What Batman Taught Me About the Secret to Happiness

What’s holding you back from doing the things that make you feel alive?

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Happy Halloween.

I am sitting alone in a coffee shop. Dressed like Batman. You might think I am dressed up for Halloween. Nope. When I wrote this, it was October 30.

I call today my Halloween warm up.

The way I see it, if you want to feel like you are alive, that your life is ‘worth it’, you need to take risks in at least two out of four areas of your life…

Getting into the coffee shop dressed as Batman wasn’t easy. The coffee shop was full and walking in wearing a costume, is well… unusual. It would have been so much easier just to stay in the car, to live in the shadows.

I don’t live in a fantasy world and I have worked hard to face, and accept, reality. So why the Batman?

Am I the punchline to a sad, middle-aged joke?

You may think so, but I don’t care. Every now and then I wear a Batman mask, I sing silly songs, I tell lame jokes to my family, I listen to Alternative music that no one seems to like, I paint crazy looking acrylics, I teach psychology and work as a Therapist. But most important to me, I am a dad. And a husband. I love my family and I invest in living a life that I enjoy.

The way I see it, there are four kind of risks that you can take in life (I won’t include drug use, because that one is almost exclusively unhealthy and also very risky). You may decide to settle down with someone, or you may have the career thing figured out. No problem.

None of us needs to be a risk taker all of the time. Heck, I’m not like that. But the way I see it, if you want to feel like you are alive, that your life is ‘worth it’, you need to take risks in at least two out of four areas of your life:

Get the girl risks

I know you didn’t read this far to get hot dating tips from a guy that is dressed like Batman. My best advice is to choose a good partner, one who brings out the best in you… even when you can’t stand them… and especially when you can’t stand yourself. Once you find that partner, don’t let go.

Not in a creepy, stalker-like way… but in an I-love-you-you-complete-me way.

Job risks 

The first 15 years of our working lives can feel like we are trying to prove something. Start a business, become partner or supervisor, get the great office, make a difference. It’s a good thing when you find work or have a purpose that makes you feel alive and then give yourself to it. Just know your limits.

For too many years, I wanted to be someone, take on the world, make my mark. I had no idea what would happen with anything that I did. Funny thing, I succeeded more than I failed. But I didn’t notice when I crossed the line. I became so obsessed with where I was going that I never took time to enjoy my life. It took a major mental health crisis for me to begin to pay attention.

Taking risks with your career is a good thing. How else will you ever learn? The important thing is to learn from what happens. It took me a long time, but I have learned to know when is enough. You don’t have to give everything for your career. If you feel that you must, I suggest that you are going too fast and ignoring your own warning signs.

If it costs you everything to accomplish something important, then sooner or later you that something will cost you everything important.

Adrian Shepherd, time management expert, has written about how investing just one hour in something important to you can create what he calls the Compound Effect. If it costs you everything to accomplish something important, then sooner or later you that something will cost you everything important.

Learn Important Stuff risks

My first car was a 1974 Powder Blue Volkswagen Beetle with mag wheels. I paid $600 for a stereo upgrade and because of the domed roof, the sound seemed to slide past your ears and just hang there. It was like you were floating in music. When I was ready to go to college, I sold the car in a heartbeat so that I could afford my first year. No regrets because investing in education will pay you dividends.

Over the years I have paid thousands of after-tax money to learn shit. I have two degrees, my second being a Master’s in Counselling Psychology. I have paid a significant chunk of cash to achieve professional certifications; along with untold thousands on conferences, webinars and books.

Why does it matter? Not much, really. When I go, the books will become part of the landfill. What is important is that my mind is sharp. A sharp mind is worth money. If you are not growing, you just won’t feel alive.

Just live your life risks

I will share with you the secret of happiness: Take small bits of time, as often as you can, and do what you enjoy.

So why am I dressed up like Batman? I’m just living my life. I like superhero movies and I use superheroes in my therapy practice with adolescents and families in recovery. And really, it’s just fun dressing up. I like watching other people react as they are are not sure what to think…

I’m not suggesting that anyone has to do what I do. We have nothing to prove to each other. We each are given just one life. Doesn’t matter who is in office, who is the next POTUS… the crazy blonde guy or the other one. Doesn’t matter how much money you make or how big your car is.

I will share with you the secret of happiness: Take small bits of time, as often as you can, and do what you enjoy. If happiness needs to involve big money, big trips, big vacations, or big successes… it won’t work. Joy is only found in the small stuff. An hour with your kids, 15 minute walk, appreciating friendships, and a thousand other moments of gratitude.

Professionally, I work as a Counselling Therapist with youth and families whose lives are devastated by addiction. Personally, my own life and family have been impacted by addiction. What I have learned is that addiction offers a gift: it challenges you to come face to face with yourself, with your life. You have one life to live. What’s holding you back from doing the small things that make you feel alive… even things that make you shit your pants once in a while?

Maybe it’s time to do that. Even if you are alone. In a coffee shop. Wearing a superhero mask. If that’s you, just look around. I’ll be there and I’ll buy you a coffee.

• • •

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Keep it Real

Previously published on the Good Men Project


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