In our current culture of ever-growing demands and obligations, are we losing our happiness? Do you feel if you get something or other done or reach a certain goal, then you will have the time and energy to think about being happy? That when you reach that goal you will deserve to be happy?

Let’s break this down into two parts: what makes you happy and when will you allow yourself to claim that happiness.

#1: When you ask yourself, “What makes me happy,” do you know the answer?

About eighty percent of the time when I ask unhappy clients what brings them joy, the response is, “I never thought about it.” Really? Well, if you never thought about, let’s do it now.

Without a doubt there was a time in your life when you were happy. Now, the challenge is to figure out what you can do in the present to revive what used to make you feel good and to lose any guilt that doing something to uplift your spirits is somehow selfish.

Let’s start by getting some clarity about what ignites your happiness.

Ask yourself three simple questions:

1. What do you do (or want to do) in your spare time?
2. What would you do for free?
3. What types of activities, ideas, and people bring you joy?

Give yourself time to really marinate and meditate on your response. Don’t judge what comes up; just honor it. For example, I used to love reading People magazine but was too embarrassed to continue buying it. I feared I was contributing to our societal deterioration by spending money on Hollywood hype. Then I got honest with myself, knowing that for me reading People was harmless, mindless entertainment. So, off to the grocery I went and picked up the next issue! I give myself that hour a week for reading “light” magazines. It helps me relax and entertains me. And although my husband Victor might disagree, People Magazine is not all celebrity gossip; it features Heroes Among Us—regular folks doing good works in the world (does that sound defensive?).

Whatever else you’ve got going on in your life, focus on doing more of those things on your “brings me joy list” so you can cultivate happiness rather than hoping Happy is going to happen to you. Adding feel-good deeds to your to-do list oftentimes can bring a certain amount of guilt or “now is not the right time, I have too much else to do.”

Which brings us to the next phase:

#2: Is Your Happiness Contingent Upon Something Else?

Are you waiting for your happiness to happen to you? Do you believe you’ll be happy when you lose ten pounds, have a boyfriend/girlfriend, get married, have a baby, own a home, etc. etc. etc.?

Can you challenge yourself to claim your happiness NOW? There is no guarantee that anything we project into the future will happen. What we are assured of is that this moment will never happen again and that this moment, right now, is the only one that exists. So, seizing all the opportunity and happiness this moment has to offer is priceless.

Another interesting point on which to reflect is that when you do lose the weight, get the girlfriend or boyfriend, have the baby, or buy the home—will it be enough. Will you be happy then or will you then have to achieve another “milestone” somewhere in the ambivalent future in order to secure happiness? Many times it can become a never-ending cycle.

Ask yourself and journal:

  • Do you have trouble being happy in the here and now?
  • Are you too future-focused? Does your happiness lie on some future event happening? What is that event?
  • Do you believe you do not deserve to be happy now?
  • What would being content in the present moment look and feel like?

I would love to hear your pearls of wisdom of how you feel happiness now, despite life circumstances, or support you in your struggle.

Terri Cole, founder and CEO of Live Fearless and Free, is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Recently, Terri released her first CD “Meditation Transformation.” She is writing her first solo book “Flip Over and Float—Transform Fear into Freedom in 6 Simple Steps for Sustainable Change” and co-hosting Live Your Truth Love Your Life with yoga psychologist Ashley Turner. Terri can be found on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

*Photo by the Magnificent Octopus