At one point or another, you’ve likely asked yourself the age-old question, ‘Am I happy?’ The unfortunate reality is that many of our decisions are made based on the ideas others have subconsciously placed in our heads on what is the “right” way to live. The issue with this, however, is that their own belief system and what works for them is not right for everyone

Only you know what’s in your heart and what it means to be truly happy. Understanding this concept is easier said than done, but living a life that is authentic and true to your inner self will be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life.

My path to happiness has been a long and, at times, arduous one. Conscious awakening is not a gradual transition but usually feels closer to a rollercoaster without brakes.

For roughly 15 years I had been in the hospitality industry. I was skilled in my position as a mixologist and was working my way into management. I had a steady job that payed handsomely, a beautiful house in a great neighborhood, and on paper, it was all going according to plan. I had created a routine that was “healthy” and “positive,” yet I never felt fulfilled. 

I let this continue for years, never actually questioning if I enjoyed the life I had worked so hard to create. For years I had the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right, never able to fill the hole I knew was forming deep inside. 

It wasn’t until I attended Burning Man and was hit with a lightning bolt of awareness and a beautiful moment of acceptance, that I realized that just because I was good at something doesn’t mean I needed to keep doing it. Just because I was exactly where I thought I wanted to be, I was not in a heart-centered place of happiness. 

Sometimes you attain the goals society has set out for you, only to realize they don’t actually have anything to do with the way you want to live. However, learning what you don’t want is oftentimes just as valuable as learning what you do want.

To begin finding my path to happiness I stopped thinking with goals in mind, and instead sought moments that I found true unfiltered happiness. I remember being on a boat in Hawaii and capturing a photo of a dolphin jumping out of the water. The moment that shutter clicked sent a wave through my body that I will never forget. I knew then that I wanted to be a photographer, but when I vocalized this I was told it was a hard life with little compensation. Fear took over, and I soon stuffed my new dream away. 

All too often we stop before we even start, being afraid of the outcome or letting the ego tell us we couldn’t possibly attain that goal. Fear will always be a factor in your life, but only you get to decide how much you will let it rule your conscious life. Find the self-love within to take a chance on yourself. 

There is always the possibility that you will fail, so why not begin failing at the task of living your best life?

My bliss came when I made the scariest choice of my life and quit my job, packed my life into a storage unit, and took off on a cross country van trip to photograph the beauty this world has to offer. Growth happens at the end of your comfort zone, and I decided to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I am now paid to do product photography by companies I believe in while selling my work through Instagram and spreading positivity across the world through my posts. Those first steps can be terrifying, but now I can’t imagine living life any other way. 

Find the spark that invites your soul and drives you to be better than you were yesterday — because at the end of the day, you deserve to live a life you love. 

Shayne Sanders is a travel and adventure photographer who lives in a retrofitted van, touring the country and finding his bliss. Through his lens he tries to convey the beauty this world has to offer and posts his images with inspirational writing — attempting to spread positivity and love through his social media accounts. You can find his work at @advanturephotography on Instagram. 

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