The Happiness Connection  

Are you still growing?

Whenever I see my friends’ young children and grandchildren, I find myself commenting on how much they’ve grown.

They tend to look at me with incredulous eyes. Of course, they’ve grown. What a weird thing to say.

The same thing happens when someone is sick or elderly. You don’t notice the decline or recovery as distinctly when you see them every day.

I remember looking at my son one day and suddenly noticing he was taller than me. How did that happen? I wasn’t conscious of how big he was getting until the alteration was too great to ignore.

Growth isn’t limited to physical changes. Mental, emotional, and spiritual expansion are happening, too. It’s unlikely you are the same person on the inside today, as you were 20 years ago.

Change happens at a slow, but steady pace. If you aren’t looking for it, you may believe it isn’t happening.

It’s a little like blowing up a balloon. You’re aware of the initial changes, but as it grows fuller the increase in size is less noticeable. Thinking it isn’t getting bigger is fine until you reach the breaking point and it bursts.

Perhaps you’ve been feeling that your life is maintaining a status quo, only to have your bubble burst. Without warning your significant other has morphed into an entirely different person.

There is a school of thought that believes if you marry young there is more chance that you will grow apart from your partner. That seems to suggest adults should come to a point when they stop growing and stay the same for the rest of their lives.

I don’t believe that is true.

That may have been easier to believe in the past because the world changed more slowly, and society had a bigger say in what life should look like.

Today change is a given, not a possibility and speaking out against traditional ideas is more acceptable.

I have friends who married in their late teens and early 20s and who are still happily married 35 or 40 years later.

You may have waited until you were established in a career and had a reasonably clear idea of who you were before you settled down with a partner. That doesn’t mean you will change any less than teenage brides or grooms do.

It wasn’t until my children were in their 20s that I took the time to discover me. That’s when I began to stop shoulding myself and began a conscious journey of personal development.

That journey had nothing to do with how old I was when I got married.

Personal growth is part of life, but it can create challenges for relationships.

Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of statements such as:

  • you aren’t the person I married
  • the person I married would never have done/said that?

Cast your mind back to the opening paragraph of this column. When I tell children they’ve grown, they think I’m weird. That’s partly because they are aware of and welcome that growth.

The same is true for people who are consciously striving to become a more enlightened version of themselves. When someone tells them they’ve changed, they look at that person with disbelieving eyes. Are you only just figuring that out now?

Of course, they’ve changed. Isn’t that normal?

Do you ever consciously look for the tiny increments of progress that are happening within you and those you have regular contact with? If you don’t, you may live in ignorant bliss until one day when the balloon bursts and you are forced to confront it.

If you are living your life without conscious awareness, you may dismiss variations in the behaviour and attitudes of your significant other as hormonal irregularities or phases they are going through.

It isn’t until the growth becomes too great to ignore that you suddenly wake up and realize those changes are here to stay.

That moment can bring with it, feelings of shock, betrayal, and irritation for both the conscious grower and unconscious partner.

When this point is reached, you both have choices. Everyone is on their own journey. What do you want yours to look like and do you want to support your significant other while they are trekking on theirs?

Maybe it’s time to dip your toe into the pool of conscious awareness or to invite your partner in for a swim?

The thing you can’t control is what your partner should do.

Don’t demand that they should stop growing and change back to the version of themselves that existed when you first met, or insist they live more consciously.

Invite safe conversation and new experiences and let your future unfold. Be open to seeing life in a new way with no expectation of outcome.

The key to individual growth within a committed relationship is to honour each other and the individual journeys you are here to take.

Consciously being aware of what is happening for you and for your partner will help you achieve this.


Stop shoulding yourself

How many times a day do you use the word should or some variation of it? 

The best way to get an accurate answer is to ask a few people to be your “should police.”

When I first started working with a coach, we talked about doing things because I felt they were important not because they were expected of me. During our discussions, she would stop me every time should crept into my vocabulary.

There were some very halting conversations in those first few months.

I have lived much of my life doing things that I felt were expected of me even though I hated them. For example, when I lived in England, there was a regular social calendar of dinner parties to host and attend.

Cooking is something I have never really liked or felt confident about. I do it to combat the sound of gurgling stomachs, not because it is enjoyable. I’m fine preparing meals for my family, but when other people are involved, I get really nervous.

Whenever I was hosting, I would spend a week or so experimenting with recipes. The day before the event involved cleaning the house, grocery shopping, and dreading what was looming.

The day after involved cleaning the house, grocery shopping for food that wouldn’t fit in the fridge because of the dinner party provisions, and relief that it was over – for a month or two.

In case you are thinking that despite my worry these dinner parties were probably a huge success, let me stop you in your thoughts.

One time there wasn’t enough food, and another time my guests enjoyed pie with a burnt topping.

If you have ever watched the first Bridget Jones’ Diary movie, you will get the idea of what might be in your future if you came to my house for dinner.

Why did I do it?

Because I thought I should. If you are invited to someone’s house for a home-cooked meal, you should invite them back to your place to sample your culinary delights – even if you don’t have any.

If you get asked to help with an activity or event, you should say yes.

If someone offers you a cookie to go with your coffee, you should take one.

When my daughter was 10 weeks old, my doctor, and midwife suggested it would be best for my unsettled baby to have bottle supplements. I agreed, but if I was in public, I would hide in a corner somewhere because I was ashamed.

