Why Do We Keep Postponing Our Happiness?

I can’t imagine there is a single adult on this earth who hasn’t at one time or another told themselves that they could only be happy once a particular event comes to pass.

“When the kids are grown and flown, I’ll feel happier.” “Once I make XXX salary, then I’ll be happy.”

We all do it; we believe that until certain things happen, we cannot be the happy people we wish to be. 

“If I could just get my dream kitchen, I’d be happy to have friends around.”

“When, once, if …” Why do we keep waiting for the future to arrive before we can be happy? 

Happiness is not a pot of water that we can leave simmering on the back burner until we get to it. Happiness is available to us right now, and maybe if we leave it simmering forever, the pot will boil dry. 

There will always be a thousand reasons why you think you need to delay happiness. And, as most of us have learned, this is not an effective plan for living a happy life!

Sadly, the pandemic has only worsened the problem. “Once we are over this pandemic, I’ll ….” But, no one told the virus or all its related mutations. 

Scientists predict that this virus will be with us for decades to come. It may become just another health issue—like the flu—but it will linger on and on.

You don’t need to be a scientist to realize that playing the when, once, if game with something that does not have an end date doesn’t make sense. Are we all okay waiting for decades before we start doing those things that make us happy?

I am not urging intemperance; quite the opposite. I believe we must all be cautious, but I also think for our sanity and emotional well-being, we need to stop putting off the things that make us happy.

I am all for goals and plans (I have the color-coded notecards to prove it), but I’ve learned that making our happiness dependent on fulfilling those goals often leads to the very opposite.

If nothing else, the pandemic proved to us that life can be fragile and, for some, tragically short. So, how does it make sense to keep plodding through our days, always living for what’s still to come, waiting for some magical future, always saying, “When, once, if?”

Each person needs to work within the boundaries of what keeps them comfortable—no crazy risks masquerading as just livin’ my best life! It is probably not a good idea to buy yourself a million-dollar mansion when you have a studio apartment-sized salary. But that doesn’t mean you must wake up every day hating your snug accommodation and dreaming of the moment you get the big raise.

If anything, by being happy with what you have now, you’ll feel even more delighted when / if you get the keys to your mansion.

For the last twenty months, we had to (and later chose to) put many aspects of our lives on hold. The majority of the world was robbed of the things that gave us joy—whatever is your definition of joy—and society’s mental health is evidence of how badly this affected us.

As the year slowly gathers steam, take a moment to think if you’ve been putting off feeling real joy or have postponed an activity that fed your soul. Have you said to yourself, once this pandemic is over, or when it’s safe again, or if only...?

Maybe, now is the time to think about how you envisage 2022. Do you see your days filled with small joys; your months woven through with greater happiness? Or do you picture yourself plodding through the hours, days, weeks, and months mouthing, when all this is over… or, if only this would end…or, once it’s all gone away….?

We cannot afford to put our happiness on the back burner. Deferring happiness leaves us feeling irritable and indifferent.  

Think about giving yourself permission to put aside the when, and book that trip you wanted to take, reserve a table at your favorite restaurant, all within safe guidelines, of course. And if that feels too big a step, then actively seek moments of happiness in the world you are comfortable in. 

The present is all we have, and none of us is guaranteed the future we dream about, so maybe we should stop postponing our happiness. 

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2 comments on “Why Do We Keep Postponing Our Happiness?
  1. Martha says:

    Excellent approach to living, Jane! Attitude alteration — regardless of circumstances— can be remarkably easy and effective. Not all the time but often. Happy New Year in the truest sense of the phrase!

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