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Don’t Predicate Your Happiness On These Two Words

It's time to shift the narrative

I’ve written a lot about happiness in my posts, and it’s something that seems to elude so many people. If I go back to the beginning of why I started this blog, it was about how financial literacy can lay the foundation for a life of personal freedom, happiness, purpose, and impact. And I still believe that fiscal knowledge is the key. It’s harder, but not impossible, to be happy when your finances aren’t in order. But it’s not all about the money either.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a thought that went something like this: “I’ll be happy WHEN…” or “I’ll be happy IF…” I know I’m guilty of it, and I bet most of you reading this are too. If you predicate your happiness on either of these words, you could be waiting a while. For some people, these “ifs” or “whens” will never happen, so then what?

The grass ain’t always greener

Happiness is a good thing, but the pursuit of happiness is a dangerous proposition. Trying to find it in other things or people can quickly take you off-course from your goals. Perhaps you’ve caught yourself thinking one of the following:

“I’ll be happy…

  • when I retire.”
  • if I become a millionaire.”
  • when we’ve put our last child through school.”
  • if I get a raise or promotion.”
  • when I can travel more.”
  • if I have a nicer car or bigger house.”
  • when I’m debt-free.”
  • when I lose ten pounds.”

I bet at least one of these sounds pretty familiar to you, huh? I know I have these thoughts myself from time to time. But, in thinking this way, we rob ourselves of potential happiness in the current moment. Remember, these things we’re pining for may never materialize. So, does that mean you’ve somehow resigned yourself to a life devoid of happiness? I certainly hope not.

Not only that, but many people are finding these supposed dream scenarios aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Retirees get bored if they haven’t planned ahead and developed a hobby or found other meaningful work. The excitement and happiness resulting from a raise, promotion, new car, or house don’t last all that long in the end. Once that becomes the new normal, most people are soon wanting the next prize. And, interestingly enough, I’ve read posts from other people that have achieved financial independence or become totally debt-free (not even a mortgage payment), and they now realize that the real excitement came from working toward that goal, not actually achieving it!

Shift the narrative

Instead of “will be,” “when,” or “if,” which are all forward-looking, let’s start using words like “am,” “that,” or “because” when we think about our happiness. These words keep us focused on the present, not looking ahead to the future. Let’s practice:

“I AM happy…

  • that I have family or friends that love me.”
  • because I’m able to fully utilize my talents.”
  • that I have a roof over my head.”
  • because I was able to disconnect and take a long walk today.”
  • that I don’t feel the need to compare myself to other people.”

I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of these a lot more than the “someday” statements above. I like them because they’re about things happening right now, and there’s a measure of simplicity to them! Aside from the roof (and it doesn’t need to be a big one!), these are internally-focused, all about you (not anyone else), and are based in true gratitude.

It’s your turn

Commit today to working on removing “if” and “when” from your vocabulary, at least as it relates to your potential happiness. Don’t be held prisoner. Focus instead on being happy now; happy “because” or happy “that…”

If you struggle with this, get in the habit of keeping a daily gratitude journal. Each day, write down just a couple of thing that made you happy that day, or something for which you’re thankful. Doing so will keep you focused on the present.

In the end, it’s quite possible that some of the things you’re hoping for in the future may indeed bring you great happiness, but you can’t be certain. I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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