats maybe why sometimes you feel unhappy. Everyday you can have good moments (watching a movie, eating something nice, meeting an old friend) and can have bad moments (stucked in to traffic, angry boss at work, discussion with your wife) and all depends on how you react to that, if you feel relax and try not to accept the things that occurs in your life and try to enjoy the goog things probably you can live happy. Remembering happy moments can make us feel better and that could help us to make other people to feel good too.

Good luck to all of you

Guest's picture

Hi, I am a 28 year old female living miserably although I have all the essentials in my personal life that I dont take for granted but I am ready to scream at the top of my lungs. I work and go to school full time i have two sons that require most of my spare time and i have a spouse that cant stop talking about his failed past mind you he is very intelligent and just promoted at his job. I am sick of this routine lifestyle and i really need to find my happiness soon or i may admit myself to a therapist. I am a big procrastinator and i have big dreams but seem to get thrown off before i can complete them. I hate my job but there is nothing out there to apply to that fits my experience. I love helping others so much but i cant seem to find that aha, what to do???

Guest's picture

I think I was born with short term memory, because I hardly remember anything of my past. I also was born with a reading comprehension disability as well as horrible grammar skills. I used to be extremely happy up until the age of around 12 then everything changed. I don't even really remember what happened or what triggered everything and it is possible my brain blocked out bad events in my life. I have a dad who I care about, but he had a lot of emotional issues. Always quick to his anger problems and would never listen to anything I said and if I tried to talk he would discipline me, so I eventually just stopped talking to him about everything(with the exception of sports which is the only thing I could talk to him about without it ending up with me getting hit or yelled at).I also always felt that everything I did was never good enough for my dad. I always tried my hardest in school and at sports, but since I wasn't a straight A student or a university bound athlete my dad always found something to criticize me at. After my freshman year of high school my dad stopped going to all my track & field and basketball games, (because he said he had to work more). It hurt my feelings, because my younger brother was a star athlete at soccer and baseball and never missed 1 of his games ever. Going through changes in my life in late elementary and junior high years I had no one to turn to. I had millions of questions, but I couldn't ask my dad, nor did I find out at school as I went to a private christian school that didn't talk to us about sex ed(we had the class, but they separated the guys and the girls and just told us basically to never hit women, treat them like God would treat them and so on) It was at this time my body was changing and it left me confused and frustrated, because I thought I was freak of nature since no one told me about these changes I would have. It wasn't until high school that I started figuring things out on my own, but by then things had already settled in. I have had depression since the age of 12 and it has slowly been getting worse over the years. I was and always have been a very friendly approachable person, but after I graduated high school and started working I started hanging out less and less with my family and friends. I have got to the point in my life where I just don't care anymore about what happens to me. Every day I think about killing myself, but I never do it for two reasons and two reasons only and they are because I know how much it would hurt my family and the other reason being I would go to hell. I want to enjoy my life, but I don't think it will ever be possible. I used to believe and trust in God that he would help me, but I feel like I am lost and he hasn't been there for me in my time of need. I don't know even know if I am a christian anymore just for thinking those things. I just want answers and I want to know why God allows these things to happen to me, why didn't he give me a father who cared more about me and told me that he loved me and taught me how to do things or tell me about things that would change in my body, had he done these things I don't think I would be in this situation at all and might be happy.

Guest's picture

Dear I Need Help....You sound like a very interesting and sensitive person. Sometimes it feels like God is not here for us, but I believe He is waiting on us to sincerely want and need His help, not just a temporary fix for a passing need, but a true Friend and Savior. An all day everyday God. I just pray you don't give up, because you sound like you have so much to give back(to others). And isn't that "what it's all about"...When we get our eyes off of ourselves and see the needs of others our needs are met.
Keep on searching.

Guest's picture

i think answers are questions in disguise

Guest's picture

This may be a stupid question and I will probably regret asking it but here goes, what if you can't think of 5? I am a little lost in life and what my purpose is and as interesting as this story is, I could never hire a life coach, or go to seminars, or even escape the daily chaos for more then 5 minutes to reflect on a whole lot. So I guess my question is, what would my next step be if I couldn't find those 5 moments?

Guest's picture

not a stupid question. I cudn't think of five either

Guest's picture

I guess the next step, however hard it may be, is to allow yourself 10 opportunities to discover those 5 moments in your life. Good luck and I hope it helps a little bit at least.

Guest's picture

Choosing happiness, simple and doable.