Do What’s Going To Make You Happy

A few weeks ago, Brian and I ventured out to the North Fork of Long Island for a day.

A day to chill.

A day to celebrate 30.

Good friends (and former college classmates) wish you a happy birthday on Facebook. GREAT friends find you and show up wherever you are with champagne. Two bottles. (SHOUT-OUT TO L-ONE, YAY, YOU WIN.)
Good friends (and former college classmates) wish you a happy birthday on Facebook. GREAT friends find you and show up wherever you are with champagne. Two bottles. (SHOUT-OUT TO L-ONE, YAY, YOU WIN.)

A day to actually hang out together in a non-cramped, stress-free, “no To-Do lists allowed,” laptop-less environment.

A day in my very happiest place.

The drive out east Thursday night was long, but when we woke up at the blissfully late hour of 8:00 Friday morning, all was right with the world.

If this stupid city raises my rent one more time, I swear I'm packing one bag and one Selena Gomez The Giraffe and I'm moving to this exact spot. I will live in a tent. With Selena Gomez. The Giraffe.
If this stupid city raises my rent one more time, I swear I’m packing one bag and one Selena Gomez The Giraffe and I’m moving to this exact spot. I will live in a tent. With Selena Gomez. The Giraffe.

Since it was still technically the off-season, we were the only people at the entire resort. I could hear the ocean from our “condo,” which not only had a kitchen and a deck overlooking the water (and grass where bunnies hopped around), but also had two bathrooms.

It was pure bliss. I was more relaxed than I could remember being in a long time.

I heard a bird chirp and I heard waves and I heard silence. I didn't hear taxis or horns or Second Avenue Subway construction.
I heard a bird chirp and I heard waves and I heard silence. I didn’t hear taxis or horns or Second Avenue Subway construction.

Eventually we got out of bed, ate bacon egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, and bopped around Greenport. By the time we rolled back to our hotel, it was mid-afternoon and there were still so many things I wanted to do.

I wanted to go to the wineries!

I wanted to ride my bike! (I hadn’t brought it with me, but still…)

I wanted to lay on the beach!

I wanted to learn to properly skip a rock!

Hi quick question, if you skip a rock, is it normal to be sore the next day? I skipped like four of them, so...yeah?
Hi quick question, if you skip a rock, is it normal to be sore the next day? I skipped like four of them, so…yeah?

I wanted to go to more wineries!

And my training plan — because this was during the pre-Brooklyn Half era — said I was supposed to run 7 miles.

I didn’t get up and run in the morning because I chose to sleep in, and by this time it was midday and it was hot and I wasn’t motivated.

But the training plan! I was supposed to run!

So of course I started to morph into the girl Brian non-affectionately calls “Stressy Ali,” and I was shot down immediately.

“Ali, if you want to run, run. But if you don’t want to run, don’t run. It’s not that complicated. What do you want to do? Do what’s going to make you happy.”


Ding ding ding. (And also flashes of that scene from The Notebook: “What do you want, Ali? What do you want?!” Classic. Girls named Ali are so high-maintenance.)

So you can forget the whole story I just told you, but just remember this one thing: Do what makes you happy. Do what you want to do, not necessarily what you’re supposed to do or think you should do or a spreadsheet tells you to do.

I don’t know why that was such a lightbulb moment for me. But it was. It was a turning point that pretty quickly snapped me out of “routine mode” and got me into a more conscious way of living.

I did end up going for a short run that day — not my training plan’s 7 miles, but instead a very pleasant run by the water. I took a nap on the beach, went to not one but two wineries, and then went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.

MY FAVE. (Person and winery. Aw.)

I did what I wanted to do instead of what I thought I “had” to do, and it was a perfect day.

I casually asked the kind people at Sparkling Pointe if they do weddings. They do. For so so so many dollars.
I casually asked the kind people at Sparkling Pointe if they do weddings. They do. For so so so many dollars.

But, of course, this whole mantra goes beyond choosing whether or not to go for a stupid run.

Another thing I did very intentionally that weekend was keep my laptop closed and my social media accounts mostly logged out.