I should be able to produce enough milk.

I feel like there were more shoulds in England than here, but that might just be my perception. I moved there when I got married, and it’s where I became a mom. I am also thinking back several decades, so things have undoubtedly changed.

  • Can you relate to these stories?
  • Have you done things because you thought you should?
  • Are you unconsciously still letting that word have power in your life?

The time has come to stop shoulding yourself.

The best way to do that is to consciously discover who you are and accept that you are the perfect version of you for today. Don’t hide your areas of challenge, readily admit them, but work on growing and developing them.

The best version of you will probably look nothing like the best version of your best friend, or family members.

You will never reach perfection. There is no such thing. Concentrate on growing every day, not achieving a level you think you should be aiming for.

I no longer consider my lack of culinary skills to be a weakness. I have lots of interests and talents, they just don’t happen to be gastronomic ones.

Today, when I entertain family and friends, I freely admit that there is no guarantee that the food will be edible, or that I will have made it myself. I doubt that they care.

Once you know, accept and love yourself fully, you can share your authentic self with the rest of the world. This is where confidence and freedom live.

I would like you to like me, but if you don’t, I can live with that.

Trust me when I say, the best thing I ever did was to stop shoulding myself.

Dive into the new

I have many friends of all ages who have left long-term relationships in the past year or two.

As an observer of people, I am fascinated by the different attitudes they adopt as they move forward in their personal lives.

Who knew there could be so many different approaches to dating or finding connection with someone new? It ranges from avoidance, through on-line dating, to rekindling old relationships, and chance encounters.

I listen to their stories with a mixture of curiosity, amusement, and concern. It’s a different world to the one I inhabited when I was a young woman.

I admire their willingness and courage to go into the world and try something different; to create new stories.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

For those of us who are a little longer in the tooth, when was the last time you did something for the first time in over a decade?

Creating new life stories is an important part of keeping your life vibrant and living consciously. There is nothing quite like the feeling that arise when you make your way through an unfamiliar experience and come out the other side.

When you are young, your life is full of opportunities to do things for the first time. Getting your first job, travelling without your family, or moving into your own home are common first-time experiences that present themselves naturally.

Depending on the choices you make, new experiences can surface less often as you age. Perhaps it is more accurate to say, it is easier to avert your gaze and avoid doing things that you are unfamiliar with as you get older.

You may have learned to play a very good game of risk avoidance. But just because that is the easy option, doesn’t mean it’s the best one. If you don’t want your life to get stale, it is time to create some new stories.

When an opportunity presents itself to make new friends, or do something that isn’t typical of you, say yes. If what you do doesn’t cause harm to you, another person, or the environment, why not?

Conscious living includes being mindful and living in the moment. This is easier to do when you are standing outside your comfort zone.

It is very difficult to be on auto-pilot when you are challenging your fear of heights or confronting your anxiety about going for a meal at the Keg by yourself.

If you are feeling terrified, explore that. Where in your body does that emotions live? What sensations are you feeling? Describe the emotions bubbling up inside of you?

What should you remember to include when you share this new story?

I’m not suggesting you have to seek out a daring adventure, although I would never discourage anyone from doing this. Get out into the world and be curious and observant. Opportunities will present themselves.

Creating new life stories is important if you want to live a vibrant and conscious life. It's never too late to start. The time is now.


Reason for a season, lifetime

We moved a lot when I was younger. My dad would get transferred to a new province and off we’d go.

I always felt I missed out, because I wasn’t still friends with anyone that I’d gone to elementary school or junior high with.

There wasn’t an internet in those days. Staying in touch required a lot of dedication to writing letters. I was OK at that part, it was buying a stamp and mailing the darn thing that was my major downfall.

Somehow, I embraced the belief that the longer you had been friends with someone, the better your relationship was.

What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I have a friend I’d known since birth?

It wasn’t until I encountered a famous poem by an anonymous writer that I began to see things in a different light.

I’d like to share the poem in case you don’t know it. If you do, then here is a reminder of these wise words.

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you figure out which one it is,

You will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,

It is usually to meet a need you have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a difficulty;

To provide you with guidance and support;

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,

This person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,

Because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;

Things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

                                                                        — Unknown

I wish I had read this poem much earlier in my life. It would have saved me from a lot of heartache, guilt, and disappointment as people disappeared from my life, or I moved out of theirs.

You don’t have to be connected for a lifetime to be a blessing in another person’s world, or them in yours.

On my way to Gatwick airport a few weeks ago, the direct train I planned on taking was suddenly cancelled just as I boarded it. I had to make my way by a much more arduous path of very busy trains. That is quite a feat when you have a 50-pound suitcase.

On the last leg of this journey, I found myself standing next to a lady who was going home after a weekend in London. We started talking and quickly connected. Our sense of humour and view about life was similar.

She was the highlight of my day, although I am unlikely to ever see her again.

I don’t know what the purpose of our meeting was. Maybe I fulfilled a need in her life. Perhaps other people on the train needed to hear our laughter and be cheered by our energy.

Closing a railway line that passed through such a busy airport caused a massive ripple effect of inconvenience and stress for a lot of people.

During this season of Remembrance Day and holiday gatherings, you may find yourself thinking about the people you know, once knew, or have heard about.

Take some time to think about the blessings and lessons they have provided. Perhaps they continue to guide and teach you.

Accept that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever; some are only here for a reason or a season.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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