The unfortunate truth about happiness is that most of us look for it in the wrong places. Bottom line, we typically think that the achievement of our goals will make us happy: I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds, when I get promoted, when I make $50,000 more, when I am married, when I am divorced, when I have children, when my ducks are in a row, when I buy that house….the list goes on and on.
The secret to happiness is to generate it from the inside out. If you generate your happiness on the inside, then you can take it with you whereever you go and bring it with you to whatever you do. Imagine how free you would feel if you could actually be happy, regardless of what’s happening in your life.
Your happiness doesn’t depend on your circumstances or on the achievement of your goals. Have you ever achieved one of your major goals and found yourself no happier in your life, long term, than you were before? Worse, still, maybe the thing you thought would make you happy was empty of meaning when you got there.
The achievement of a goal can create the illusion of happiness but it’s a lie that you can’t be happy until your goal is reached. On the contrary, happiness is generated by lovingly responding to your desire for something, not actually getting the thing.
For example, I decided a few months ago that I was finally ready to get back in shape. For me, being in shape means feeling healthy, lean and strong in my body and feeling full of vitality. I have an idea of what my ideal weight might be, but it’s not the achievement of that weight which is going to make me happy. It’s my loving and consistent responding to my desire to feel healthy, lean and strong that is making me happy right now.
Have I reached my goal yet? No. I’m nowhere close. But I have made the choice to respond to my desire to feel healthy, lean and strong again. I made a general plan for what I was going to do daily, weekly even monthly to respond to my desire. I then lovingly follow up with my plan daily, making decisions and choices that are congruent with my plan throughout the day, day after day.
Would it be easier to eat the same thing my son is eating for dinner? Of course! But it would not be loving. Why? Well, it might seem loving in the moment to enjoy ice cream together, but in the face of my health and fitness, it would actually be indulgent. This incongruent choice would generate disappointment, because I’d be letting myself down. Disappointment is far from happiness.
If I make choice after choice which make immediate pleasure more important than my long term goals, I’m giving myself the subconscious message that what matters to me is not important. I then may interpret this as “I’m not important” or “maybe I’m not worth the effort”, which generates disappointment and upset instead of happiness.
The same is true if I focus on the end result for my happiness. If I keep telling myself that losing 20 pounds will make me happy and then I try to starve myself to achieve the goal as quickly as possible, how loving am I being in response to my desire? Not very! So although my actions may be consistent, they speak to me of my lack of love, care and acceptance for myself the way I am. They make the physical goal more important than the emotional one. And while I may achieve the 20 pound goal, I will have reduced my sense of my self worth and how cared for I feel. This will likely result in my eating badly in response to how badly I am feeling about myself on the inside, which is likely to make me gain weight on the outside.
Instead, my loving and consistent follow through reinforce my sense my self worth and mattering and I experience over and over that what I want matters enough for me to follow through. This feeling of being valued and loved generates happiness inside of me. This happiness, in turn, makes it easier for me to continue to follow through and also easier for me to achieve my physical goals. I’m not waiting to meet my goal to feel happy. I’m generating my happiness inside and then externally expressing my feelings of happiness, of feeling loved and valuable in the physical changes in my body.
So instead of looking for happiness in the end result, and doing whatever you need to do to get to that end result, focus on responding to the emotional needs under the end result. It’s the consistent and loving response to your desires that will generate true happiness.