When will you finally be happy? First, you must define what happiness is to you.
Will it be when you get that job, the raise, the promotion, the office, the new car, the parking spot, the bonus, or make it to the c-suite?
Will it be when you find that special someone, move in together, get engaged, get married, find the perfect apartment, buy your first home, get just the right furniture or renovate the kitchen and bathrooms?
Will it be when you have a baby, the baby starts sleeping through the night, or you find the best daycare? Will it be when your child gets into the progressive preschool, exclusive private day school or their first-choice college?
Will it be when you finally lose weight, tone your abs, shape your eyebrows, stop biting your nails, and find the miracle potion that clears up your acne, fades your wrinkles or brightens your skin tone? Get the right haircut, makeup or wardrobe?
Will it be when things finally calm down—after this project is completed, next quarter, at the end of the month, the week, the day, or the night? Will it be when you finally go on vacation or take the weekend off, when it stops raining, starts snowing, or summer gets here?
Sorry, Sweetheart, but no. None of these things will make you happy.
Why? Because all these scenarios are contingent upon a never-ending list of conditions that must be satisfied before we consider happiness. We’re giving away our power to experience joy to other people, outside forces and our never-ending to-do list, leaving us feeling as if we’re never quite enough. Sure, achieving any one of those goals or milestones can make us happy in the moment, but it’s only temporary. Get the raise, and in a couple of months, it’s like it never happened. After a few weeks, the new car smell fades, the check engine light goes on and the car payments begin.
So, if none of these things brings us true happiness, what will? When WILL we be happy?
When we choose to be happy.
I know—When I first heard that, I thought it was ridiculous! I mean, WHO doesn’t choose to be happy? Well, my friends, it turns out we determine our happiness quota. How? By the many small, seemingly insignificant decisions we make every day. For example, we can let all the petty annoyances of daily living get to us or decide not to expend our precious energy on them. We can let people take advantage of us or set boundaries. We can take on too much work and feel resentful or take breaks when we need to and ask for help.
We decide. It’s that simple, but that’s not to say it’s easy. Some of us will wait until the pain of allowing something to continue outweighs the fear of trying to make a change. Others will say nothing, grit their teeth and continue as is.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment.” Notice that the definition doesn’t say that happiness is a perpetual state. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t only apply to difficult times. We need to make peace with the fact that happiness, like grief or pain, comes and goes.
To be truly happy, we need to learn to be content during the in-between times, the time between working toward a goal and achieving it, learning a new skill and mastering it. If you think about it, most of our lives are spent in this liminal, in-between state of becoming and being. Being content doesn’t mean abandoning our ambitious plans or grand dreams. Contentment comes from staying fully present during the in-between, even when it gets messy or challenging.
This notion of contentment can seem trite when you’re in the thick of a crisis—chronic pain or illness, depression, anxiety or struggling to make ends meet. It can seem impossible to feel happy about anything. When it looks like we’ll never make our way out of this dark hole, can we find small moments of contentment in the daily, seemingly mundane tasks of living? Savoring your first cup of coffee, watching the sunrise as you take your dog for a walk, enjoying a simple, home-cooked meal, listening to music, reaching out to a friend or writing your thoughts in a journal. I think we can. For our own sanity, I think we must.
Despite what social media would have us believe, happiness is not a 24/7 situation. The highly curated, Photoshopped images being passed off as candid shots do not represent the real world. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go through life with a ring light and wind machine, contorting my body to look slimmer on camera. Scrolling through images of everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives is the thief of joy. If you want to increase your happiness quotient, spend less time on social media and more time creating your own memories.
Let’s stop putting our happiness on hold. No more waiting until all our ducks are in a row or whatever conditions we set have been met. Right now, get a pen and paper and start writing down everything that brings happiness to your life. Bet your list will be longer than you think.
Tell me, what brings you happiness?