There are a lot of elements in this world we cannot control. We can’t always just say, “F it, I’m going to do what makes me happy! I’m not going to work today! I’m not paying rent! I’m gonna let this cockroach live in my living room and make it a breeding site because vacuuming doesn’t make me happy! Yeah!”

But oftentimes, we can, actually and very simply, just do what we want.

The To-Do List said "do sweaty laundry." But the rooftop said, "Come on up, bring champagne."
The To-Do List said “do sweaty laundry.” But the rooftop said, “Come on up, bring champagne.”

Social media is a prime and relevant example.

We can stop reading things that stress us out or bug us or upset us or have a negative impact on us. It really is that easy.

We can stop reading blogs that make us feel like we’re not running enough miles in the week or marathons in the year.

We can stop subscribing to magazines that make us feel too fat, too skinny, too poor.

We can stop following Instagram accounts that make us feel like our houses are too messy, our closets too small, our clothes are too “last season.”

Giraffes = always in style.
Giraffes = always in style.

We can stop registering for longer, harder, more intense races because the internet makes us feel like “Ironmans are the new marathons and marathons are the new half-marathons and half-marathons are the new 5Ks.”

Seriously. We can just stop. Cut that shit out if it doesn’t make you feel awesome.

I have a long history with hate-reading and hate-following (hate is a strong word, but I don’t really have another mainstream one) and getting sucked into the “what I feel like I should be doing” vortex, and I’ve finally completely given it up.

Thank god. Who has time for that?

I try very intently to surround myself with only things and people that bring me joy now, both online and in real life. People who lift me up and make me feel good about myself and my life choices. My new favorite phrase is, “I’m 30, I don’t have time for this shit.” (Courtesy of soon-to-be-30-year-old Anna Kendrick.)


Some days that will mean choosing to click that little X on my internet browser to avoid reading something upsetting or irritating (it’s totally OK if you just clicked the X on me here — I get it). Other days it will mean “liking” every single post I see. Some days it will mean running more than I should, and other days it means skipping my run altogether.

Most recently it meant taking a big step back, gaining some perspective, luxuriating in real indulgent rest days (three of ’em last week alone, ohhhh baby), and giving myself a 10-day running break. All my friends were still running, racing, and crushing many miles while I neglected my beloved HOKAs for a bit.

Wearing a different kind of bib.
Wearing a different kind of bib.

Before that it meant quitting a job that wasn’t fulfilling to pursue something a little risky and a lot scary. It’s been hard and I’ve redefined the word “hustle” and what it actually means for me, but every day now is fulfilling and challenging and exciting. I haven’t regretted my decision for a single second.

It might mean something as simple as eating a Snickers for lunch or sleeping in or reading a trashy magazine, or it could be something as monumental as quitting your job to pursue your dreams of biking across the country, or breaking away from a bad relationship.

It could mean calling a friend, or it could mean ignoring all incoming calls for a day. Or two. (No voicemails, please. Text.)

...and then the rock sank. It did not skip.
…and then the rock sank. It did not skip. BUT IT MADE ME HAPPY, WHICH IS THE POINT OF THIS POST.

All this rambling to say, just do what makes you happy. Create your own joy. Ditch the drama.

Today. Tomorrow. Every day. Namaste.



39 Responses

  1. This post made me tear up… which probably sounds like the opposite of being happy, but yeah… Thank you so much for the reminder that we don’t HAVE to run more, train harder, and be more “productive” in order to lead a fulfilling life. I’m a wee bit older than you, but have noticed that the feeling of “I don’t have time for this sh*t” creeps up more now that I’m in my 30s. Just because other bloggers are running 60 miles/week during their off season doesn’t mean I have to! 🙂 Thank you, Ali. You kick ass.

