I’ll Be Happy When…

What is the source of happiness? We tend to assume that happiness will come from a future event. It typically depends upon something else happening. The script often reads like this:

I’ll be happy when… I fall in love.

I’ll be happy when… I get married.

I’ll be happy when… we can buy our dream house.

I’ll be happy when… we can furnish the house.

Still, the anticipated happiness is elusive so we tie it to more future events.

I’ll be happy when… we have children.

I’ll be happy when… the children are older.

I’ll be happy when… I can retire.

What’s happened here? Has an entire lifetime passed pursuing an illusion? Those events that we so dearly waited for do provide a temporary excitement, but too soon they retreat into the ordinary and we replace them with the next fantasy of happiness.

Happiness can only occur in the moment that you’re in and can only be sustained by developing a nurturing relationship with yourself and, hopefully, others. The ultimate source of happiness lies in the quality of your thoughts. Our thoughts are our most intimate relationship and will impact our lives far more than our relationships with others. In fact, our relations with others are, to an extent, but a reflection of the quality of our own thoughts.

What we seek “out there” is but the icing on the cake. Genuine and sustainable happiness is derived from a healthy and nurturing relationship with yourself. Nothing and no one can take that away from you. Devote your attention to your authentic well being and happiness will emerge.

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33 replies
  1. Karen Rosenfeld
    Karen Rosenfeld says:

    Thank you Mel, so simple yet so far removed from most peoples’ first thought of happiness. It is so very easy for humanity to lose sight of this. The entertainment industry and consumer industry in general make it all the more difficult for many people to ever understand this simple concept. Staying close to nature – plants, animals can help remind us of living in the moment. Humans would be better off with a few canine genes – cheers, Mel.

    Reply
  2. db
    db says:

    Great subject, Mel. We tend to procrastinate. What we can accomplish today, we put aside for a “better time” to do or follow through with. NOW is the time to act, when fresh in the mind. Hence the saying, “Why put off till tomorrow what we can do today”!

    In general, follow your instincts, from my experience, instincts don’t lie and they certainly, do not procrastinate!

    Reply
  3. Vishal
    Vishal says:

    Good Point, Mel… I could internalise your statements into my personal outlook towards life, it would be a great & positive value addition

    Quite a few of us know your post to be based on fact… problem is that it is difficult to let go. We get so caught up with life and its myriad tensions, that happiness becomes a distant dream… till it is too late. Great post, keep writing!

    Vishal

    Reply
    • George
      George says:

      Vishal,
      I’d expand on that (& borrow from Sam Harris). Since I believe that 80% of our myriad tensions come from only 20% of life’s events. So, try 1st to identify the 20%. Usually that boils down to other peoples’ actions or intents. Then promote happiness where possible and or reduce suffering where possible. Try to obtain your own equilibrium through understanding life’s problems and then applying your self developed solutions to them. The more we promote happiness in others and solve our own life’s problems the closer we get to a continuous happiness in our own lives.

      Reply
  4. Anupama
    Anupama says:

    It is certainly a new thought to me Mel! Thanks for putting it so succinctly!Yesterday I was standing on the terrace of my home and a bright sunbeam fell on my face. It’s warmth and brightness made me feel so happy-and I felt I could live for just such moments.

    Reply
  5. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Hi Mel,

    I totally agree with you and like to comment that happiness lies upon our journey to the best of us. Is not the final destination that mutters but the enjoyment of the whole adventure during our trip to life!
    And I would like to end by saying that we absolutely need a lighthouse to guide us through this journey and that would be high values in life!

    Reply
  6. Das
    Das says:

    Great topic Mel !

    Reminds me of the Donkey and the Carrot !

    In the pursuit of happiness, “If -> then” relationship seldom works. I have a feeling that people soon settle for just the perceived happiness of the endles persuit itself.

    Our first experiences usually don’t have the if->then link. These are situations we did not expect. Thay are new to the brain. They could be intense because we are present at every moment. This intense experience (good or bad) is mentally revisited.

    We seek it again to find that the old charm of a place or person has diminshed.

    All of that is from a subjective / meditaive view. I am not a psychologist by any means !

