By Paul Haluszczak
I want you to think about something you really want right now. It might be as grand as taking a six-month sabbatical halfway around the world or as simple as indulging in a king size Kit-Kat.
Ask yourself why you want that thing.
Then, ask yourself why that’s why you want that thing.
Keep asking yourself “why” until the only response you have left is a single, honest, all-encompassing word.
What word did you land on?
If you were in a room of 100 people, I bet you’d find at least 10 others who landed on the exact same word you did.
Because at our core, we desire very few (but very important) things: Happiness, Peace, Contentment, Tranquility, Love, Belonging.
Is the list really that short?
More or less.
Some people even suggest it’s not a list at all; that our one and only desire is happiness.
It’s funny how uncomfortable that feels.
If happiness is our only desire, then why is it so darn hard to fulfill? With 3,000 years of documented human history, why isn’t there a universal, one-page “how to” guide that shows us how to get there?
I don’t have an answer, but I do have a story. And it is through story that I believe individuals and communities can get one step closer to fulfill their desire for happiness more quickly, more often, and hold onto it for longer periods of time.
At My Whit’s End
I was 25, recently engaged, and at my whit’s end.
Exasperated, I asked my partner, “when will things just feel normal again?” She responded with a question of her own that has never left me, “what if this is our normal?”
It was exactly what I needed to hear.
When stress and anxiety boil over, the irrational desire for perpetually calm seas rules the mind. And boy was it ruling mine.
Yet, in just six words, my partner shifted my entire context. What if this was our normal? How would I choose to thrive?
This question about thriving has guided my decision making in all aspects of my life for the past six years.
Whenever I feel stuck, I return to this question and the optimal decision becomes clear.
Sometimes it means making a drastic change like switching careers. Sometimes it means accepting an invitation I never anticipated. Sometimes it means doing nothing at all.
Each time, it requires a kind of internal listening I’m rather ill-practiced at. It’s a practice that requires mentorship and community—two things that have gone out of vogue. Two things that I have recently found and even more recently leaned into.
I started really leaning in when I signed up to participate in Springhouse’s Sourced Design Lab—a two-month, three-meeting introduction to five ancient principles that guide Springhouse in “putting connection to life, and care of it, at the center.”
For the last 15 years, I’ve believed the story that I am uniquely self-aware. In reality, my self-perception was only in comparison to others—not a very high bar in a culture where self-awareness is in low supply.
By engaging with the five Sourced Design Principles, I’ve had to revise my narrative and accept the truth that my self-awareness has never matured beyond its adolescence.
Importantly, I don’t view this realization in a negative light. It’s a simple acknowledgement of where I’m at—the first step toward experiencing meaningful growth.
In this acknowledgement, I’ve been challenged to explore internal spaces I’ve left in the dark and engage with new learning resources I never knew existed.
Best of all, I’ve been able to do all this exploring within a community of people who are on a similar journey—gathering insights from each other that accelerate our individual and collective uncovering.
The principles made me lean in; the community made me keep coming back.
I’ve participated in the Sourced Design Lab twice and am now part of a practice group that is diving even deeper. If you asked me if you should participate, I’d pull from my partner’s playbook: Are you able to consistently thrive no matter the chaos around and within you?
If you have even a hint of doubt, Sourced Design Lab is for you.