I’ll Be Happy When

As humans, we have a strong tendency to put off our happiness.

We think we’ll be happy…

  • when we achieve some goal (new car, new job, “success”)
  • when we’re loved
  • when we feel safe
  • when we have $X
  • when “something” changes for us

… and of course, the advertising industry plays right into this. They love this tendency – it makes it a doddle to sell us all manner of crap. All they have to (implicitly) promise is that when we buy their whatever, it’ll make us happy.

There’s a key problem though. Humans adjust. Quickly. Our “I’ll be happy when” list will definitely change over time (do you still want a GI Joe action figure for Christmas?), but it never empties.

When we get the new job, then we want to have saved more money. When we’ve saved more money, we want a partner. When we have a partner, we want them to be nicer…

At the core of this whole mess is a very simple truth:

We’re not allowing ourselves to be happy.

We’re putting up all these rules, these conditions – much like we do with love, or judgement

Sure, a new car may be nice, but do we really want the car or do we want the feeling (happiness) that we think the car will bring us?

Obviously there are practicalities with having a new car (it won’t break down as much, we need it to carry groceries, etc), but at its core, so much of what we want is because we think it’ll make us happy (feeling loved, feeling safe…).

When we get that thing, we then push the goalposts farther away, thereby ensuring we’re never actually happy.

We have the whole thing backwards.

The secret here isn’t to get the stuff (although that’s fun too), it’s to decide to be happy before you get the stuff. At the very least, even if you don’t get the “whatever” you’ll still be happy. More useful is that it’s always easier to achieve a goal if you’re already happy.

Now, the practical bit – how the hell do you do that?

Well, the first thing to realise is that all these conditions are just pictures in our heads. We can let them go. Remember, you’re the boss. Of all of it. Every single silly picture in your head, you can let go of and replace with better ones. And really, why think about something if it’s just making us miserable?

So, how do we find those pictures? How do we call them to the surface so we can let go of them?

What I’ve found works well is just to ask myself

“I’ll be happy when…”

and let my mind fill in the gap. Nature abhors a vacuum, so our minds will automatically fill in the end of the sentence with… something!

Once we have that picture – the whatever-it-is that will finally enable us to be happy, simply let it go.

You can always ask yourself “Can I let this go?” but really, unless you’re answering yes, you’re lying to yourself – or deliberately harming yourself (this can happen too). The bottom line is, you can always let it go. You’re the boss of your mind.

You’ll be amazed at the giant list of nonsense that will sprout up once you start asking yourself this. It’s ok. Just let each thing go, and you’ll feel yourself getting lighter and, yes, happier. By letting go of each thing, we’re gradually giving ourselves permission to be happy. We’re removing all those artificial conditions we’ve placed in our way.