Thursday, January 29, 2009

"I'll be happy when..."

How many times a day do you think something like this:

"I'll be happy when I've got this room cleaned up."

"I'll be happy when Brian's braces come off and I don't have to pay that bill anymore."

"I'll be happy when I finally get that promotion."

"I'll be happy when our house sells."

After saying things like this for nearly forty years, I no longer believe that I will be happy - truly happy - when any of the statements I make about the future come true. I've hit all kinds of milestones in my life - graduations, a wedding, babies born, babies out of diapers, buying a house, selling a house, writing a novel, and so on - and though I've experienced pride and joy at my accomplishments, once some time passes life feels just the same as it always did.

Tal Ben-Shahar says, in his book Happier, that this is because "We learn to focus on the next goal rather than on our present experience and chase the ever-elusive future our entire lives. We are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of a journey....Once we arrive at our destination, once we attain our goal, we mistake the relief that we feel for happiness....When we mistake these moments of relief for happiness, we reinforce the illusion that simply reaching goals will make us happy." (p. 19)

Isn't it time to tear down the illusions?

Your future accomplishments may make your life easier. They may relieve you. They may bring you moments of joy.

But they have nothing to do with your joy right now in this instant. If you want to feel joy right now - all you have to do is feel it. It's right there.

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