Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Matt Madeiro.  Although there is no connection between this post and Ty Unglebower’s post on electronic friends last week, I think they make a fine compliment to one another.  Thanks guys!

Honestly? I’m not so sure I’ve found it yet.

That’s hard to believe in the Internet age, when information flows like water and every answer to every question is just a few keystrokes away. Don’t get me wrong — I love technology, and I think that the meteoric rise of computing is probably mankind’s most historic achievement since toilet paper.

For the first time, we’re no longer stuck to our own little slice of earth. Physically, sure, we might not get too far, but the Internet opens doors that never used to exist: chances to travel, to explore and absorb the lives of people both familiar and not, all from the comfort of our favorite chair.

I think that’s incredible. And I think, slowly but surely, it’s changing the way we think — let alone the way we live.

Is that a good thing? That’s a little harder to gauge. The media is all atwitter about the damaging effect our digital lives our having on our real, definitely not digital relationships. Husbands and wives spend more time online than they do with each other, while kids stare motionless for hours at all the pretty moving pictures (guilty!).

But when you paint it like that, sure, it sounds like the death of human interaction as we know it. Me? I’m not so content with condemning the world wide web, not when it’s given us so much, and definitely not when it single-handedly wrought one of the most incredible shifts in human awareness over the last two decades.

As the cool kids say: we know something’s up.

We’ve realized, in the joyous flurry of these last ten years, that life holds so much more than what we were led to believe. We found people thinking the exact same thing, and we saw them taking brave steps to change their lives for the better. We watched as they found something amazing on the other side of the river, lived to tell about it, and decided to help everyone else find their way. And the best part?

They’re not so different from us. Different smiles, different faces, but in the end they want the same thing: to be completely, blissfully content, and to live every day of their entire lives in pursuit of this goal.

We know that we’re not strange for wanting something different, and we know that our own unique happiness is well within our grasp. That’s a wonderful thing. An incredible thing. And I like to give credit where it’s due: the Internet, that global playground, where so many people of so many different backgrounds can come together in the pursuit of this common goal.

This is the new status quo. This is a force made of people like you and me, all fired up and fully bent on shaping our lives into the wonderful gifts they deserve to be. It started with the blogging movement, when so many voices came together in support of change, but the new status quo lives beyond the computer screen. It’s all around us now, weaved into how entire generations envision the future, and it lies just within grasp for anyone willing to look.

And there’s another step. The last step, and arguably the most important, since it’s not one you can easily find by running a Google search. But don’t worry! You’ve got the first step down real nice if you’re reading this (thanks!), so don’t throw in the towel just yet.

You’ve got to live it.

You’ve got to stop reading. You’ve got to suck in a big breath, step away from the computer, and start making those big, bold steps to your brighter, happier future. Your happiness is waiting.

The new status quo is too. Thousands of people just like you and me are searching for it, taking control of their lives and asking – no, demanding – something more. We’re not content with a ‘normal,’ ‘regular’ life, and we’re not afraid to live a little bit differently — a little bit unconventionally — in pursuit of our dreams.

There’s something better out there, something greater than you and I could ever imagine, and every single one of us has the ability to find it. So why not give it a shot? Why not find our own happiness and leave a conventional life in the dust?

It’s a bold change. But don’t let that deter you, and don’t let the enormity of the task ever scare you away. The key, I think, is to remember that your personal happiness is exactly that: yours. You don’t have to quit your job. You don’t have to sell everything you own and move across the country — unless, of course, that’s your idea of happiness (in which case you should go nuts!).

Your own journey, however, doesn’t have to be so drastic. Take a cooking course. Start painting, on the side, and pick up a few used books to help train your talent. Study your own work environment and look for ways to improve your workflow, or step outside the office and try to find a job you’ll genuinely enjoy. If nothing else, make a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do and the steps you’ll take to accomplish them.

Take it day by day, step by step, moving slowly and firmly to set yourself on the path to accomplish your dreams. Refer back to the Internet for inspiration, should you falter, and capitalize on blogger stories as solid proof of what happens when people just like you embrace a better future. Lastly, always look back over your shoulder at what you’ve left behind.It’s wise, I think, to know where you’ve come from, and it just might strengthen your resolve as you pursue the new status quo.

I’ll admit it — I’m still looking for my own happiness. But I hold the search with a big, goofy grin, because I know I’ll find it, and I know every single one of you can find it too.

Matt Madeiro is the author of Three New Leaves, a self-improvement blog that just can’t wait to help you change your life for the better. Feel free to swing by Twitter and say hello!

Photo courtesy of K.I.T. on Flikr