Complete the following sentence: I’ll be happy when __________________________.
What came to mind?
But why wait to be happy?
The key to happiness is not the perfect spouse, tons of money in the bank account, and perfect health. The conditions you attach to happiness make it hard to achieve. You decide upon things that will make you happy, and won’t allow yourself to experience happiness until you have them.
Unsurprisingly, you spend most of your time in a state of unhappiness. So yes, I’m here to tell you that one of your biggest problems is that your standard for happiness is too high.
I won’t be happy until I reach 8% body fat.
I won’t be happy until I get that promotion.
I won’t be happy until I find the right partner.
I won’t be happy until I lose 20 pounds.
The real key to happiness is to lower that standards. The truth is, we don’t need much to be happy. Do you have food on the table each day and a roof over your head? If so, you already have everything you need to be happy. As Tony Robbins says, we must learn to trade expectation for appreciation. It seems that even Robbins, who is an extremely high achiever, realized that the key to happiness is appreciating what he already had rather than always wanting more.
So instead of expecting more, why not start appreciating what you already have in your life?
To download the “12-Week Happiness Challenge” including all the articles click here
The “One Day I Will” Myth
Overly high standards aren’t the only issue here. Unrealistic expectations regarding the future are also a problem. The “one day I will” myth puts a huge wedge between you and your happiness.
One day, I’ll get married and be happy.
One day, I’ll retire and be happy.
One day, I’ll open that restaurant and it’s going to be great.
Another key to happiness is to drop the “One Day I will” type of thinking. Here’s the issue with this line of thinking: If you’re not happy right now, what makes you think you’ll be happy once you get what you want? Sure, you may experience a jolt of happiness for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. Eventually, however, you’ll go back to your previous level of happiness. Do you remember the experiment with the lottery winners and paraplegics we mentioned in the Psychology Behind Happiness?
The thing you think will make you happy generally doesn’t bring as much fulfillment as you think it will. If you’re unhappy now, there’s a high chance that you won’t be happy in the future, either.
As such, it’s a much better idea to work at being happy on a daily basis. It sure beats hoping you’ll be happy one day when a certain thing comes to pass. What if it never happens? Are you going to be miserable for the rest of your life?
Does this mean you should have low standards and zero ambition?. Of course not! Look at Tony Robbins. It just means that you need to balance having high standards and wanting more with appreciating what you already have. The level of happiness you experience shouldn’t be determined by whether or not you meet your standards.
Of course, striking this balance can be very tricky and requires some practice. However, the next section should help make it a little easier.
Appreciating the little things in life
How often do you take time to smell the roses? Chances are, you take most things in life for granted. This tendency makes the struggle to be happy even more difficult. Here are some examples of things many of us take for granted:
– We take our health for granted, but those who are dying would give anything for one more month, week, or day.
– We take our food for granted while millions of people are dying (literally!) for something to eat.
– We take electricity for granted. It wasn’t long ago that this wonderful technology was completely inaccessible!
– We take our families for granted, yet we’ve give anything to have another day with loved ones who have passed.
The tendency to take things for granted isn’t completely your fault. In fact, it’s largely due to the way your brain is designed. Your brain is fantastic at adapting to new things, which is both a blessing and a curse.
It’s definitely a blessing when some terrible happens to you. It’s the reason the people who became paraplegic were able to return to their previous levels of happiness after a few months. As bad as it was, they adapted to a new situation.
It was, however, a curse for the lottery winners. They probably thought that having millions of dollars in their bank accounts was the key to happiness. They already envisioned themselves having their dream life and being happy for the rest of their life. But that’s more or less impossible with how our brains are wired. No matter how amazing something may be, your brain will eventually get used to it, and the initial happiness it gives you will begin to fade.
The key to experience more happiness in your day-to-day life, is to retrain your mind to focus on your blessings. After all, the things you have today could be gone tomorrow. Who knows?
You may take our health for granted, but remember that you could get sick at any time. How many people are here today and gone tomorrow? Did you know that 150,000 people die each day?
Do you realize that everything around you was created by other people? Every building you visit, every chair you sit on, every product you purchase…these are all the fruits of someone else’s labor. Even the trees in the park were planted by others. Aren’t you lucky that these people chose to put their time and effort into these amazing things?
What about the insane number of services you have access to? You take airplanes for granted and complain when your flight is delayed. Yet you should be amazed that there’s a metal tube that can fly you around the globe in just a few hours. There was a time when it would have taken you months or even years to go to the other side of the globe (and it would very likely have cost you your life!).
You take the Internet for granted and complain if it’s too slow. Yet you should be amazed at the amount of free information you can access, all thanks to other people’s hard work.
Taking things for granted often creates a sense of entitlement. Doesn’t that seem a little misplaced to you? Shouldn’t we feel lucky for all the things we have instead? And isn’t that the key to happiness? We have access to so many things at little to no cost these days that it’s almost too good to be true. When it comes to being alive, what better time than now?
Redefine your standards for happiness
This week I’d like you to redefine your standards for happiness by answering the following questions:
1. What are my current standards for happiness? We all have certain things we believe we need to be happy. However, we’re often unaware of what these things are. Take some time to figure out your standard. It could be having a partner, getting a promotion, or losing weight, for instance.
2. What is your “one day I will” event? Thinking that you’re going to be happy once you achieve your goal is mostly, if not completely, a myth. Look at your “one day I will” and ask yourself whether you genuinely need it to be happy.
3. What are your new standards for happiness? Lower your standards for happiness. What is the least you need to be happy? Is your answer true, or can you further lower your new standards?
So why not take a piece of paper, answer these 3 questions and start redesigning your standard for happiness? Because if not now, then when will you be happy? The key to happiness lies in your hand so make sure you use it.
Previous articles in the “How to Be Happy” Series:
- Why Am I Not Happy With My Life? (Part 1)
- How to Combat Anxiety and Eliminate Problems (Part 2)
- What’s Your Personal Definition of Happiness and Success? (Part 3)
- The Psychology Behind Happiness (Part 4)
- The Recipe for Happiness: Making it a priority (Part 5)
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