What are your feelings of happiness based on? Is it something that is happening right now? Or are they based on something that you hope will happen in the future? ”I’ll be happy when I lose weight. I’ll be happy when I get a promotion. I’ll be happy when I get a significant other (or get rid of my significant other). I’ll be happy when….”, and the list goes on and on and on, forever if we let it. Wanting change and wishing for better aren’t bad, but getting stuck in an “I’ll be happy when” cycle is draining on our mental and physical well-being.
Getting caught in this loop not only hinders our growth, it also makes us completely miserable in the process.
We’re always looking at what we don’t have, instead of looking at what we do have. If we stay in this mindset, we’re essentially setting ourselves up for failure from the beginning. Not because we can’t achieve the goals we have for ourselves, but because we’re always putting our happiness in the future. We won’t allow ourselves to be happy now, with what we have, where we are, because we aren’t what we think we should be – ie. skinnier, smarter, richer, more in love, etc. We dangle our current happiness, like a carrot on a stick, out in front of us, always slightly out of our reach.
If we never think we have enough, then we look around for reasons why that is. What we generally come up with is that we aren’t getting enough of the things that we want and need, and/or we aren’t being given the opportunities that we think we want and need. It becomes even harder to achieve our goals because we think that the universe is against us, or holding us back in some way.
So, constantly telling our brains that we can’t be happy until we’ve reached these points in our lives can actually keep up from reaching those points in the first place. Which means that we cycle back around to not being able to be happy until we achieve something, yet not allowing ourselves to get there, and so on.
Why do we get stuck in this loop to begin with?
One of the biggest reasons that most of us get stuck in this cycle is because we don’t ever feel like we’re enough. We’re not smart enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. We don’t make enough money. We don’t have a huge house and a yacht.
Or similarly, we compare ourselves to other people, and we don’t feel like we measure up. We try to “keep up with the Jones’”, with people on social media, with celebrities, etc.
Both of these come from the same place…we always feel like we’re lacking something. We see other people, who fit the definitions that we have of being happy, and if we don’t have exactly what they have, then we couldn’t possibly be happy.
When we view ourselves and others through this lens, we put off any chance of happiness. If we don’t do something to reframe our thoughts and release them, we can be stuck in the “I’ll be happy when” cycle forever.
Stepping outside of this viewpoint takes a little effort, but anyone who chooses to can get away from this mindset and reveal their inner peace and happiness in the process.
Here are a few ideas to get you started in the right direction:
Celebrate your wins every single day.
We don’t give ourselves credit for the little things that we accomplish. Even the seemingly tiny things, like getting out of bed, getting dressed, and feeding yourself, can be major accomplishments some days, and should be celebrated. It’s different for everyone, but whatever your wins for the day are, acknowledge them, literally give yourself a pat on the back, and be proud of yourself.
When we go through our lives looking for the small wins in each day, it’s much easier to stay in a positive, grateful state of mind.
Genuinely celebrate other people’s wins.
This sounds like something we could easily do, and we normally do, but here’s a question: how many times have you seen someone else’s win as your loss?
When someone gets a promotion, and you don’t, and you feel less than, overlooked, and/or unappreciated – even when that person works at a different place entirely. If someone gets a large sum of money, you think about what little you have, or how you’ll “never have enough” for what you want. Your sister, or friend gets married, and it makes you think more about how you will never find someone, or about a bad relationship.
Most of the time, we have these thoughts completely subconsciously. It’s not that we aren’t happy for the other person, it’s that whatever happens, we allow the situation to remind us of something that we think we’re lacking in life.
If we allow them to be, these feelings can be positive in nature, showing us the places in our lives where we need to start working towards change. The key words there being, “start working towards”. These thoughts become negative when we allow them to just get us down, and we refuse to do anything to change our circumstances.
Be grateful for what you have, while working for what you want.
