I used to think “I’ll be happy when...”
When I graduate college. When I am a successful horse trainer. When I have enough money to buy a fancy reining horse prospect. When I have the big barn, indoor arena, acres of pastures. When I have a barn full of amazing horses and clients with endless bank accounts. Wait, I’ll be happy when I marry a cowboy. When we get the farm set up better for beef cattle. When the fences are done and we have more time. When the kids get a little older and it is easier to do outside activities with them. When we sell a bull to a registered herd. When we sell a heifer. Later, when things settle down at work, when I have more time to ride, when I can start showing horses again, then I’ll be happy.
As an action driven, achievement oriented person, I used to think that I would be happy when I crossed some of these things off of my to-do list. And some of these things I have crossed off my list, while others are no longer important to me. Either way, whether I achieved these tasks or not, I felt like I was spinning my wheels. I had fallen into the happiness trap. I was so busy and focused on the things I had to do now to be happy later, that I wasn’t enjoying the happiness in my life right now.
I was stressed. I was overwhelmed. And while I had achieved a lot to be proud of, and had a lot of amazing things in my life, I wasn’t feeling happy. I felt like I always had to be chasing more, the next thing so that I could be happy then.
This “I’ll be happy when...” is a constant struggle. It is so much easier to notice the negatives, the thing we don’t have, the things that we can’t do, the things in life that are causing us to feel stressed and less than. To be pessimistic, to focus on the negative.
It takes a conscious effort to re-wire our brains to be optimistic. To look for the good in every day. To feel gratitude. Because there is good in every day! There are people and moments and even things to be grateful for. And when we take to opportunity to savor these good things, to notice the positive and focus on them, then we realize that there is JOY in everyday. And when I made the effort to shift my thinking from the negative to the positive, to note the good in every day, to be grateful, to be optimistic, it was then that I realized that the key to escaping the happiness trap and finding authentic happiness wasn’t in the “I’ll be happy when xyz.”
No, the key to escaping the happiness trap is realizing that happiness is a choice. If I chose to be happy, to seek out the good in every day, to savor the joyful moments, then I would be happy.
How about you-are you stuck in the happiness trap or are you choosing to be happy?