I Will Be Happy When …

“Are you enjoying your summer?”

I stared at that text message from my coach. I thought about it deeply and eventually responded:

“Regarding summer, I am pressing a bit and it feels a little like low-grade anxiety … putting a bit of pressure on the success of a couple key projects and the momentum in my practice to close the year the right way. It does rob a bit of the joy in the present moment.”

When you are achievement-oriented, it’s easy to get lost in chasing goals — your quarterly number, the next promotion, a big purchase. We get excited about how happy we’ll be once we reach that mark or achieve that milestone, and we miss the essence of where a beautiful life is truly lived — right now, in the present moment. 

I’ve mortgaged my joy for the illusion of happiness on the other side of achievement, only to feel let down or immediately return to the pressure of another self-imposed expectation of another desired outcome. 

The University of Buffalo recently examined the downsides of delayed happiness, which can lead to people “feeling more guilty, anxious and regretful when engaging in activities that take time or energy away from one’s long-term goals.” Not only is it hard to create your very best work from that place, but over time, it typically leads to overwhelm, exhaustion and burnout. 

You don’t have to give up on your goals or stop being driven in your personal and professional pursuits. Instead, you can retrain yourself to be happy in the moment, even as you’re working toward the things you want. 

Here are three ways to stop mortgaging your joy while still pursuing the future you desire:

  • Ground yourself in the present moment. Embrace practices that help you reorient yourself, whether that’s meditation, a walk in nature, yoga or some other restorative practice that helps you come back into being here, now. 
  • Invest in relationships. Make sharing life’s experiences with people you care about a priority. Having shared experiences built into the calendar builds anticipation, which can be rewarding and fun in and of itself. We really are better together.
  • Enjoy the journey. During an ImpactEleven community learning session, Founding Partner Peter Sheahan shared this pearl of wisdom: “The journey is the abundant part of the experience.” There is power in learning to fall in love with the process of pursuing what you want in life. 

I invite you to engage in an exercise that my coach guided me through following that text exchange. 

Grab a pen and paper. Write down the things that bring joy into your life. Large and small. It’s your list. Pause. Keep going. Stretch. Keep going. For inspiration, here are a few of mine:

  • Coffee at sunrise
  • Time on the water/in nature
  • Fresh flowers 
  • Live music 
  • Relationships/community 

Stay aware of how prevalent joy is in your own experiences and lifestyle design. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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