Most people operate under the illusion that once they get what they want they will be happy. (I can hear you all right now saying, “but it’s true! I will be happy when….”).
This is conditional happiness and it doesn’t last. It’s good for a few kicks and you can certainly ride it out for a celebratory dinner or so, but most likely you’ll be right back to where you were before. If you were unhappy, you’ll still be unhappy.
It’s an easy trap to fall into and most of us do from one time to another.
I’ll be happy when:
*The family biz starts rolling and we have some extra $$$
*Nila finally cuts her teeth and sleeps through the night
*When we can move to a house with an eat in kitchen
Now it’s not to say that all these things aren’t legitimate milestones worth looking forward to, but it’s worthwhile to check-in and make sure you aren’t depending your happiness factor on it.
My Story: How I Learned this Lesson
When I was pregnant my oldest son, Solshine, I treated myself to regular cranio-sacral treatments. At this point we had moved back home to save some money and during this time a family member was diagnosed with a serious illness and we found out we were pregnant. These factors delayed our plan of moving and settling into a town we really loved–the town we wanted to raise our family in. I found myself resenting where I was based on where I wanted to be.
During one therapy session I became emotional and started to complain about how there was no food-coop , no farmer’s market, and no midwives. These were things I personally valued as an important part of a healthy and sustaining community and I was letting *not* having them bum me out in a big way.
The Wise Advice
She very gently suggested that the first step in having what I wanted was being happy with what I already had.
“If you’re not happy here,” she said, “you won’t be happy there. Even if there is a farmer’s market.”
She shared her personal story with me. As a holistic health care practitioner living in a very medically mainstream community she had often felt the same way. She received similar advice years back and it made a big difference in her perspective and general outlook on life. Now when she looks at her life she has exactly what she had always dreamed of. In her case it was a sweet little house, a partner who loves her, two grown-up daughters who lived nearby, and a job that she was really passionate about.
“But,” she said, “I couldn’t see those things when I was busy feeling sad about what I didn’t have.”
This struck me and I began to widen my perspective to include what was good about where I was at that moment.
I’m happy here because…
*we have such great family support
*we’re in touch with old friends
*we get to drive out to the beach whenever want
*we get to spend our summer weekends at Stone’s family camp in the mountains
*we can choose to live here OR not! It’s not permanent
“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” -Frederick Keonig
Within a year we rented a sweet little house on a back country road with a neighbor who shared eggs from their chickens with us. We were a few minutes from both of our parents’ homes, but only twenty-five minutes from the coast. We started making regular trips to the seaside even if it was only to get an ice-cream cone and take a walk. We invited our friends to a full moon potluck every month and created a sense of community for ourselves.
We were happy. Truly. We even considered staying and buying home there, but in the end we found that little town we had been dreaming about all along. Now we have the farmers market, the live music, the co-op and an amazing birth community.
Finding happiness in our present situation, even when it wasn’t ideal, helped us get here. It opened up opportunities that we couldn’t see before. Without the added stress or disappointment it was easier to identify and follow the path that worked best for us. It was also a matter of sitting tight and waiting out the present situation. Looking back I’m glad we have happy memories of that time.
Your level of satisfaction and happiness does not depend on external circumstance. Find happiness in your Here in order to be happy when you get There.
Tools for Getting Happy Now
*Daily Gratitude Lists
Do it in the morning or before you go to bed. It doesn’t matter when….just do it! Need a reminder? Set up a 280 daily account and they’ll send you a reminder to journal everyday.
What is it that you aren’t happy about? Or in other words, “I’ll be happy when…..” What can you do right now to fulfill that need (or at least get started). Taking action gives us a sense of empowerment. Can’t afford that addition on the house yet? What can you do to make living in your house more enjoyable: today. Make a plan. Take control.
*Take Care of Yourself
Exercise, fresh air and self-care. Yes, we all know this, but it’s easy to forget. (I do all the time.) Consider this your reminder ;-)
There’s a reason why Gretchen Rubin’s blog and book, The Happiness Project, is so wildly popular. We want to be happy. Read books and blogs that keep you inspired and in a healthy mindset. Surround yourself with people who uplift you.
So Let’s Talk.
What are you basing your conditional happiness on?
I’ll be happy when…..
And what do you have to be happy about in the here and now?