Are You One of the 9 to 11% of Americans Who…?

…would report feeling “daily worry and stress without a lot of happiness and enjoyment” in your life? Because according to the long-standing Gallup “U.S. Mood” Poll, 9 to 11 percent of Americans feel that way. Apparently and not surprisingly, the numbers were even higher immediately following the 2016 election, reaching a four-year high of 13.1%.

Personally, I fall into that depressing bucket now. But I’m also dealing with a lot of stress – fights with my boyfriend, anxiety about my career not moving forward fast enough (I’m 35), drinking too much to deal with the stress of uncertainty, and the general fear of Trump and losing access to Obamacare.

I used to be a lot more excited about life and my career in my twenties. The upside of the fact that I’m less happy now is that the happiness in my twenties made me somewhat dreamy and complacent, and so I wasn’t working as hard as I should have at my writing. Now, the fire is lit under my a** and I have been writing a ton more to deal with the anger at myself for not being further ahead.

While I don’t always experience daily stress and worries, because I do have amazing days where I feel recharged and refreshed, I do think I’d put myself in the 9 – 11% bucket of Americans who are struggling to find fulfillment.

So, what do you do if, like me, you realize that you would put yourself in that bucket?

Well, for me it’s all about testing variables to improve. Experimenting with your life. Making small changes and tweaks to see if you feel happier or more fulfilled from them.

Here are some things I’ve done and/or plan to do in the future:

  • Really analyzing my interactions with people to see if they uplift me
  • Trying natural anxiety relief supplements, like Omega 3 pills (heavy on the EPA and less on DHA)
  • Spending less time staring at my phone in public places
  • Writing EVERY DAY to push my career forward
  • Exercising at least once a week (wasn’t doing that before, d’oh!)

Would you put yourself in the 9-11% bucket, and if so, how do you plan to change it?

How Would You Answer This Question?

What would you say if someone asked you if you agreed with the below statement?

“I’m confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.”

I would say yes. But I happen to be a pretty optimistic person generally (if, anxious).

In a study at Clark University completed by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, 655 thirtysomethings were asked the same question – if they agreed with the above statement.

And guess what percentage said yes? 87%. Not only that, but more than three quarters said they still feel like “anything is possible.”  That’s pretty impressive, especially considering how many thitysomethings feel like they aren’t where they want to be career-wise or personally (That’s my informal, completely un-researched opinion after talking to my friends).

Arnett, the researcher, was surprised by these results, and while he said they are admirable, he also felt they were unrealistic. That’s because he also asked these thirtysomethings if they have gotten as far in their careers as they’d hoped to be by now. And 56% of respondents (born between 1975 and 1984) said they haven’t gotten as far in their careers as they’d have hoped to by now. And 17% said they are not in a relationship now but would like to be.

Maybe it’s because we may not feel like we’re at the ‘destination’ of where we want to be, but we’re enjoying the ‘journey’ a heck of a lot. Personally, I do love the fact that I have more time and freedom right now than people with children or very demanding jobs. That time has allowed me to explore screenwriting and TV writing as a career.

We also might not be settling for less. We’re realizing that it may take a longer time to get exactly what we want, but it’s way better than settling for a mediocre career or relationship situation that society tells us is what we should have in our 30s.

What Are You Waiting For In Your Thirties?

Sorry for the long post delay. I feel like I’ve waited way too long- which is the theme of this post.

Do you ever feel like you’re waiting around for that day when your life will get much better? For that moment you are finally in the shape of your life? For the year you can quit your job and retire? For that future time period when you can travel the world? And then you can be happy?

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Sometimes I catch myself waiting in this way. But what I’ve learned this year is that it’s almost impossible to be happy later if you can’t be happy now. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying- it’s my go to habit. I can feel myself clenching up sometimes, preparing for the worst. I guess I’ve always felt like somehow my anxiety helps me to get things done.

However, lately, when I focus on manually taking down my anxiety levels and allowing myself to be happy now, I still get things done. I don’t fall into a valley of hedonism like I’ve been afraid of doing. Nothing falls apart because- god forbid- I haven’t worried about it today. My anxiety hasn’t seemed to be necessary to have a productive day.

