Finding Your Happy Self

Happiness has been a theme in my life lately and a topic of conversation in most of my friends, family and co-workers circles.

The search for happiness doesn’t discriminate. At first, I thought it was a common topic for us thirty-somethings as we learn more about ourselves and move forward with our careers and family lives, but the topic transcended many conversations across generations.

This inspired me to start a Go Inspire Go (GIG) blog series about happiness. GIG’s passion is helping you discover your power and then inspiring you to use it to help others. Finding your power starts with evaluating what makes you happy.

The collection of blogs will be written by me and other guest bloggers.

Crissy Field in San Francisco, Calif.
Happiness isn’t far away — Crissy Field/San Francisco, CA

In addition to the question, “What’s the meaning of life?” I believe an equally significant question is, “What makes me happy?”

My life is similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book where you choose the ending. Each choice leads to different chapters, adventures and endings.

So many personal choices.

As a student at the University of San Francisco, I remember thinking I would be happy if I received a journalism scholarship through the Asian American Journalists Association.


Then I thought about the next thing that would bring me happiness… a TV job.

Got that covered.

I shadowed a TV reporter at the local CBS affiliate in San Francisco during her last week on the job. She was moving to another state and leaving the business. I remember thinking, “You’re in a Top 10 TV market and you want to leave? I will stay here forever.”

Oh naive Toan. This was too much for me to wrap around my then 19-year-old head.

Being a TV reporter in a large market fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. I started in Wausau, Wis., then I headed south to Midland, Texas, and then west to Fresno, Calif.. Then… drum roll please… I made it to San Francisco!

Toan Lam reporting for KRON-TV.

I was thrilled to start reporting at a local station in San Francisco. That feeling of elation quickly turned into one of the biggest lows in my life. Reporting on bad news all the time made me miserable. Once I “arrived” I wanted to leave.

My professional goal was to tell hard-hitting, thoughtful stories that pull at your heartstrings and inspire you to help. To many people, I “made it.” But why did I feel so empty? Why was I still unhappy? Why was I searching for that “I made it” feeling? Those stories made me feel like little Santiago in Paulo Coehlo’s “The Alchemist,” a novel about an Andalusian boy in search of a worldly treasure.

In retrospect, I realize some of the happiest moments were in the experiences, in the “doing”: bonding with my fellow co-workers Laurie Lemanski and Jason Lanning at “The Mint,” a local breakfast place in Wausau, Wis. I remember intense workouts with Jessica Garate at the local YMCA and running through downtown Midland, Texas. I laugh when conversations replay in my head about how one day we will be in a bigger city reporting under much bigger skylines. I remember thinking that I would be happy when I make it back as a reporter in a bigger city, closer to my family.”

Through many conversations I found the answer!

The truth is, happiness is right in front of you. We shouldn’t seek happiness. Instead, we should do things that make us happy.

Trees in forest

Here are 10 things that make me happy.

1. Family: From seeing the dysfunction to the “I got your back” actions. We do an annual cousin camping trip every year that is fit for a reality TV series. Read: city kids pretending to rough it while consuming delicious gourmet meals #hilarious

2. Friends: From dinner parties to impromptu walks around my neighborhood to random do nothing but lounge, drink tea and nosh during lazy days.

3. Conversation: Conversation is food for the soul. The connection is priceless.

4. Eating home-cooked meals and discovering restaurants. Yum!

5. Flowers: Organic, living things in the home make me feel connected and alive. It grounds me. Like my good spirit sister, Terrie Crowley once shared, “If anyone thinks they’re so powerful, make the flower grow out of the ground!”

6. Teaching: I learn so much. The ripples of inspiration are endless. Seeing students reach their potential and learning from them moves me beyond words.

7. Clean sheets: Need I say more? The smell. The touch. The serenity.

8. Working out: Stretching, walking, running, Yoga, Crossfit – moving my body and testing my physical limits.

9. Being in nature: My reminder to breathe deeply, be present and grateful for everything in my life.

10. Witnessing people being inspired to help others: Go Inspire Go! Thanks to my amazing volunteers/team.

GIG Social Media Photo Walk
GIG Team Jumping for Joy at GIG Social Media Photo Walk

I think there is a Santiago in all of us. Some of us travel in search for happiness. For others, it’s hinged upon whether they get that job, marry that perfect partner or live in the big house.

What I know through many experiences and conversations is that happiness is in the doing, not searching for a made-up, artificial feeling that we think that will fulfill us. The worldly treasures are inside us (our breath, our health, or clear mind) and around us (family, friends and those little moments that make us laugh and smile). Happiness is a state of mind.

What makes you happy now? What are you going to do that makes you happy? Leave a quick comment. It will make me happy to see that you were inspired by this post. 🙂

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