There is nothing wrong with wanting better for yourself and those around you. The problem arises when we don’t appreciate what we have now, and we only look at what we’re lacking. Like I said above, in doing this, we always keep our happiness at the end of something. Rather, practice being grateful for what you have now, for where you are now. Even if you’re in difficult circumstances, find something to be thankful for. Even if it’s just the fact that you are breathing. Breath is life.
Then, begin working towards getting into a better situation, to becoming more of your authentic self, and to cultivating more happiness now.
Set specific goals for yourself.
To begin with, if we don’t set specific goals with these things then we’re setting ourselves up for failure anyway. So many people say, I want to lose weight and look better, then I’ll be happy. But they don’t set any specific goals; such as when I lose 20 pounds, when I can lift 100 pounds, when I can climb a flight of stairs without breathing heavy. They never really know what the “end goal” is, so they never actually achieve it, so they never allow themselves to be happy.
Beyond that, I ask you this: even if you set specific goals for yourself, if you make it to that goal, will it actually be enough? (Which leads to my next point….)
Find your why.
If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons then no, it won’t ever be enough. You’ll lose those 20 pounds, then think that you need to lose 5 more. Or you’ll lose those 20 pounds and change your focus, “I’ll be happy when I get new clothes for my new body”, “I’ll be happy when I get a partner who appreciates my new body”. Again, the list can go on and on forever.
Dive a little deeper into why it is that you want to achieve those goals to begin with. If your reasoning is something outside yourself then you aren’t likely to be happy, even if you accomplish what you set out to do.
That’s not to discourage you, but to encourage you to find the real reasons behind why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Do you want to lose 20 pounds because you think that will make you worthy of love? I’m here to tell you, you’re worthy of love now, you only have to see that for yourself. Do you want that bigger promotion because you are trying to impress someone, or get the approval of someone? The only person you need to approve of what you do, is yourself.
If you find yourself in these types of thought patterns, know that you are enough just as you are. Make it your new goal to learn that for yourself, and all of these other things either won’t be as important to you, or, you’ll be chasing them for the right reasons instead of going after them to gain something that you already are.
Compliment yourself. Take the time each day to name five things that you like about yourself.
This may be hard for a lot of people at first. We’re great at pointing out our flaws, but rarely do we actually make it a point to see the good things about ourselves. If you have trouble getting started, ask a friend, a loved one, or someone that you trust to help you. Even if you write the same five things for several days, or weeks, in a row, keep it up. Eventually, you’ll start to see other things about yourself that you love and appreciate.
Pay more attention to your automatic thoughts.
Our brains are very eco-friendly. They recycle the majority of our thoughts each day, in order to save time and energy. This sounds great until you realize that a lot of those automatic thoughts are what are causing you trouble.
If you’re constantly telling yourself that you aren’t good enough, that you’ll never have enough, that you don’t deserve to have more, or that the world doesn’t have enough to go around, you will forever be seeing the world around you as a place of lack.
Be more aware of what you’re thinking throughout the day, and when those types of thoughts arise, flip them. If you have thoughts about not being good enough, immediately stop, imagine yourself crossing that statement out, or erasing it, and say, “I am enough”.
If you find yourself being jealous of what someone else has (like we all do from time to time), again, stop, cross those thoughts out, and say, “I’m genuinely happy for them, and I’m happy to be me”.
These are not all easy things to do. I still slip up and find myself placing my happiness at arm’s length.
But the more I set the intention to be happy with where I am now, the more happiness I have. Because really, happiness is already within all of us. It isn’t something that we can find outside of ourselves. A lot of times though, we have to dig a little deeper to find it within ourselves, and to understand that we deserve to be happy, and we are worthy of all of the good things that we want for ourselves. With a little practice, we can learn to see the world as a place that has enough for everyone, to see that the universe is working for us and not against us, and energetically, that will bring even more good in our direction.
Then, instead of saying “I’ll be happy when”, we can say “I’m happy now, and these things will only enhance that happiness”.