  2. Loved reading this post!! Sometimes we forget to shut off our online world and experience the beauty of the real world and I love that you are doing that!
    Sometimes it’s the little things that make us happy, like cooking or watching the sunrise on the beach.
    I have a video I think you will enjoy watching called “What makes you happy”


  3. I have been completely unmotivated since I had a stress fracture (Last fall). I will tell you my weight has increased, but my anxiety/depression has lessened. Except the anxiety that I have signed up for a half marathon and I haven’t been running at all, nor am I finding time/motivation to get training

  4. Yes, yes, and more yes. All the yes-es. This is something i try to be concious of as well, but also tend to struggle with.. Type A like whoa makes you feel like you have to do all the things “because you’re supposed to” though granted, I’m not sure who I think it is making these rules for me to follow. I just recently got out of a relationship I realized wa s not lifting me up, and I’m trying to focus on my career and morphing it back into something fullfilling that makes me excited to get out of bed. And yaaaa girl, social media is a smelly pirate hooker sometimes, and you just gotta say goodbye and realize not everyone’s sharing reality.

  5. Love it. We choose and make our happiness. Only one chance to get it right. This was a great read for me at this time in my life.

  6. Thanks so much for this, I really appreciated it! I’m not there 100% yet — I still feel a small nudge of guilt if I don’t run every day — but I have gotten better at realizing things like, “I could run a double today so I hit my 12 mile goal OR I can make margaritas and go to the park with my husband and watch our dog chase the frisbee.” It’s amazing how much our need for control actually ends up making us miserable.

    While you don’t mention it in this post, I also want to say I’ve had similar struggles recently as you regarding self-image. I caught a weird virus a few months back and lost 12 lbs, which delighted me even though i was sick as hell. I have gained about six of those pounds back, and daily I am disappointed that I couldn’t “stick” with that weight loss, even though it was clearly unhealthy and primarily about dehydration. I am trying to embrace this “do what makes you happy” mantra when it comes to that issue too, realizing that I might gain a pound or two, but in the grand scheme of things, I am loved by others no matter what my weight is (and do they even notice those couple extra pounds?). When it comes down to it, I am going to be much happier in life looking back on amazing meals, indulgent vacations, and luxuriously relaxing days than I am fitting into a size 2 dress because I ran 70+ miles every week.

    So thanks again and glad you’re happy!

  7. I often find it incredibly hard to believe that you and I are not: a) related, or b) secretly the same person. This post in particular really resonates with me—I’ve recently come to some very similar conclusions re: my own life AND I have also recently attempted to learn how to properly skip a stone! (Proof: Most of my stones also immediately sank but I did have one that made FOUR skips. Whoa.)

    In conclusion, please keep being you (/me?) and only doing things that make you happy!

  8. Seriously love this post! And I needed to read it. I always say how social media is the devil but I never stop reading it even tho it depresses me! Dumb I know! That’s my new goal ! Ps-did I miss a post on your new job??

  9. yeahh that brian conversation is definitely a very similar one i’d have with BT. boys. so simple. and only sometimes so right. 😉

  10. I absolutely love this!! It’s so easy to get caught up in life and feel like you “have” to do things. I am currently in the final year of a 3 year grad program,(after quitting my full time job and completely changing careers), working part time as an RN with all kinds of crazy hours. I have managed to train for 2 marathons during the program and it has been a huge stress reliever. This past year running has felt like a chore, and has not been fun. I have had an ongoing debate whether I should run a marathon this fall, and it all comes back to feeling like thats what I should be doing and that I “need” to PR. But recently I have finally realized, I need to do what makes me happy. Working out is one of my biggest stress relievers but that doesn’t mean I need to train for something. I have been loving doing whatever work out I feel like that day, spinning, bootcamp class, yoga, running and it has been so freeing!

  11. Never commented before, but just had to thank you for writing this. I really needed to be reminded about this today!

  12. I had a similar epiphany yesterday. I had bought new shower gel and thought “I don’t need 3 different scents in my shower.” Which was immediately replaced by, “why the heck not?!” Just a reminder that we don’t need to follow these self-imposed rules. Funny I read your post the same day. Thank you!

