Will you be happy when you arrive?
Have you heard of the Arrival Fallacy? Gold Medal Syndrome? These are terms that describe how people feel after significant achievements. It’s often anticlimactic and even depressing to have worked so hard for so long to achieve a particular goal - and then what?
How many times have you heard someone say “if I can just do this, I’ll be happy”. This may be earn a certain amount of money, loose an amount of weight, get that particular job, qualification or promotion, etc. And what happens if you achieve this? Are you happy? Maybe for a while but very soon after you are on to the next goal because that happy feeling you hoped for wasn’t quite what you expected and didn’t last as long as you expected.
And this is exactly what the world sells us. Goals: Bigger house, faster car, flashier watch, designer labels, leaner body, and don’t even get me started on the irony of bigger lips and darker skin for us white folks. All of this will make you happy - won’t it?
Do you ever stop and think about this, for yourself or others? You cannot fail to observe the amount of column, web, conference and broadcast space happiness gets these days. We seem obsessed by it, either directly or indirectly. As well as the superficial stuff above there’s the happiness industry reaching out to us on topics such as sleep, breathing, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, mindset, nutrition and on and on. Everything you can imagine to make us healthier and happier.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying these things are bad, not at all. Being healthy is a core value of mine and particularly sleep, exercise, nutrition and mindfulness are very important to me.
The reality is that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ has become an obsession, and I would suggest we are pursuing the wrong thing! I believe happiness is a byproduct that comes from pursuing other things, rather than happiness itself. Pursuing happiness is a bit like pursuing being full, drunk or high all the time. It has a certain appeal perhaps but we all know this is really unhealthy if not deadly in the long term.
I do not like the term happiness either, I think it has too shallow a meaning suggesting a light hearted, giggly, frivolous state that is all too fleeting. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy being happy but I also know those experiences are short lived and not sustainable.
The best word for me is contented. There are others that are good too like fulfilled, satisfied, gratified, at ease, at peace and so on. Being content takes away the need to have a permanent smile on my face because I’m happy, and reflects a deeper level of peace and gratitude within me, at the core of who I am.
This raises the question; who are you? Are you able to say who you are without referencing what you do? The social norm for introductions is invariably your name followed by what you do or maybe who you’re related to in the situation… Hi I’m Peter, Jess’s husband, or Hi I’m Peter, I’m an optometrist/coach/entrepreneur (depending on context!). If I were to say “Hi I’m Peter” and leave it there, no guesses for what the next question would be right? What do you do, who are you with, who do you work for etc. No one has ever asked “What makes you you?”
At my core, my very essence, who am I? This question I have struggled with for ages, but I finally feel I am getting a handle on it. First and foremost, in my pursuit of who I am, I recognise I am fallible. Really fallible. And I am ok with this because I know that to diligently pursue the real me takes courage and curiosity that will regularly lead to f**k ups! Some laughable, some painful, to me and others. But I have a clear why for my life - to engage in courageous, curious and compassionate conversations, so that we connect wholeheartedly. Connection has become very important for me. Connection with myself, others, nature and life in general. (I highly recommend Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections if this resonates with you). Embracing the compassion aspect of this is usually the biggest challenge for me - significant work in progress. However, without compassion (for myself and you) the connection would not happen, more likely an explosion instead (it’s happened, several times).
Who are you? At your core, your very essence? If you don’t know, how can you explore this and find out more about you? What you are not is your job, your relationships, your material possessions, your looks, your fitness, your intellect. All these are features of your life, but they are not you. Discovering you is possibly the greatest adventure you can ever go on and there are some very helpful things you can do to prepare for and embark on that journey of discovery. Be ready for a hell of a ride!
I suggest that this is one journey that you’ll be happy when you arrive! 😉
In my next blog I’ll talk about some of the tangible things you can do and practices you can learn to start and help you on this adventurous journey of discovery. In the meantime the best thing to think about is your values and beliefs. Values being what’s important to you, beliefs being what you think is true.
If in the meantime you’d like to chat about this, please reach out to me. I’d love to have one of those courageous, curious and compassionate conversations where we connect.