The Happiness Contingencies Are Making You Unhappy

The Happiness Contingencies Are Making You Unhappy

“Then I’ll be happy.”

Nervously I stood in front the bathroom scale. Would today be the day? I’d been working to hit my weight goal. This could be the day.

Left foot. Then the right foot. The LED numbers spinning like a slot machine as the scale calculated my weight.

The numbers stopped.

Bingo!

I did it.

And, honestly, it was rather disappointing.

I finally decided (for at least the third time!) that I was going to shed a few pounds. The goal was to shed 40 of them. Through a rather unhealthy process of excessive exercise and excessively limiting total caloric intake, slowly the pounds came off. Over a period of a few months there was a bit less of me each week. And on the day I lost the last of those 40 pounds I was both happy and almost immediately not so happy.

I expected it to feel different.

Expectations have a way of doing that.

Sure, I had hit my goal. But my expectations were more than just hitting a number on the scale. I was expecting this accomplishment to make me happy. Like, acheiving this goal would somehow cure my nagging and ever-present feeling of unhappiness and emptiness. Like, this was supposed to change far more than the size of my jeans. But instead, I was the same unhappy and empty me that I’d always been, now just 40 pounds lighter.

For most of my life I was quite good at creating happiness contingencies. Those “I’ll be happy when…” parameters. Once the goal or a desired outcome was achieved, only then would I allow myself to be happy. The reality, though, even with the goal attained, I never really did allow myself to be happy.

There was still more work to do.

Sure, I won a battle but I still needed to finish the war. No matter how well I performed in my work life or personal life there would be very little space for joy celebrating my success. There was simply more work to do. No time to rest, Peter. No time to be happy. The war continued on.

Maybe you can relate?

“I’ll be happy when…” is ever elusive. Because you never quite get to happy. It’s a never ending cycle. I didn’t enjoy my weight loss progress. Instead of being happy when I lost the first 10 pounds, my focus was on the 30 pounds still to go.

There was still more work to do.

What happiness contingencies do set in your life? What are you waiting for to happen before you’ll allow yourself to be happy?

My journey has taught me that happiness doesn’t need to be contingent upon an outcome. It can simply be a decision to find joy in the process, a decision to celebrate the individual steps of the journey. It doesn’t mean life is always happy, but removing such restrictive parameters on happiness has allowed me to experience far more of it.

Life gives us many reasons to simply celebrate life itself. And when you learn to celebrate the magnificence of your own existence, you’ll allow yourself to find an endless reservoir of things to be happy about right now.

No contingencies need.

I’ll be happy when…

I decide to be.

Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash