If You’re Not Happy with What You Have, You Might Never be Happy
I’ll be happy when: I buy my dream car; I buy a home in a certain address; I have a million dollars in the bank; I find my dream partner. Does this sound familiar? How many times have you heard someone say this or something similar?
The search for happiness is not something new.
Human beings have been constantly searching for happiness since the dawn of recorded history.
Happiness is considered to be so important that it the United States Declaration of Independence names it as one of the unalienable rights, alongside life and liberty.
In the last few decades, the search for happiness has taken a new direction.
People have become too materialistic, and happiness has been pegged on collecting more material things. We constantly want more and think that we will be happy when we get it.
We believe that we will be happy when we get more money, a better car, a bigger house, a more beautiful spouse, a better job, and so on.
Unfortunately, this is just an illusion that has led to something known as destination addiction.
We think that happiness is in the next destination, whether that destination is a car, a house, a job or a partner.
If you are preoccupied with the idea that you will be happy once you achieve something you don’t have at the moment, you need to stop in your tracks.
Happiness is a personal choice. It is the result of your thoughts and actions in the present moment. In the words of Jim Rohn, happiness is something you design for the present, not something you postpone for the future.
Being happy is a matter of focusing on the good things you have going for you at the moment, rather than worrying yourself with expectations about the future, which is not assured.
If you don’t stop the preoccupation with the next big thing and focus on being happy with what you have now, there is a chance you just might never be happy.
Fortunately, being happy with what you have is something you can learn – all it takes is a little conscious thought.
Below are some tips on how you can stop obsessing over what you don’t have and be happy with your life as it is right now, even as you work to make it better.
STOP DEFINING CONDITIONS THAT NEED TO BE MET FOR YOU TO BE HAPPY
When you ask people what they need to be happy, many of them will respond with a list of conditions that need to be met in order for them to be happy.
The irony is that by defining things that need to happen for you to be happy, you are actually making it harder for you to be happy.
Let me explain why.
When you say that ABC has to happen for you to be happy, you create a distinction in your mind between being happy and not being happy.
Since your mind is logical, being happy when these conditions have not been met would lead to cognitive dissonance, so in effect your mind keeps you from feeling happy until these conditions have been met.
To make matters worse, human beings constantly seek growth. Once you get something you wanted, you start craving for something else.
This means that when you get what you wanted, you will have new conditions that need to be met in order for you to be happy.
This keeps your goal posts for achieving happiness shifting, thus making it even harder for you to be happy.
With this in mind, the key to being happy where you are now is to stop defining things that need to happen in order for you to be happy.
So long as your basic needs – food, shelter and clothing – are met, anything else you need to be happy is subjective.
It depends on your own ideas of what happiness is. Instead of pegging happiness to something you hope to have in future, start pegging it to what you currently have.
AVOID THE COMPARISON TRAP
Most times, our happiness is tied to things we don’t even need. Very often, we crave these things simply because others have them, so we think we should also have them.
How many times have you seen someone spend thousands of dollars to buy a new car, not because their old car is not working anymore, but because their neighbor or colleague bought a new car?
Researchers even found that neighbors of lottery winners often go bankrupt due to risky financial decisions made while trying to keep up with their lucky neighbors.
The problem with comparing yourself with others is that it shifts your focus from what you have to what you don’t have, which in turn makes you feel unsatisfied with what you have.
Sadly, with the internet and social media having become a normal part of our lives today, comparing ourselves with others has become far too easy.
You log onto Instagram and see photos of your friend on a vacation you cannot afford, and suddenly you start feeling like your job is not good enough.
You log onto Facebook and see that one of your high school friends has purchased a sports car, and suddenly you start thinking about how old your car is, despite the fact that it runs just fine.
These comparisons can easily make you feel like nothing is going well in your life.
If you want to be happy with where you are in life at the moment, you need to realize that another person’s success does not translate to failure for you.
Just because someone bought a car or a house by the beach does not mean you need one.
For instance, your neighbor might have gotten a job that requires him to move around a lot, thereby forcing him to buy a car.
This does not mean that you also need a car, yet you work down the street, and your job doesn’t require you to move around.
Perhaps your neighbor even bought the car on loan and is not happy about the purchase.
The point here is that you should focus on your life and ignore how others live theirs because everyone is on a different path.
While avoiding the comparison trap is a surefire way of achieving happiness with what you have, it is not always an easy thing to do.
You cannot simply tell your brain not to compare you with others and hope that it will automatically stop doing it.
Fortunately, there are some tips you can use to train your mind to stop making useless comparisons. These include:
- Associate with people from diverse backgrounds: Don’t associate with people from only one class. For instance, if you only associate with people who are richer than you, it will be almost impossible not to compare yourself to them. If you associate with people from diverse backgrounds, on the other hand, you won’t be much inclined to compare since you will realize that there are people who are less privileged that you yet they are also happy.
- Limit your use of social media: Social media provides one of the greatest temptations for falling into the comparison trap. Instead of spending hours on social media checking what people are doing with their lives, why not spend the time doing something productive? In addition, you should remember that people are not posting their failures on social media. What you see on social media is only a fraction (the best fraction) of what their lives are like in real life.
- Focus on what you are good at: Find what your unique strengths are and focus on them. Work hard to be the best at what you are good at. This will make you less inclined to make linear comparisons with others. For instance, if you are the best actor in your region, you won’t feel like less of an achiever just because your friend is the best basketball player in the region.
- Adopt a mentality of abundance: People who are constantly comparing themselves with others operate from a scarcity mentality. They think that someone else’s gain is their loss. People with an abundance mentality, on the other hand, know that the world does not work this way. They know that there is enough for everybody, and that when their friends win it doesn’t mean that they are losing. When you adopt the abundance mentality, you stop comparing yourself with others because you know your time is coming.
When you are suffering from destination addiction, you are so focused on what you need to have that you forget about what you actually have.
I want you to take a moment to think about all the things you have in your life today.
Did you have some food to eat when you woke up this morning? Are you educated? Do you have a job? Do you have a place to live? Are you healthy? Are your family members alive? Do you have good relationships with them? Do you have a spouse or partner who loves you for who you are?
If you answered yes to a single one of these questions, you have a reason to be happy.
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are probably better off than almost half of the people on earth.
According to DoSomething.org, about 3 billion people (almost half of the world’s population) survive on less than $2.50 a day.
If you are better off than half of the world’s population and you are still unhappy, what do you think will make you happy?
If you want to achieve happiness, you should stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being grateful for what you have in your life.
How do you do this?
I have a very practical gratitude exercise that I practice every day, and you should try it too.
Every evening, before you go to sleep, get a notebook and write down the five things that you are grateful for that day.
Whether it is something you accomplished at work, whether it is something good that someone said or did for you, or something that made you smile.
It doesn’t even have to be something new.
For instance, if you are always grateful for your spouse or kids, there is no problem with including them in your list every single day.
This gratitude exercise might sound silly, but it actually works.
When you end each day by thinking about the things you are grateful for rather than what you are lacking in your life or what your friends are doing with their lives, you will realize that your life is actually good.
Even as you work hard to achieve your goals and dreams, you will be happy with the much you have been able to achieve so far.
CHANGE YOUR REASONING
All of us are constantly trying to improve our lives – we want a better job, a better neighborhood, better cars, a bigger house, and so on.
There is nothing wrong with that.
Actually, improvement is a good thing. It shows we are growing.
However, before you focus all your energy on chasing improvement, you should examine your motivation for improvement. Is there a legitimate reason behind your need for improvement, or are you simply doing it because you want more?
For instance, if you want a better job because you want to take your kids to a better school, that is a great thing. If you want a bigger house because you just got your second kid and therefore want more space, that is great.
However, if you are just chasing a bigger paycheck and a bigger house and a bigger everything because you think more of everything is better, then you have a problem on your hands.
Here is the thing, there will always be something better out there.
There will be better houses, better cars, more beautiful potential partners, better paying jobs, and so on.
If you are chasing something simply because you think more will make you feel better, you will never be truly happy because there will always be something that is outside your reach.
It has even been scientifically proven that being materialistic leads to unhappiness.
According to a 2001 study by Lisa Ryan and Suzanne Dziurawiec, people with more materialistic values are more likely to find their lives unsatisfying.
