Don’t have the one thing you want most in life? 3 steps to be happy anyway.
By Maria Brilaki
Let’s admit it. Most of us do this when we really, truly, almost viscerally want something.
When we feel we have not reached our goals, have not lost enough weight, have not made enough money, have not yet found the love of our lives…
We beat ourselves up.
I’m no different. When I was just starting my website, I used to get so stressed and worried—it had only twenty visitors a day! When would it grow? Ugh!
I used to spend so much time watching my analytics. Twenty visitors, Twenty-five visitors…
I was obsessing about the website visitors I didn’t yet have—not too different from people who obsess about not losing enough weight or not making enough money.
We wish we had a magic wand and could fix everything in an instant. Alas, that’s not possible.
But there’s good news. Even though there’s no magic wand, here is what is possible:
You can be happy, truly happy, right now, even though you don’t have the one thing you want most in life!
You can be happy, right now, even if you haven’t lost “enough” weight.
You can be happy, right now, even if you haven’t found the love of your life yet.
You can be happy, right now, even though your business hasn’t taken off yet.
But wait a minute. How exactly can you be happy when the one thing you want most in life is just not here yet?
How can you be happy in the absence of what you want, when you are still unemployed, your old jeans don’t fit, or your business hardly has any clients?
Step 1: Accept that happiness is choice — not something that “just happens.”
Whenever I feel stressed or worried or fearful about the future, I recognize that not feeling happy is my choice.
Yes, it’s a choice.
I know it’s so much better when we play the victim role and blame everything to outside conditions, but still, deep down inside, we know happiness is a choice.
You see, happiness is a feeling. Hence, you could be happy right now. Regardless of whether you have what you want or not, you could be happy.
Yet, we think it’s ok to be miserable if we don’t yet have what we want.
And here’s where things get even better.
Even if we get to our goal and lose the weight, have a successful business, or find love, we’ll be happy for a while…until we set the next goal and go back to being miserable because we haven’t yet achieved the new goal!
Yet, I’ve found that the simple act of reminding myself that happiness is a choice dramatically increases my chances of feeling better right there in that moment.
After all, how could I consciously choose misery over happiness?
Step 2: Release the need to fix everything today.
When I was just starting my website and getting frustrated for having only twenty-five visitors a day, I didn’t really want to get to forty, or even 100—my website would still be unpopular with those numbers. I wanted to get to 3,000 per day as soon as possible!
That’s not to say I shouldn’t dream big. But there’s a difference between dreaming big because it makes you excited versus dreaming big because you hate your current situation.
So it’s different to dream of losing weight because you’ll feel awesome when slimmer versus desperately wanting to lose weight because you hate your own skin.
The more desperate you are, the more you feel you need a magic bullet and the less inclined you are to actually take action and move forward.
Since I was desperate, I didn’t really try to increase my traffic to 100 visitors a day. I was busy obsessing about not finding a way to quantum leap to 3,000 visitors a day. You see?
But months later, a switch turned on. I realized I didn’t have to change everything at once. I could do it step by step! What an epiphany!
I realized that climbing the “traffic” mountain was my choice. I expected that the views at the top of the mountain would be excellent and that the journey would be worth it.
So I went “hiking.”
I didn’t think about renting a helicopter. I stopped looking for a magic bullet. Hiking seemed liked my best option and the most rewarding of all! All those stunning views from all those different places on the mountain—I was sure to have a one-of-a-kind experience!
Yes, I sometimes get out of breath, or my legs get tired. But the journey’s worth it.
Step 3: Appreciate your progress, no matter how little.
After months of struggling, I climbed up to 100 visitors a day. Yet, I still wasn’t happy. My site was still not popular and far away from my goal!
Instead of appreciating how far I had come, I felt bad about how little I had achieved.
What a demotivating attitude. Seriously, if you’re looking for a way to make yourself stop, give up, or quit, then judging where you are is your number one tool to make it happen.
After months of keeping this judgmental attitude, I decided I would let go. I couldn’t handle the fight anymore. I would stop being a beggar for website visitors.
And then something magical happened. My traffic increased dramatically. Google was being generous to me, and I started ranking for more and more keywords.
I welcomed the higher traffic, but it no longer felt as if my life depended on it.
I was busy hiking, climbing the mountain that I chose to climb. When small wins came along, I would just take a small break, enjoy the nature around me, and refuel myself with water.
What I’ve learned from climbing my “traffic” mountain is that if you want to be happy, then go ahead and be happy! There’s nothing blocking you. You have the thrill of climbing the mountain you chose to climb, a beautiful view waiting for you, and unexpected twists at every turn just so that life keeps being interesting.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Are you struggling with being happy? Have you discovered any happiness secrets that we should all know about?
Maria Brilaki is a Stanford Engineering grad with an MBA. She is the founder of Fitness Reloaded, where she shares advice to be happy no matter your fitness level. She is the author of Surprisingly…Unstuck the bible of healthy habits that stick. With her program Exercise Bliss, she helps people make exercise a daily habit in five minutes a day.
*Image courtesy of natalielucier.October 15, 2013