  13. Love. Do what makes you happy is such a relevant thing in my life right now and yet I get caught up in trying to compete with everyone around me – um Ironmans? It’s like everyone I run with is doing more than I am and it’s completely exhausting. But also good perspective. So for now. Just you do you 🙂

  14. This is great. However. I find that ultimately, I am happier in the long run by doing things I don’t always want to do on a daily basis. I don’t always want to get up and run. But you know what? Come marathon morning, I will be happy I did every training run, or almost every training run.

  15. Great Post! I’m an Allie too and similar to you, I quit my full time agency job at the beginning of this year to also do my own thing and yeah, the “hustle” is definitely real. But I love what I’m doing and wouldn’t change it for the world. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  16. This is something I needed to hear today. As I sit at my job, a little unhappy with where I am, but doing my best to make the most of it. I’m searching and searching for the silver linings, and hoping I’ll have an a-ha moment soon. You never know where you want to be sometimes, until you are in a place you can’t see yourself staying. As much as I want to jump and follow those dreams, there also needs to be a roof over my head, meals on the table, and food for the kitten. At 23, I know this isn’t it. I know I have time. But is it selfish to want it all right now? Thank you for words, as it helped me to ramble out my own.

  17. Amen! I’ve taken a big step back from social media as of late. I am still in a frustrating 6+ month Crohn’s flare and I have toned down my workouts a ton because I just don’t FEEL like working out so much and just don’t want to feel like I am competing all the time.
    On the weekends I pretty much unplug for the majority of the time. I am out enjoying life – and not documenting it for the world to see 😉

  18. Proud of you for figuring this out at 30 – took me a bit longer to get to “I’m f*ing 50, I am going to do what makes me happy!”

  19. Amen to that. You and I have had similar revelations. And it’s funny how somehting seemingly as simple as “Do what makes you happy” can be so complicated.

    Just last week I deleted all social apps from my phone, changed my FB login to something random that I wouldn’t remember causing me to stop and think when I go to login out of habit, and actually started reading again. When I find myself “bored”, I know do something productive instead of wasting time on the internet. It’s nice to unconnect from all of the constant updates too.

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone in how those things affect me. Here’s to doing more of what makes us happy!

  20. Your blog is NOT one in which I will click the ‘x’ and not read. Your writing is real, raw and inspiring. Thank you for sharing this thought…just what i needed.

  21. I struggle with this BIG TIME. I’m a slave to the spreadsheet, a slave to the “sweat once a day” lifestyle. It’s hard for me to weigh “what makes me happy” vs. “what will I regret tomorrow” sometimes. I’ve experimented with blocking social media, and the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon does wonders – but it’s so easy to get pulled right back in. Thanks for posting! It’s nice to hear it from someone else and not your own little voice 🙂

  22. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I’ve recently done the same thing. I cleaned out all the blogs, Facebook “friends”, etc. that weren’t fulfilling me anymore and it has been SO. GOOD. I don’t want to feel like I’m not good enough every time I open up my web browser. I’ve strayed away from some many of the blogs I had in my reader because they were making me feel like crap… not yours though – you’re stuck with me 😉

  23. Social Media – sigh. I love it, yet I hate it. It feeds my competitive nature. I call it competitive parenting when I see how brilliant, smart, athletic, funny everyone’s kids are. But since school is out, it’s morphing to competitive summering (where is everyone spending their luxurious free time while I’m working away and my husband continues to look for employment – sigh.) Competitive working out (how many times did everyone do yoga/cross fit/pilates/run?) It’s exhausting. And anxiety inducing. Your post really hit home.

  24. I love this! I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about stopping workout comparisons and how social media makes it so easy to get sucked into to think you’re not running enough, running fast enough, doing enough, good enough blah blah blah. I still struggle with choosing what makes me happy over what I think I’m supposed to do. I also loved the Notebook reference lol.

    1. The feeling of doing what I want vs. what I’ve “always done” or think I’m supposed to do or should do? Totally. I felt zero guilt not running for the past 10 days because I knew it was best for me and I truly didn’t want to run even though everyone else was out there having fun and being fast. There are always responsibilities that aren’t fun that we all have to tend to, but generally yeah, making the people I love a priority and spending my days trying to LIVE more than just check things off a list. If that makes sense.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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