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Happiness: Know yourself, know your options

Recently, I sought out a colleague at work to discuss a comment he had made about developing and presenting viable options for improvements. The sentiment was something like, “Always present at least two viable options, but leave room for the possible third and better options. Don’t hold so tight to what you think you already know that you miss other perspectives.” As I pondered how his advice translated into other areas of life, I found myself reflecting on our student population.

In my role, the visits I have with students are generally with those on the verge of frustration of some sort and almost always it’s rooted in frustration with themselves. Frustration about a past mistake, frustration with others, frustration with rules or process, frustration with a lack in their personal skills or habits, but most often, it can be traced to their lack of understanding “third options;” third options that often only come through knowing oneself. 

As we visit, I seek to lead them down a path of discovering self. Through our visits, I have discovered our time often centers on the same principles and key questions:

  1. You know you. There will always be people willing to solve your life puzzles and challenges for you. While they may have some good ideas here and there, they will always get your path wrong in some (or many) ways. You know yourself best. Take some time to understand YOU. Seek to understand and notice what elements of your life affect you physically and emotionally. Seek to define what happiness and stress look like for your life. Learn to protect your time and build boundaries for your happiness.
  2. Mindfulness matters. Develop a habit of mindfulness and reflection. Each of us will receive ideas and inspiration differently, even if our life backgrounds are grounded in similar values and principles. For some – it’s the quiet of a car, or your home or being outside in nature. For others – it’s in the creation of the arts such as poetry, painting or music. Seek to understand how ideas and clarity come to you and recreate this space as often as you’re able.
  3. Give yourself some space. You don’t have to have your whole life figured out now. Leave latitude for growth. One of the quickest paths to growth is to seek to understand how to trust yourself. Mistakes will be made. Seek to learn from every mistake and as you do, you will come to trust your own judgment about self and others more and more. Clarity often comes through trials, questions and taking steps into the darkness.
  4. Optimism helps. Optimism and hope have been spoken of for centuries. Stories, movies and lore are often focused around hope. There is power in focusing on positive things that may not be present in your current situation. Seek to identify themes or principles that stand out to you as you feel hopeful. These themes can you help you understand some of your core values and lead you to engage in more meaningful opportunities down the road.
  5. Leave room for the “third options” of life. As good as we become in understanding ourselves, researching options and laying plans for the future, there will still be times when there will be a proverbial fork in the road. Remain open and find the third option.

A few favorite questions for reflection:

  1. Where do you find yourself when you’re the happiest and how do you help yourself stay there? Learn to protect your time and have boundaries for your happiness.
  2. What do you find yourself doing when your best ideas come? Recreate this space as often as you can.
  3. What does trust mean to you and who do you grant it to? How can you help others know what it takes to earn your trust? Be as guarded as you need to, but not so guarded you don’t allow for new opportunities for trust, and yourself, to grow.


Tracey Anderson
Director, Student Development

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