This lack-of-waiting-to- be-happy mentality brought up thoughts of another trip with Jane. We haven’t taken a trip together just for fun in over seven years. Last time we went to Austin, so this time we picked the equally bizarre city of Portland, and it was wonderful.

At first it felt weird planning a trip purely for fun, but why wait?And why not? We just got back yesterday night, and we were so happy we’d made the leap, took the trip, and didn’t wait for some ‘better time’ in the future.

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First night in Portland!

You are allowed to enjoy life right now. Choose happiness right this moment. Of course you will feel sad and anxious sometimes, and that’s absolutely okay and actually good and normal. But anxiety doesn’t need to be the status quo. You can feel all the feels. But you don’t have to stay miserable..or anxiously await a better time.The future is uncertain. Choose to be happy now. What are you waiting for?

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Blue Star Donuts!

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Voodoo!

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Portland Love!

The Bowling Ball Leaning Dilemma, or Trying to Control the Uncontrollable

It’s been awhile since I’ve last gone bowling, but it’s been barely any time since I’ve worried about something. Both of these things are connected by a bad habit.

You see, I have a ridiculously useless habit when I go bowling. I throw the ball down the lane (and I seriously mean throw, as I have no technique. I only go bowling for fun or birthday parties). Once I’ve thrown the ball, I watch its trajectory down the lane, and then, very predictably, I lean my entire body in the direction I want the ball to go.

This crazy-looking full body lean is sometimes accompanied by arm waving, pushing an imaginary force that connects me to the ball and will accomplish a strike by telepathy. Astonishingly, my leaning telepathy has zero effectiveness in getting the ball to change course. All the leaning does is scratch my itch to DO something.

Lately, I’ve decided to pay attention to the hum of worry that naturally clouds my mind from the moment I wake up. I vaguely worry that I’ll do something wrong and wind up with people mad at me, or lose friends. I worry that I’ll forget all of the tasks I must do later that day or “some day soon.” I worry that when I’m happy for no reason I’m not being ‘reasonable’ or ‘down to earth enough.’ I worry about being happy in general, because if I’m happy now, then I must have settled.

Take a look at your own life- is there a sheen of mild to medium worry coursing through your moments? Worry might have become so habitual in your life that you barely notice it anymore. Maybe you feel like worry  helps you accomplish something by keeping tasks in the forefront of your mind. On the contrary, think of worry as the equivalent of that bowling lean, where your best effort will always be completely useless. Sometimes when you feel like something is helping, your instincts are actually fooling you.

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A Beautiful Frustum In Your Thirties

Seth Godin, one of my favorite business bloggers, recently wrote a blog about pyramids without a top. In geometry, these types of shapes are called frustums.

We spend our career lives trying to get to the top of our pyramid- we want to be the career elite, the famous, the special, the 1%. And why not? Fantastic career success is a big and beautiful possibility.

However, with the advent of the digital age, more and more of us will find it easier than ever to get our work out there in some form, but harder and harder to gain the fame and well-known 1% type of success (because everyone else is getting their work out too). For example, it’s easier than ever for anyone to publish a book all by themselves, but now there are more books available than ever before. Instead of waiting to get a book published, you can publish your book and sell it on Amazon or multiple other internet sources completely free. You can do the same with music and web tv (webisodes)- you can quickly and easily get your music or webseries online and direct to users all by yourself and for almost no cost.

Will you be the next Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga? The next Stephen King or Tina Fey? Maybe. Maybe not. But can you be a success and make good money and have a powerful, impactful, positive life without being a headliner like the above names? Absolutely.

The hard part isn’t in being in a frustum of an industry- where there’s no real peak, just more and more opportunity for entry- the hard part is in accepting the frustum and knowing you can still make a great life. There’s lots of room in frustums for lots of people to be successes- it’s just a different kind of success.

Even when you’re not well-known or at what you think is the peak of your career pyramid, you can still be a pretty damn good school teacher or time-share seller or yoga instructor or animal shelter manager. You can write amazingly good books or make insanely gorgeous music and get it all out into the world easier than ever because the base of the frustum is wider than ever. If you can accept this shapeshifted new world change, you may just realize that you’re more successful (and happier) than you ever dreamed you could be.

