Until recently, I suffered from the Be Happy When syndrome.
You know what I am talking about. I’ll be happy when I lose ten pounds. I’ll be happy when my house is clean. I’ll be happy when I am out of debt. I’ll be happy when [insert over a million reasons why you simply cannot be happy now].
This mindset is debilitating, and living with this attitude does not yield happiness.
April is halfway through, and if you are anything like I once was, then you are already saying something like, “ugh, whatever, I will start my diet May 1” or “even though I am miserable at my job, this Covid crisis is really giving me an excuse not to leave my job just yet, I will re-evaluate next month”.
If this resonates with you, then you too have probably scoured the internet searching for ways to kick the habit of believing you’ll be happy when you achieve whatever you’ve convinced yourself will yield lifelong happiness. You have probably read things like, be grateful, slow down, become aware. All great suggestions but not very helpful if you don’t know how to do any of those things.
Even though I found a way to combat this nasty syndrome, sometimes I still get caught in the wicked trap.
For many years I said, “when I am a paid writer, I will be fulfilled.”
I have been writing for 15 years because of the immense joy and peace it brings me, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was paid to write an article for a company.
That day came and went, and I felt no more fulfilled than I did the day before. In fact, it took a close friend of mine to ask me how I celebrated the achievement.
I was stunned, I was so focused on what new tasks I set before me that I completely forgot the false promise I told myself.
“I’ll be happier when I am a paid writer…. I’ll be more respected, I’ll be more important, I’ll be fulfilled.”
I was none of those things, and I spent about a week letting that wicked trap drain me of my resources and tools.
So, how do we avoid that trap and how do we break loose if we fall into it?
Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
This saying is my secret weapon to combat my “be happy when” syndrome, and here is how I do it.
When I find myself feeling all doom and gloom, I ask myself what will make me happy, and since I am a writer, I often write it down.
For example, my initial thought might sound like this;
“My youngest child is a year old, it is about time I lose this extra weight. I will be happy when I lose all of it and stop being a lazy piece of crap.”
Then I rephrase my thoughts.
“My youngest child is a year old, and I am now feeling like making my health and wellness more of a priority. Here is how I can do that because I think it will make me feel better.”
Once I have done my best to rephrase my thoughts, I begin to make a list of 10 things I can do in the next 12 hours to achieve my goal. One of two things happens, I successfully make my list or I am hit with a reality check.
I am usually hit with a reality check and realize that what I want to achieve or obtain (i.e weight loss), cannot be completed within 12 hours.
This simple exercise helps me see clearly that what I think will bring me happiness is going to require time, patience, and perseverance. I cannot realistically achieve what I want in 12 hours, but I can create a list of things that will help me reach my goal over time. This tool helps us to develop awareness, and since happiness is often something we want instantly, it helps to prioritize what is important in the moment as well as the long-term.
If your situation sounds like, “I’ll be happy when my house is clean”, and your list consists of areas of your home that you can clean or have cleaned in the next 12 hours, then 100% do it. However, it is important to break down your list into what you can achieve in 12 hours.
Your list may look like this;
It seems reasonable and it may be an attainable goal to accomplish in 12 hours if you have nothing else to do.
But if you are also working, taking care of children, going to school, or responsible for feeding a family, then your list is missing a few key items and may look more like this;
This looks a bit different and it helps to put things into perspective. Doing this may help you realize what will really make you happy is feeling less stressed or more ‘accomplished’.
Once I give myself a dose of reality - I write my Happy Now List. This is my list of ten things that will make me happy right now. My list usually looks something like this;
If you notice - none of those items include cleaning my house, losing weight, or solving global pandemics.
When making lists, it is important to be intentional, honest and realistic - this helps keep expectations low and the chance of success high.
I would love to hear from you and how you are combating your own Be Happy When syndrome, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today!