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The Recipe for a Happy Life: Follow Your Preferences & Live on Your Own Terms

THE recipe for a happy life, one of the 'keys' to Waking Up Eager, is to be able to be able to say that this statement is true for you: "I live on my own terms, not by the rules and preferences of others."

This Statement is 1 of 13 in the Re-Calibrate Daily, a WUE Habit, Free Quiz.

I struggled with "living a life on my own terms, and not by the rules and preferences of others" initially, but over time I've gotten better at it.  The more I find ways to live my life according to my interests and strengths, the better I feel.  And this helps me bring a 'better version of myself' to all interactions - personally and professionally.

Back in 1996 I was totally frustrated.  I was trying to craft a perfect work and career vision, an assignment my Career Counselor had given me. At the time I’d been out of college for 10 years. While I had a career that looked pretty good to others, it felt like failure to me.

That’s why I hired the Career Counselor. I wanted to figure out what 'The Secret' was. What the heck was my recipe for a happy life?  Why was what I had been doing not working so well? My assignment was to list what my "the perfect work looked like" it sounded like it should an easy task, but I struggled.I finally pulled something together. 

As I shared what I'd written with my Counselor I felt completely guilty. "Who am I to state what I want so boldly? Who am I to even expect that I could create and live this perfect vision. Who am I to try to have my own recipe for a happy life?"

Up until that point I’d spent a lot of my life doing a lot of what others expected of me.

No wonder I struggled with my assignment, and no wonder I was unhappy.  In high school, college or afterwards I hadn’t taken stock of my strengths, preferences and interests, and my life and career was not built around them. My life was only partially created by me, and much of it had been by default.

That is until I started defining my preferences and started consciously crafting my own recipe for a happy life, based upon my strengths, interests and values. When I made THAT shift, I started to know what it felt like to live life more on 'my own terms.' And, that process continues to unfold today.

What’s It Like To 'Live On Your Own Terms'?

If you’re creating and living a life that allows you to...

  • Use your strengths
  • Honor your interests
  • Share your talents

...then you’re living on ‘your terms’. 

Research shows us that almost half of  adult Americans haven't determined a sense of purpose in their lives. Without having this at least somewhat figured out “live life on your own terms” is just a hollow phrase. If you're like half of the population and you're not using your strengths, honoring your interests and sharing your talents, NOW is the time.

recipe for a happy life-strength

The First Step...

This first step sounds simple, but it's important. It all begins with getting over 'the guilt.'   You have to decide that it’s a good thing to build a life around your preferences, strengths and interests.

Through the assistance of a supportive coach, I began to understand that: My preferences, strengths and interests are the gifts I bring to the world. That they are unique unto each one of us.They were born into us for a reason. I let go of the 'guilt' about following my preferences, and I began to allow my self to build a life around my interests and preferences.

I now know that creating a recipe for a happy life by building a life around your preferences and your strengths, is not selfish, it's the reason we all have the strengths and preferences that we have!

Definition of Preference: (also called "taste" or "penchant") is: a concept, used in the social
sciences, particularly economics. It assumes a real or imagined "choice" between alternatives
and the possibility of rank ordering of these alternatives, based on happiness, satisfaction,
gratification, enjoyment, utility they provide. More generally, it can be seen as a source of motivation. In cognitive sciences, individual preferences enable choice of objectives/goals.

Sudbury Valley School's Example...

Sudbury Valley School was founded in 1968, and is located in Framingham, MA. This school is devoted to helping students learn to think for themselves. They focus on helping students direct their lives, use their strengths, follow their interests, take responsibility for outcomes, set priorities, allocate resources, and work with others, all in a growing and vibrant community.

I appreciate the Founder of Sudbury Valley School view on preferences: "The process of self direction, or blazing your own way, indeed of living your life rather than passing your time, is natural but not self evident to children growing up in our civilization." 

This statement by this educator is true for many students AND adults.  Almost everyone wants to LIVE rather than just 'pass time', but to do this requires introspection and self direction.  The very skills that are taught at the Sudbury Valley School.

recipe for a happy life- sudbury valley schoo

I became extremely interested in the Sudbury Valley School when I first heard about it, not because I have kids or because I wanted to teach there. But because I was beginning to understand the importance of what this school is instilling in their students, at a young age.

They are teaching their students to set and DIRECT their lives based on their innate interests, talents, strengths and gifts. I'm fascinated to see the advantage the Sudbury Valley kids have towards an empowered and fulfilling live. I wish that we all could be taught how to consciously create our life by using the knowledge of our strengths and preferences to guide us.

When does the average person get exposure and support to develop to this skill-set? Sometimes never! 

But, the awareness and willingness to create a self directed life CAN be awakened and strengthened, at ANY age. And, in my opinion, It's important to do, because without it, it's almost impossible to create days that energize you, empower you and help you be all that you born to be!!

Tools to Help...

recipe for a happy life-your gifts

Here are several tools I’ve used to help me understand my preferences, strengths and interests.  Each has helped me learn to create my own rules. Each helps me bring more of "the best of me"  to every day and every interaction. Use these resources to build a life based on your own preferences and on your terms. To do so is your gift to the world.


I write in my journal every day. On your quest to uncover your own preferences and your own recipe for a happy life I recommend the practice of journal-ing.  Writing every day helps me become more conscious about how I spend my days and time, helps me tap into my own 'Knowing' around creating my recipe for a happy life. It also helps me look more objectively at my day and how I'm spending my time.

In this article: Journal Writing Ideas: Why and How To Write In a Journal  you'll find tips and insights around the art of journal-ling.   A good place to start.

How Journal Writing Ideas Help Create More Wake Up Eager Days:
"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought,this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium."
  Norbet Platt

Strength and Interest Assessments

As a Professional Development Consultant I've been able to teach and use almost every type of assessment available. They're fun and they're a GREAT way to learn more about yourself. The  revealed in these type of tools speed up your ability to create and follow your own recipe for a happy life..

Over time though, I found that while some of the assessments were 'interesting' - they didn't actually help me get me to where I wanted to go - the information was not always use-able. There are only a few Assessment Tools that I consider the best, and among them is the TriMetrixHD Assessment.

Using your results from these this report  can  make life stronger, fuller and clearer and can help you name, claim, understand and build your life around your preferences.   The data from my own reports have helped me stay on-track, make good decisions and helped me to continually refine and shape my own recipe for a happy life.

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