    Das

    Reply
  7. Ruth Martin
    Ruth Martin says:

    Hi Mel, Most people believe that happiness is ’caused’ by something outside of themselves. It’s part of the “If Only”…complex. 🙂

    Many people just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that happiness is an inside job! I ask them “How long do you plan to wait until happiness comes?” Sometimes the cog dissonance works, sometimes you get a vacant stare. For some it’s too much to pull that card out of the deck they’ve built their lives(belief systems) around.

    Reply
  8. Loren
    Loren says:

    Great post, Mel… In the immortal words of the poet Keats: “Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not” (happiness falls into this beautifully). Your post is a message worth sharing and repeating… after all, shifting from the external sources, to our own internal one, takes practice, perseverance and patience…

    Reply
  9. Buck Davey
    Buck Davey says:

    Good topic, and well put too Mel!

    I tell myself what I am already happy with in my life. For example…I have a wonderful lady who loves me completely and free of conditions, and we have two great kids. My car may not be the exact car I want, but I am happy it starts and stops when we need it too. My house may not be perfect for us yet, but it is a great starting point for my desired extensions yet to be done. Our swimming pool me be a small above ground pool, but that doesn’t mean we are not happy we have it lol. Will I be happy when I have my exact car and house extensions that I want? Yes of course, but I can’t allow myself to not be happy because I have future goals.

    Don’t forget to stop “and sniff the roses” from time to time, or you just might forget what the beautiful “perfumes” life can provide. Don’t smell those moments in life, deliberately sniff them!

    Anything I want in my life is a goal, or a future want. Write these down on a piece of paper and put them on the fridge or somewhere you will see them everyday. This will let you discover the difference between “happy when” as compared to happy now. Learn to smile for the small things in life, and always remember that smiles are free and infectious.

    Reply
  10. hugh
    hugh says:

    I don’t know how much this marks any notable cultural differences between the USA and Europe, but there is unusually little acknowledgement of suffering in these exchanges. I agree with you Mel when you tell us that dreaming of a once and for all future happiness and associating this hope with some achievement, material possession, idealised realationship can become the sort of wishfull thinking that may distract us from the pleasures available to us here and now, but it is also, ironically, this sort of wishful thinking that we use to distract us from the inevitable struggle with the difficult and painful feelings that life inevitably engenders.
    Yes, let us try to enjoy the moment as you and others here suggest, but let us also have courage in the face of our own suffering and the suffering of others- this may be the path to the very happiness we all seek!

    Reply
  11. Val McKie
    Val McKie says:

    Hi Mel
    Another great discussion. You are so spot on with what you say about our thoughts . One of the saddest thoughts that has been shared with me is that depression can last a lifetime but happiness is only fleeting. Thoughts like this can set up strong neural connections and thats where I think that showing kindness and compassion can make such a difference.I find if I look for beauty in the moment even in the darkest times that can create a sense of peace. I understand what Hugh says about suffering and was reminded of the evening before my Father died when I held a Lady whose Husband was also dying. When I look back on that moment it brings a soft smile and shines a shy light in the darkness of that sad time. Smiles, love and hugs. Val

    Reply
  12. Mitchell D.
    Mitchell D. says:

    Mel, I read “I’ll Be Happy when…” on 2/16, and paraphrased it while talking with a client the next day, giving you credit. He seemed to take it right in.
    Mitch D.

    Reply
      • Mitchell D.
        Mitchell D. says:

        I am from New Jersey, working in Middlesex and Monmouth Counties for the last (almost) 3 years, 25 years in Union County before that, with some overlap.

        Reply
        • Das
          Das says:

          Mitchel @ Mell,

          I am in India visiting my aging mother (93) who is doing well.

          This same issue came up few minutes ago. It is very much part of our discussion here as well. In fact it is the most ancient discussion around this part of the world.

          I was saying how the word IF is the culprit. “I am happy” is seen as a goal. Then “if” is added. Ancient Masters always said that happiness is our core nature. Our suffering starts as soon as we distance it with that word IF.

          By all means smell the roses. Why wait for the rose ? Why not look around this very place you are seated and see it like you have never seen before ? Why not listen to a person without any judgement ? Why not eat something like you have never tasted it before ? Why not feel you own heartbeat, breath, body or pain and accept it as it IS ?

          There is no teaching past this. Just take a moment to see this moment. It is the moment that stays with us for ever. It is our connection to infinity. It is going no where. We are !

          Das

          Reply

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