You’ve likely heard the phrase, “The grass is greener on the other side.” While it’s normal to strive for the next best thing, that type of thinking probably doesn’t lend itself to helping you feel happy or satisfied.
We’ve all fallen into this tempting trap before at some point or another.
It’s hard not to look around and compare yourself and your life to others. These types of behaviors, however, often leave you feeling unhappy and frantically scrambling to stay ahead in the game of life.
It’s much easier to think, “When I get X, then I’ll be happy.”
- When I finish school and start working, then I’ll be happy.
- When I get a promotion, then I’ll be happy.
- When I can finally retire, then I’ll be happy.
That list can go on indefinitely. What you think will make you happier becomes a mere stepping stone to the next mountain. When you’re constantly dissatisfied with where you are now, it can be freaking exhausting!
I’ll admit that I’ve heard some of those contingency happiness statements cross my lips, too.
Take this picture, for example. This is a snapshot taken from my mom’s front deck overlooking the town where I grew up.
Beautiful, right? While I appreciate the beauty now, there was definitely a time when I couldn’t wait to get out of that small town and move on to somewhere “bigger and better.”
One of the biggest regrets people share is: “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”
Why don’t people let themselves be happy?
Although you may not want to admit it, if you’re ambitious and crave success allowing yourself to be happy where you are might make you feel lazy or inadequate.
The corporate world celebrates competition, making it difficult to be satisfied without feeling complacent.
Comparison and competition are among the biggest culprits that destroy happiness.
And these behaviors are all practiced by well-intentioned, motivated leaders who are dedicated to setting and reaching a higher standard (for themselves and others).
In a world where “keeping up with the Kardashians,” is normal, it’s hard not to look around and compare yourself to others. After all, the “proof” of success is often measured in society by your job title or the kind car you drive.
Sure, comparison can motivate you to do your best to achieve, but it can also destroy your satisfaction and fulfillment.
Let’s face it: Comparison usually feels bad and it eats up energy.
Happiness isn’t something we find out there in the accumulation of stuff or when X happens in the future, at least not long term. (Ask past lottery winners or the guy whose new car sits in the office parking lot for 16 hours a day!)
Happiness is an inside job. And, it’s a choice.
Focusing on the positive and practicing gratitude for what you have is much healthier and will make you happier in the long-term.
“Look in the mirror. That’s your competition.”
You’re ambitious and you want to succeed. Who doesn’t? But what is the cost of trying to come out on top?
By continually thinking about what’s next and raising the bar ever higher, you might get so caught up in focusing on what you don’t have, you miss the opportunities that are right in front of you.
Winning isn’t everything. Especially when achieving success takes a toll on your personal fulfillment.
“Winning” in this case might be working harder than everyone else to get a promotion or trying to show that you know more than others so you’re the expert.
The only person you should be competing against is YOU. It does you no good to work so hard that you burn out. Without you, nothing gets done, so make sure you get to stay in the game.
What would it take for you to allow yourself to feel happy and accomplished with your life right now?
And if not now, when?
In memory of Brian Fleenor, 1972-2016.