Have you ever worked really hard to reach your goal, only to achieve it and feel like, “Wait, is this all there is?” You met the goal, but it didn’t bring you the happiness you thought it would?
This is actually a very common experience, and here’s why.
Most of us were raised on fairy tales in which the prince wins the kingdom and the princess lives happily ever after. We’re taught that if we’re pretty enough, smart enough, brave enough or work hard enough, we’ll get what we desire. And, we’re told, the achievement of those things will make us happy.
How many of these scenarios sound familiar?
- “I’ll be happy when I get promoted and earn a higher salary.”
- “I’ll be happy if I lose 10 pounds before my high school reunion.”
- “I’ll be happy when my husband pays more attention to me.”
These are all examples of conditions that most of us believe will make us happy. And sometimes they do, for a minute.
It does feel good to cross something off your list or to realize something you’ve been dreaming about for a long time. The joy of fulfilling our heartfelt desires is a huge part of our purpose here on planet earth.
The problem arises when we conclude that our feel-good came from the thing we’ve just achieved. Why? Because if we believe that our happiness comes from the thing, we set ourselves on a never-ending treadmill. We keep striving for the next achievement and the one after that, but none of them satisfy us for long. This “outside-in” approach to happiness sets us on a lifelong journey toward a destination that we can never reach.
So how do we break free from this cycle? By realizing that it was never the thing – the relationship, the event, the money, the circumstance – that brought happiness.
Think about it. Is it possible to be blissfully content on a crowded, noisy subway? Of course, it is. Can you feel sad, frustrated or anxious when you’re on a 5-star luxury vacation? Absolutely. As the old saying goes, money can get us on the boat, but the rest is up to us.
The conditions we find ourselves in at any moment can support our happiness, but they cannot create them. Likewise, the people or circumstances around us may encourage our disconnection, but we are the ones who make the choice to disconnect. Happiness truly is an inside job, and if we want to experience it, we have to approach it from within.
Here are 3 steps for reclaiming your happiness – before, during, and after you’ve reached your goals:
- Separate your goal from the feeling you believe achieving it will produce. The only reason you’re pursuing the goal in the first place is that you believe it will make you feel a certain way. Think about it. If you desire more money, it’s not because you like the feeling of paper between your fingers. It’s because you associate money with a particular positive feeling, such as freedom, security, or fun. If you have a goal to travel or to be married by a certain age, it’s because you believe those conditions will make you happy. The first step in reclaiming your happiness is to identify the feeling state you’re going after. By doing this, you make your goal unconditional and therefore under your own control.
- Acknowledge that the feeling you desire can only be generated from within. The attainment of that feeling state is something that you have the ability to achieve in a really wide variety of ways. And almost always, there is something you could do right in the moment to raise your vibration. So, if you believe money will give you freedom, ask yourself, “What could I do, right now, to feel free? If you believe being married will make you feel loved, what could you do to enhance your experience of love?
- Make happiness your goal, not the “thing.” Since happiness is what we’re all seeking, doesn’t it make sense to make that our goal? You don’t need a “thing” to be happy. And in fact, if you’re counting on that thing to make you happy, it never will. You must decide ahead of time to be happy. And when you do, you put yourself in the best place to receive the best of what life has to offer you.