I’ll be happy when I get a raise. I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I’ll be happy when we move into that new house. I’ll be happy when I meet that special someone. I’ll be happy when the little one sleeps though the night, or when they’re out of diapers, or going off to school, or finally graduating. Hey, I’ll be happy when I get the job. Maybe I’ll finally be happy when I retire. Wait, will I ever be happy?
Take a moment to evaluate yourself. How is this season going for you? What is making you happy? What is causing you to be stressed? What will likely change and what will remain consistent? I spent a little time thinking through the various positive things in my life and also considered many of the unique stressors that are impacting my current environment. Sure, having a toddler and newborn bring about some new challenges, but the excitement of watching the little guys learn and play is incredible. The seasons will change but the challenges will only evolve as we age. They certainly will not go away. Part of living a happy, healthy life is understanding our mental tendencies and learning to appreciate the challenging seasons of life we are all certain to face.
The Lies We Tell Ourselves
It is a pretty easy trap to fall into. I’ve been there myself. Looking past the current and focusing on the future. It seems we all go through seasons of life where it appears happiness is just a few days/months/years away. If only we could make it through the moment, things will get better.
It’s true. There are times when things are simply, bad. There are times when the current moment will be succeeded with a better one. But the constant nagging tension that ‘life is greener on the other side’ is a path that leads to negativity and discontentment. Life is draining when we are always looking to the future for our own happiness. The dangerous lie we tell ourselves is: I’ll be happy when. Why is it dangerous?. ‘I’ll be happy when’ sucks the life out of the idiosyncrasies that make it worth living. Things will never be perfect and if we are always waiting for perfection then we’ll miss out on the joy that exists in the current moment. In fact, the things we think are a big deal now will probably be forgotten by this time next year, let alone five years from now.
When life gets uncomfortable we often orientate ourselves to a future that is better. It’s often almost a defense mechanism, especially when our current situation is stressful. Thinking ahead and planning well are certainly positive things, but we must be vigilant to enjoy the process instead of always focusing on the end goal. We often have it better than we think.
Dealing with Discomfort
I still think one of the primary drivers of contentment, fulfillment, and overall joy in life is our ability to deal with discomfort. If you’ve lived longer than 10 minutes you have certainly felt your share of discomfort. We often spend the majority of our waking hours avoiding discomfort instead of learning to deal with the challenges it produces. One who understands the inevitability of discomfort can move past a prefect future and embrace the chaos that exist in the moment. It does not come naturally. In fact, we often must train our bodies, both mentally and physically, if we ever want to fully adapt to the way life really works. It is also equally important to purposefully challenge ourselves to periods of voluntary discomfort in order to expand our mind and experiment with our habits and routines.
The Things That Make Us Unhappy
The irony of the whole ordeal is that often the things that make us unhappy are the same things that also bring us joy. If we are honest, our future orientated thoughts are often dominated by things we want (cars, nice house, vacations, relationships) instead of the things we currently have. I know possessions are a big part of modern society but I still wish we would spend more time cultivating our relationships than waxing our cars. Instead of focusing on material possessions, take a week to focus on the people closest to you. What could you do for your family, friends, spouse, or children to make their lives a little better?
It’s a lot easier to tell you about the things I’m unhappy with compared to the things I’m currently enjoying. And it is a lot easier to list for you the things I want instead of the things I already own. But in reality, if you are reading this, your life is actually pretty good right now. We typically have much more going for us than we have going against us. In fact, in our first world countries, we have so many blessings we don’t even think about them.
It All Comes Down to Health
The thing we need to prioritize. Physical health, spiritual health, financial health, relational heath. I still enjoy this metric for measuring overall well being. I’ll start with the physical. Enjoyment of life is often predicated on good physical health. However, we tend to let this one go as we age. It becomes our last priority. As our lives fill, often physical health gets pushed out of the way. ‘I’ll be happy when’ is often a statement about where we want to be physically without a plan to actually get there. Getting our bodies physically healthy gives us the energy to focus on the now and also enjoy the things that are within our ability to control. ‘I’ll be happy when’ begins by starting the process.
We all want to be happy later. But not at the expense of enjoying life now. Learning to enjoy the moment is crucial to living a fulfilled life. In addition, learning to deal with discomfort will change your paradigm. Seeing discomfort as something that makes you stronger instead of something to be avoided at all cost, will impact every area of your life. Take a moment to look around: what are you thankful for? You don’t have to wait until the last week of November to be thankful. Health, relationships, friends, family, coffee? What can you be happy about now?