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Happy With Less (Emotionally)

If you read this blog with any regularity, you probably know that I’m a screenwriter and TV writer. Which means I scour and devour (yay, rhyming!) all things screenwriting related. One of the blogs I love is called Screenwriting from Iowa. It’s worth a read even if you’re not a writer. Two days ago, the author referenced a quote from Robert Rodriguez, a director/writer best known for his films Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, and tons of others. His career took off when he directed/produced/wrote the super low budget El Mariachi. Rodriguez basically took the reins of his career and catapulted himself into Hollywood. Here’s the quote:

“I say when you want to do anything you need to reduce your ‘I need list’ to very little. Because if you start going, ‘Well, I need a crew first. I need a budget. I need a set…’—the longer that list gets, the further away you’re going to accomplish that. So you need to shrink that down to ‘I need nothing. I’ve got everything here.’ If you can do that you’re off and running.”
-Robert Rodriguez

When I read that quote, I thought, damn – that’s applicable to life too, isn’t it? In the same way this current craze of “de-cluttering” and minimalism in terms of material items seems to be dominating our collective unconscious, why not look for ways to de-clutter our mental plates?  What if you could be happy without an amazing job, marriage, or a child (examples of so many things on the mind of a typical 30-something)?

I’m trying to think about that myself. Right now I’ve hit none of the ‘typical’ benchmarks a 30-something might have achieved in our society. I have amazing friends and parents. And whatever happens in my external career, I do have a passion for stories and writing, and that passion is my beacon when times are challenging.

So, I guess the point is – maybe there’s something to the idea of ‘de-cluttering’ your idea of what makes you happy.

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her

Are You At Your Income Happiness Cap?

I’ve known for awhile that there’ve been scientific studies showing that your income correlates with your level of happiness only up to a certain amount and then caps off.  This is an interesting tidbit to remember in your thirties, as your income possibly grows more than it has when you were younger.

A study in 2010 found the income level happiness cap to be $75,000. So according to this research, you’d get progressively happier up to $75,000 in income and then your happiness level would remain consistent. Let’s adjust this for 2015 inflation and then adjust it once again for a major city like New York, San Francisco, or LA, plus let’s be generous, so we’ll make the number $120,000.

Now, $120,000 a year is a good chunk of money for someone in their thirties, and nothing to scoff about even in New York, especially for one person and not a household. If you made $120,000, do you think you’d be significantly happier making $140,000?

I guess it depends on who you are, and how well you know yourself. I believe happiness  definitely caps at a certain income level… that level might just be different for different people, but it’ll still work the same way.

I believe there’s a Maslow’s pyramid of needs associated with income. If you don’t know about this pyramid, click the link above…Maslow’s pyramid is a very clear way to view how our goals are naturally set up in life.

Ok, here’s a stab what I think the income pyramid of needs is:

1. Providing basic security items such as paying rent and buying food.

This is the basic bottom level of what money needs to provide- food and shelter.

2. Adding personal touches to our basic needs

At this level, you don’t only eat and pay rent, you can also buy a specific soap you like for your home, and buy a nicer can of beans than Goya.

3. Some disposable income

Once you get to this level, you can move beyond simple food and shelter and possibly go see a movie, or have dinner with friends

4. A good amount of disposable income

Here’s where you can purchase bigger items such as higher education, a vehicle, and a big screen tv. Of course, this is where a lot of people get into trouble and get stuck. Debt occurs the most at this level.

4. Money for the future and savings

This is a major jump that some people never get to.  At this level, you’re mostly out of debt or on a good payment plan, and are setting aside money in a savings account and a retirement fund.

5. Money to give away

At this level, you have all the money you need, and your future accounts are funded. Now you can really help others. This is a nice, happy level to be at.

Beyond the last level, I guess you can give even MORE to others, or sock even more money away or buy a ranch and a bunch of ponies or something, but it’s all extra from there.

So maybe it’s actually not a yearly income thing- maybe people simply need to make enough money to climb to the top of the pyramid, and then more money doesn’t really bring more joy.

What do you think?

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