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How To Figure Out What Makes You Happy

Oh hey there,

I’m Sarah Von Bargen.

Want to look at your calendar and your bank statement and think “Yup, I made awesome choices”? I’ll show you how to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose.

How Much Happiness Is “Enough”? + 4 Things To Consider

I’m walking in the direction of a brass band; I can hear the horns from two blocks away. It’s golden hour and the sun is filtering through the big oaks that line the streets of my neighborhood.

My little dog and I are trotting in the direction of “Under The Bridge,” the monthly music series my neighborhood association puts on where various local bands, well, perform under a nearby bridge. 

And on my way there I’m struck by how happy I am.

The sun, the trees, the music, the sense of community and whimsy. I want to grin all the way down to my bones

But it doesn’t always work like this, does it? We won’t always notice when we’re happy.

We’re weirdly bad at even knowing what makes us happy! (That’s why I made you this free workbook.)

We want MORE happiness. We want to know what “enough” happiness looks like.

I’d love to be able to offer you a mathematical formula for calculating your Personal Happiness Number, but I can’t. Not anymore than I can tell you where you’ll meet your partner, if that book you’re working on will be a bestseller, or if your new job will completely fulfill you.

BUT! I can offer you 4 things to consider when it comes to your personal version of happiness

Let’s double check our definition of “happiness”

When we say “happiness” what do we mean?

Do we mean: 

  • Belly laughs?
  • A quiet sense of contentment?
  • Feeling supported + seen?
  • Doing things that fill our cup?
  • Spine tingling joy? 
  • Looking at our day-to-day life and knowing it’s the right fit for us? 

I imagine everyone’s answer is different. Figuring out what happiness looks like and feels like for YOU - not for your partner, your mom, or your best friend - is the first step in the right direction. Share on X
And as we think on this, let’s also consider the J.D. Salinger quote:

“Happiness is a solid, joy is a liquid.”

They’re both lovely and important and let’s not confuse them for each other. Let’s not put pressure on ourselves to experience joy on a constant basis, when maybe what we really need is the slow, steady presence of happiness that we’ve built into our lives.

You’re allowed to experience happiness every day (you don’t have to save it or earn it)

Have you ever “saved” the happy-making stuff for the weekend? Or vacation? Or told yourself that you don’t “deserve” to watch funny animal videos because the kitchen is still messy after dinner? 

#raisedhandemoji  We’ve all done it!

So this is your evergreen reminder:You don’t have to save or earn happiness. You’re allowed to experience it every day. Share on X

You’re allowed to spend 15 seconds making your lunch look nice and eat it on the deck in the sun even if you have unanswered emails. You’re allowed to call your funniest friend and catch up on her shenanigans even if the dog needs a walk. You’re allowed to sit on the sofa and re-read your favorite novel even if your work presentation didn’t go very well.

How your work day went, how productive you were, what you ate or how much money you spent does not equate to how much happiness you’re “allowed” to experience.

Happiness isn’t the complete absence of sorrow, annoyance, or bullshit


Have you ever told yourself the “I’ll be happy when …..” story?

When I make six figures, when that family member deals with their issues, when the kids are more independent, when my commute is shorter etc etc etc.

Let’s not lie – having a shorter commute, kids who can do their own laundry, and more discretionary income will definitely remove stressors in your life.

But fewer stressors isn’t the same as more happiness.

I sort of think of this like health. When I’m healthy – I don’t have a cold or my period or a headache – I don’t even really think about my health. I don’t prance around thinking about how healthy I am.

When I remove stressors from life, I usually just … forget about them. We fix the leaking bathroom faucet and then never think about it again. Our neighbor finally trains their barky dog and we just forget that it was ever loud.

If you need it,  talk to a professional

I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a therapist! I’m someone who has an M.A. in Applied Linguistics so I know more than the average person about neuroscience and how the stories we tell ourselves + the words we use to describe ourselves affect us.

But if you’ve been actively unhappy or truly struggling with your mental health, eating a nice lunch in the sun isn’t going to help. If you’re struggling with depression – rather than low-key mopes or just kind of feeling bored and stuck – talking to a professional or considering medication can be incredibly helpful.

Find out what’s covered by your insurance and your work benefits. Check out Psychology Today’s Find A Therapist tool. If finances are an issue, look into therapists who have sliding scale fees or free support groups.

Ask yourself these questions and let me know if they help you find your personal version of happiness – and don’t forget to download the free How To Figure Out What Makes You Happy workbook here!

P.S. Want 1:1 help with stuff like this? I have a handful of coaching openings! Read more about my coaching here


Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

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