Therefore, if you find yourself craving for material things, evaluate the motivations behind the desire. If you have solid justifications for seeking more, you should use that as a source of inspiration to work even harder.
However, if you are chasing more just because you think having more will make you happier, you should shift your attention from chasing more to enjoying what you already have.
REALIZE THAT YOU ARE ENOUGH
The feeling that we are not enough is another reason why most of us are unable to achieve happiness.
How many times have you felt like you are not successful enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not funny enough, not tall enough, and so on?
When you feel like you are not enough, it can be tempting to chase perfection and think that you will be happy once you achieve the quality you are chasing.
Maybe you feel that you will be happy once you lose 20 pounds or once a certain clique accepts you and so on.
However, here is the thing: no one is perfect in this world.
Even the people you admire have something they wish they had.
In addition, our feelings of inadequacy are tied to something else.
For instance, you might feel you are not interesting enough because a certain group of people have not accepted you into their circle. However, even if you became interesting enough, they might still reject you because of something else.
Feeling inadequate and thinking that you will be happy once you improve something about yourself is like chasing your own tail. There will always be something to chase.
In addition, there is nothing you can do about some of these things.
For instance, if you believe you are not tall enough, there is not much you can do about it.
So, should you remain unhappy because of something you have no control over?
To avoid this, you should realize that nobody is perfect and that you are good enough.
Your shortcomings are part of who you are, they are part of what makes you unique.
Don’t beat yourself up because of them. In the end, people who are meant to be in your life will accept you regardless of your flaws, while those who are not meant to be in your life will reject you even if you somehow managed to make yourself perfect.
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
While I said that chasing more and more for the sake of it is the perfect recipe for remaining unhappy with what you have, lack of growth can also keep you from achieving happiness.
As we grow older, many of us settle into life and increase our aversion to risk.
We feel that we have achieved some level of success and we become afraid of losing it all.
As a result, we start playing it safe and doing what seems practical.
Eventually, we end up in a comfort zone where there is no growth in our lives.
The problem with playing it safe is that it forces you to give up on your dreams.
Instead of taking risks or gathering the courage to go after what you want, you remain where you are because you are afraid of failing and losing what you already have.
Eventually, the lack of courage to go after your dreams leaves you feeling unhappy with your life.
To avoid this, you should get out of your comfort zone and go after what you want. You are never too young or too old to go after what you want.
Actually, studies show that the greatest regret for people who are almost dying is not going after their dreams and aspirations.
You don’t want to have the same regrets later in life.
And here is another thing.
If you get out of the comfort zone and go after your dreams, it won’t matter whether you succeed or not. Even if you fail, you will still be happy knowing that you gave it your best shot.
STOP LIVING IN THE PAST OR THE FUTURE
I mentioned earlier that happiness is something you design for the present. It does not depend on your past or your future.
Still, very many people remain unhappy because they are living in the past or the future.
Their unhappiness is caused by something that happened in the past or something they are hoping for in future.
While there is nothing wrong with remembering the past and thinking about the future, you should not things in your past or future influence your happiness.
For some people, achieving happiness is impossible because of something that happened in the past. Either they think that life shortchanged them, or they feel that they somehow messed their lives.
They cannot be happy because they are essentially living in regret and denial.
Unfortunately, things in the past have already happened, and there is nothing you can do to go back and change them.
For others, their search for happiness is curtailed by their expectations for the future. They believe that they will become happy once they achieve something in future.
However, the future is not guaranteed. You cannot go into the future and make it happen now.
Therefore, it makes no sense to let things you have no control over keep you from achieving happiness. The only time you have control over is the present.
If you want to be happy with your life today, you should stop living in the past or the future and focus on the moment you have now.
In life, we all want to live up to our biggest potential and achieve our greatest levels of success, and there is nothing wrong with that.
However, many of us obsess so much about what we don’t have that we forget about what we actually have.
We adopt the belief that we will be happy once we get the next big thing, which unfortunately sets us up for a life of unhappiness and discontentment.
If you want to live a happy life, you should give up the idea that happiness is in the next destination and focus on being happy with what you have now.
Fortunately, with the tips shared in this article, you can make a change in your life and learn how to be happy with your life as it is now.