I don’t recall how many times I’ve heard someone say causally; “I’ll be happy when I get that job”, “I’ll be happy when this is all over”, “When the kids are grown”, “When I finish this work”, “When I’m with [someone]”, or “When I get some more money”..? These are such common things to be grateful for, however looking at the language of what people say everyday – are we making our happiness conditional?
Taking a step back, saying “I’ll be happy when / if” sends a message – whether true or false – that you’re not currently happy. If you’re not currently happy, then there’s the chance that you’ll get stuck in the loop only be happy when you reach that job, relationship, financial status etc. The loop completes when – not long after gaining what will “make you happy” – another condition is put in place. “Well, now that I have that job, I’ll actually be really happy once I get that [pay rise, transfer, bonus etc]”.
My suggestion is to avoid using the term “I’ll be happy when / if” and any other condition on your being happy. Kids get it – they can be unconditionally happy, and can love unconditionally. Why not try being happy now? For some that is a real stretch, so my thoughts on that is it write down what would have you happy. Sometimes it’s as tricky as asking; “What is success?”. The answer is different for every single person. Over-achievers get stuck in their own cycle of pushing further and working harder to become successful, without ever defining what is success to them. We are far too often stuck in a world where we are given ideas that aren’t our own about certain things, such as the importance of name-brands, super model bodies and constructs of what makes people of TV happy and successful.
So if you’ve having difficulties in being happy right now, take the time to define your idea of happiness. Instead of just saying; “Having enough money, being in a healthy relationship, lots of free time” – define it. What is enough money? Is it only $200 / week, or is it $1,000? More? Less? Define a healthy relationship, what it means to you – not someone else. How much is “lots” of free time? 1 hour or 20 hours / week?
I’m interested in hearing some comments about your thoughts. Something in particular that gets up my nose is the images of the stereotype rich girl screaming at her parents for not getting her the right coloured car, and comparing that to the African kids using squashed plastic bottles as shoes laughing and playing with rocks in the dirt…