You know that thing we do when we tell ourselves over and over again, “I’ll be happy when…”? The ending is different for everyone but surely you know what I’m talking about. “I’ll be happy when I get that raise.” “I’ll be happy when I lose 15 pounds.” “I’ll be happy when I find the perfect person to spend my life with.” “I’ll be happy when I move there.” The list goes on.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and it really strikes a chord with me. I’m an actress, so I’m all too familiar with the constant setting and resetting of goals, focus on the future, and reevaluation of my career path (all you fellow self employed people feel me, yeah?) I regularly fall into the trap of thinking I need this one thing to happen for me to reach the next level of fulfillment. All too often I place my happiness on an external thing that isn’t currently within my reach and that I have ZERO control over the timing of.
Do you need to be an actress to relate? Nah. As the brilliant John Lennon once sang, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. If you’re constantly caught up in the future, or always waiting for something to happen to make you happy, you’re letting life pass you by. You’re robbing yourself of joy; that which can be experienced right now in this very moment that you’re reading this. You’re neglecting your journey (which is something you can’t get back by the way). When we forget to enjoy our lives, we miss out on relationships, experiences, and happiness.
When it comes right down to it, this life is the only one we have. We don’t get to go back and take another stab at it, right? It’s not like we make it to 70 and go “Eh, I really didn’t like the way I did the last 20 years, so can I have another go at it?” Why in the world then, would we waste such precious time focusing on what we don’t have? Whatever it is that you want, by all means, go get it. But while you’re going after it, don’t lose track of your life and all the things that you do have going for you, right now. Don’t forget that there’s a journey to be taken. Friends who won’t wait for you if you choose not to make them a priority. We must remind ourselves, in the midst of all the planning, to be in the present and live our lives. Because if we forget to enjoy the in between moments, and only focus on the things we don’t have, we’re going to keep perpetuating the feeling that our lives are lacking, and well, that simply isn’t what life is about.
I know it’s pretty dark, but sometimes I envision myself on my deathbed (I know, I warned you though). I’m looking back at my life and thinking over what I wished I’d done differently. This cheerful little “activity” serves as my gentle reminder to stop making “to do” lists and sending emails and get out there with an actual person and feel something. You can be the most driven person on the planet, but no one will remember that if you didn’t share your life with a few people, right?
So go ahead, stop being so hard on yourself and live.