Many of us spend a lot of our lives postponing happiness.
Don’t believe me?
How often do you catch yourself thinking:
“when I’ve… (Insert project/plan/book to read/goal to fulfil)… Then I’ll be happy”
This false belief is laid down deeply inside us-it might even lie below the level of conscious thought but occasionally it does surface and we catch ourselves thinking,
“When I have read this book…”
“When I have sorted out my head…”
“When I have got a job I like…”
“When I live in a bigger house…”
“When my children are more independent…”
“When my pain is under control…”
“When I’ve seen a specialist/had the operation/lost the weight…”
“then I’ll be happy”
“then I’ll be content”
“then I won’t feel so restless/such a failure/so anxious”
This sentence, however you choose to put it together, is a dangerously misleading false belief. All it does is serve to reinforce your internal opinion that it is impossible to be content or happy NOW and that there is a future ‘Nirvana’ of ideal circumstances in which you will be happy.
The reasons why this is a false belief are twofold:
- It is NOT impossible to find contentment now. Yes, you may be in pain. Yes, your circumstances may be far from ideal. But unless you cultivate the part of yourself that notices, enjoys, savours the simple everyday pleasures that you do have available to you then even these will cease to sustain you and your experience of life will indeed spiral down into a grey funnel of despair. When instead you cultivate an attitude of gratitude for simple pleasures and moments of joy your perspective on the bigger picture changes.
- Whenever you achieve any of those things you had on your first list, there will still be yet ANOTHER “when… then” thought that arises. If you recognise that this is an ingrained pattern of thinking for you, then you need to change the record playing over in your head.
You cannot afford to postpone being content and happy until you have “sorted out this” or “resolved that”. If you do so you will be postponing it forever.
One of my favourite ‘pictures’ of judgement day is not of God asking you all about the bad things you did in your life (a popular notion of judgement) but of God asking you which of those wonderful things that were provided for you did you enjoy the most.
Did you enjoy the sunsets?
Did you notice the birds?
Did you really taste the cake? Savour the wine? Did you receive the smile of a friend and slow down to be with them or was your eye on the clock, the deadline, the task?
It is only in the now that we can choose to be content and happy. The “now”, just as it is, with all its limitations.
‘Now’ is the only time we have, we may not have tomorrow or next year or whenever we think that that ‘thing’ will happen which will make us happy.
This is surely what St Paul said when he said “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.”
When we postpone happiness, when we say “when… then” we are trying to wrestle life back into our control and the reality is that we do not have control of our lives and the quicker we can embrace this powerlessness and accept it the sooner we stop wasting energy attempting to resist it.
When we embrace and accept our own powerlessness we can also open ourselves to embrace the ONE who is all-powerful. The one who accepts us with all our failings, the one who knows our hopes and dreams, the one who can see round corners we cannot see, the one who gives us THIS DAY in which to love and be loved and to taste happiness.