I think we can all be guilty sometimes of feeling that we will be happy only when we reach a certain destination.
When I lose 20 pounds.
When I get that promotion.
When I can afford a deposit for a house.
<Insert whatever your next goal is.>
But the truth is that none of those things are the answer to happiness.
Happiness is only something that can be generated from within and if we wait for external events to make us happy, we are going to be waiting a really long time. By that, I don’t mean don’t bother setting any goals – we all need to strive for something to enhance our life. But don’t pin all your hopes on that one event making you happy forever.
When I first read the book Happiness Is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman I remember being quite amazed that life wasn’t just something that happened to me, instead maybe my emotions and how I reacted to events were actually within my control. I was in my mid 20s at the time, a tumultuous time I think in everyone’s life – when you are trying to make your way in the world and yet have very little experience to fall back on that reassures you that ‘this too shall pass‘.
In the book Kaufman comes from the standpoint that we should question our feelings. By asking ourselves questions about why we are feeling the way we are, and is it really the only option open to us, we allow ourselves to provide our own answers. Being able to provide answers in that way also gives you a feeling of freedom and helps you know that you don’t always have to be in the back seat of your life – in fact you can be the driver.
Life Is A Cycle
That said, I don’t subscribe to the notion that we should somehow pretend to be happy when we aren’t. Life is a cycle of highs and lows and it’s natural that our moods and emotions will ebb and flow with that cycle.
When you feel down sometimes it’s good to cry, to throw that cushion across the room (make sure the dog isn’t in the way) or to just accept that this is how I feel now. There’s no right or wrong to it, it just is.
However, unless you are going through one of life’s larger upheavals (and sometimes even then) there is still space to question how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way and is there any room to shift your mindset?
My way back often starts with gratitude. If I am really in the zone of ‘me against the world’ I start to think about all that I DO have right now. Even just my ability to walk in the park and laugh at a puppy or look at the beauty of a tiny daisy can bring me back to knowing that things will change, these negative feelings will pass.
Once I start to do that I seem to take back control over how I am feeling. It also gives me a feeling that those tiny moments are just as important as the bigger things that happen in life and the good news is that they are readily available to us. Paddling in the sea, watching a really funny movie, drinking a fab cappucino are small pleasures, but they are what make a life.
Would I enjoy those things if I was 20 pounds lighter or had more money in the bank? Yes – and that’s what makes those goals still valid. But does my desire for those things negate the enjoyment I have right now. No it doesn’t . My toes in the cool water of the sea feel just as good right now as they will when I am slimmer and richer.
Isn’t that a crazy thought, I don’t have to wait to enjoy my life, I don’t have to wait until I am perfect. Happiness is available to me immediately. It’s mine right away and it can be mine in the future. Happiness is now, wherever and whenever now is.