Anyone can “create happy,” but like any creative process, creating and living a life you love doesn’t happen automatically. When you’re designing and creating a life you want to live, you have to start somewhere and progress one step at a time. But where do you start? By finding your foundation.
Why finding your foundation matters
When building a home (or any building, for that matter), the foundation is one of the first things that’s done—and one of the most important things that’s done. A solid foundation keeps your floors level; your walls supported, straight, and free of cracks; your doors opening and closing without getting caught. In essence, the foundation keeps the home standing, and it keeps it safe.
A metaphorical foundation does the same thing. Your philosophical foundation is the set of values and beliefs that you build your life on. It’s the thing that keeps you standing.
Finding your foundation can set you up for success. Living your life without a strong foundation (or not knowing what your foundation is) can do just the opposite.
Just like a storm could potentially reveal a faulty foundation in a house, life’s storms can leave us feeling “cracked” if we don’t have a firm foundation to rely on.
In other words, a foundation helps you build, but it also helps you to not fall down.
The process of finding your foundation
You have a foundation, right now. But do you know what it is? Do you know what ideals and principles are holding up your life and motivating your actions?
It’s important to go through the process of finding your foundation. You need to know what is holding you up now, and you need to decide whether your foundation is strong enough to support the hopes and dreams you have for your creative, happy, wonderful life.
A quick word of caution: It’s probably not going to be fun. The foundation isn’t exactly the “fun” part of a house. Getting the foundation right takes a lot of thought, prep work, and precision, not to mention the actual labor. Plus, no one gets excited about the foundation, because no one sees the foundation. It’s something that we take for granted.
The good news is that once you have your firm foundation in place, you won’t have to spend much time actively thinking about it, either. It will be there, supporting you and getting you through hard times, but you probably won’t actively recognize it. And that’s okay! Your foundation doesn’t have to be the star of the show; it just has to set the stage for everything else to work like it’s supposed to.
So, that being said, what is the process for finding your foundation?
The big question
It all really comes down to one big question: What thoughts, principles, and ideals are you allowing to guide your life?
To help you answer that question, think about your internal and external worlds: internal being the thoughts you entertain, and external being how you spend your time.
The thoughts you entertain.
We rarely have a thought once. We get into thought patterns that can be either positive or negative, that can either help or hurt. The thoughts you allow yourself to keep thinking shape your foundation.
Consider this: you’re facing a personal challenge. Let’s use the end of a relationship as an example. If your foundation is built on thoughts like “I’m never good enough for anyone” or “No one will ever love me,” then a breakup is going to seem even more devastating. That foundation won’t support you through a difficult time. But, if your foundation includes thoughts like “I am worthy,” “I am loved,” or “I don’t need another person to validate me,” then that breakup isn’t going to shake up your life as much.
Your thoughts are a key element of your foundation. When you’re finding your foundation, track your thoughts. What thoughts come up over and over again? Which thoughts do you push back on, and which do you accept without question? If you track your thoughts honestly for a week or so, you’ll start to notice some definite patterns that will clue you in to what your foundation is.
How you spend your time.
None of us has time to do all the things we wish we could do in a single day. We all have a limited number of hours available to us. How we choose to spend that limited amount of time reflects what really matters to us.
You might say you value your family, but what if you regularly cancel family events in order to catch up on work? You might say that creativity is a big part of your foundation, but what if you never make the time to actually exercise your creativity?
Noticing how you spend your time can be a slap in the face if it wakes you up to this kind of dissonance. But sometimes, a slap in the face is just what we need to get moving in the right direction. If you realize that how you’re spending your time doesn’t line up with what you think you value, or with what you want to value, then it’s time to make a shift.
Examples of strong foundations
Unless you’re really familiar with this idea of a personal foundation, all of this might seem kind of foreign to you. I want to give you an idea of the types of things that can make a strong foundation (if they resonate with you and matter to you):
All of these things are things that each of us values on some level, and this is just a short list of the things that we could value. But when these things are part of your foundation, they’re more than just a passing desire.
Take health, for example. Some people see health as a thing they focus on now and then, maybe when they’re feeling sick, overweight, or somehow physically “off.” That doesn’t make health part of your foundation. However, some people see health as the thing (or one of the things) that will help you live a better life. They believe that when you have your health, you are better able to live the life you want.
See the difference? One is something you care about. It might be something you use to decorate your house. But the other is more than that: it’s what is actually holding your house up.
Tips to help you find your foundation and/or build a new one
Finding your foundation is a journey of self-discovery. Rebuilding or strengthening your personal foundation is challenging in its own right. Here are some quick, simple tips that might help you as you work to find, build, and/or strengthen your own foundation.
Think about what stabilizes you.
What do you do to calm yourself down? Why does that work? What is it about it that brings you peace or contentment? The things that bring stability to your life are part of your foundation.
Identify your big goals and dreams.
If you were going to dream big, what would you dream for? If you were going to set a huge goal for yourself, what would it be? What we want reflects what we value.
Take personality tests.
Some personality tests can help you learn more about your inner self. The Enneagram, in particular, is all about getting to the root of each type’s fears, desires, and values. While I don’t believe that a “personality type” can ever fully define a person, or make up a person’s foundation, they can get you off to a good start, or make you see yourself in new and interesting ways.
Talk it out.
Something about expressing your thoughts out loud can often help you process them better. Talk to a trusted friend, partner, or therapist about your foundation. Share your ideas and thoughts. If appropriate, ask for their feedback. You don’t want to let someone else dictate your foundation to you, but other people often see things in us that we can’t see in ourselves.
Your foundation will serve you your whole life. You will never stop building on that foundation as you work to create a life full of love, meaning, and creativity. Make sure the foundation is strong before you build too high. Put the time and effort into finding your foundation so that you’ll be ready for whatever life throws your way.
And remember this: it’s never too late to start over. Even if you have to tear everything down and start from square one, it’s worth it—because it’s the only way you’re going to create and live the life you want.
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