It may be one of the most common things we say to ourselves: “I will be happy when…”
How do you complete that sentence? You may say you will be happy when you have a new home, better job, a different body shape, a new relationship, or a dream vacation.
Unfortunately, this is backward thinking. But Western culture and great marketers are very persuasive that our happiness lies “out there” and “when” something else happens.
This way of thinking may be running in the background of your unconscious mind, and you may not realize the power it has over you. I (Donna) first became conscious of this internal chatter when I heard myself say, “I will be happy when I have a grandchild.”
As I woke up to this belief firmly nestled in my psyche, I was equally stunned by its implications. If I have staked my happiness on something I am powerless to control, then haven’t I set myself up to feel like a Victim to a thought of my own making? Yes, of course!
After these revelations, I observed my own thinking more deeply and listened to the thinking of my clients and friends. I learned that the “when” condition is a common pattern for most humans, so don’t feel alone if you see the pattern within yourself.
In the first half of life, it is natural to focus on careers, homes, income, and so much more that is about creating a life for yourself. However, being overly focused on these “things” implies that all your hard work is focused on the future and your happiness is based upon whether you attain those things or not.
If you are overly focused on completing tasks today to obtain something in the future, you may put a lot of pressure on yourself to get everything done perfectly. Rather than being in a joyful relationship with yourself today, work becomes obsessively linked to obtaining something in the future. And if stressed about getting everything done just right, you may become worried there isn’t enough time to achieve everything now, which creates more overwhelm and stress.
With this pressure, you may notice how quickly your mind shifts from one task to the next, setting your sight on the “when” goal. This can create an endless loop of “I will be happy when…” bouncing from task to task.
What happens if the “when” you have staked your happiness on, never comes?
Shifting your focus from the future to the present moment is the secret. Here’s one suggestion to help you do that. Next time you hear “I will be happy when…” shift to “I am happy because…” Here are a few examples:
“I will be happy when I get a promotion.” Say, “I am happy because I am working toward a promotion.”
“I will be happy when I have a new client.” Say, “I am happy because I am committed to growing my business.”
“I will be happy when I have a grandchild” to “I am happy because I find joy and laughter with all children.”
With this change in language, you redirect your focus onto what you value now, today, rather than attached to a “when” destination. During the pandemic, many people have stepped back and asked themselves bigger questions such as “What do I care about?” and “What inspires me?” If you focus on these more meaningful questions and let go of staking your happiness on “when” statements, you will discover that your life is a whole lot happier with more ease and joy.