Is Your Happiness Quest Making You Miserable?

Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in Guest Posts, Personal Development | 12 comments

It’s all about happiness on Live Love Work and I’m thrilled to shared this guest post by Kelly Gurnett (a.k.a. Cordelia) from Cordelia Calls It Quits! Bring on the happy! : )

Last month, I had a breakdown.  An honest-to-goodness, cancel-all-plans, try-not-cry-in-the-bathroom-at-work breakdown.  And it made me completely reexamine the way I was going about this whole “improve my life” thing.

You see, for the past many months, I’ve been hustling my little tail off to transform my life into the brilliant thing I know it can be.  And while I’ve been optimistic as hell about my future, I’ve also been as unhappy as hell as in my present.

I run my blog, my passion project which I’m always trying to make as amazing as possible.  I contribute twice a month to the Brazen Careerist blog Brazen Life.  I recently got picked up as a contributor to Lifehack.  I freelance in the hours around (and sometimes during) my day job.  I put in my social media dues.  I recently released my first ebook.

Occasionally I schedule in a little “down time.”  (I have to schedule it, or else I won’t honor it.)  But that’s mainly because I know I have to or else I’ll burn out altogether and be good for nothing.  Every minute of every day, I am thinking about, planning for, or working on some project or goal or piece of the puzzle that one day will lead me to my ultimate “happiness”:  working full-time as a writer/editor, on my own terms, free of the 9 to 5 and loving my life like crazy.

But my recent meltdown clued me into something huge I’d been oblivious to.  In the midst of all my hustling and striving for my happiness in the future, I’d been completely neglecting my happiness in the here and now.

Hi!  I’m Your Day!  Let’s Do Something!  Let’s Play!  Let’s—Oh, Okay.  Nevermind.  It’s Alright…

There’s nothing wrong with having goals.  In fact, I recommend them quite highly.  Far too many people are content (or pretend they’re content) settling for things as they are, telling themselves they should be grateful, and believing that “meh” is the best kind of life you can expect from the “real world.”

Wanting to make things better—whatever that means for you—is admirable, ballsy, and just plain freakin’ awesome.

But, you have to be careful not to forget that you also have a life to live today.  And focusing solely on the future while neglecting the present can lead to making to miserable in that present.

I’ll deliver it in a puppy anecdote (because everything’s better when puppies are involved):

I have two adorable and very spoiled dogs.  There is nothing better than coming home after a long day of work and seeing their unfailing enthusiasm at my return:  Mom’s home!  Time for attention!  Time for food!  Time for pets!  Tails wags and paws leap off the ground; the excitement is palpable and infectious.  If I took just a few minutes to roughhouse with them and revel in their pure doggy joy, my transition home would be lovely.  I would shed all the grownup, frowny stress of the workaday world and enter my evening (my “real life”) with a renewed sense of lightness and optimism.

Unfortunately, most days, the best response my dogs got from me was a bowl of dinner followed by a night of watching Mom type, type, type away until her eyelids started drooping.  No pets.  No fun.  Just a frazzled me getting increasingly more frazzled.

Same goes for the husband:  I’d sit down with him long enough to shovel some food into my mouth, then it was off to more hustling.  There was just so much I wanted to do to make sure my spiffy new life got off the ground.  I kept sacrificing a cozy (and much-needed) night with my little family because I felt it was for the “greater good.”  I was focused.  I was determined.

I was miserable.

Because—and here’s the thing—it doesn’t help your happiness to get to that “greater good” if you feel horrible throughout the entire process of getting there.

Your life is gazing at you every day and saying, “Hey!  Let’s go for a walk!  Let’s catch up with that friend!  Let’s watch that awesome sunset!”  It’s wagging its little tail and fixing that heart-melting gaze on you that says it just wants to spend some time together, for no other reason than that it would be really nice.  And even if you’re striving for bigger and better things, you need to remind yourself to take a breath and listen to it.  Because in the ultimate scheme of things, this moment is your happiness.

happy dog

Let Go Of “I’ll Be Happy When…”

There is more to your happiness than those grand future goals.  They’re great, and by all means keep fighting like crazy for them.  But you’ve gotta the present a little love, too, or else you’re defeating your own purpose.

Happiness quests go both ways.  Sure, it’s takes a ton of effort and sacrifice to improve yourself and your life.  I’m not saying it doesn’t.  Sometimes you need to forego a little immediate gratification to make your drams happen.  Just don’t make that sacrifice a constant practice.  Because, as John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

So.  If you’re up for it, I’d like to end this with a challenge:  Stop questing, stop striving, and set aside some space to spend some quality time with your day—even if it’s only for 15 minutes.  Pause to recognize what you’ve got right now, and love the hell out of it.  Your goals will still be there when you get back to them.  But today won’t.

Written by Kelly Gurnett

Kelly Gurnett (a.k.a. Cordelia) is a wannabe revolutionary, improvement junkie, and fierce opponent of the 9-5, bottom-line, lather-rinse-repeat mentality.

She likes caffeine, outcasts, dreamers, and all things snarky.

I love your comments! Have you given up your happiness today in pursuit of future happiness? How are you going to add happiness to your day today?

Happy puppy picture courtesy of ZakVTA


  1. Great post Kelly and one I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. I’ve been accused of not taking enough time for myself because all I do is work these days. I also have that end goal in mind but the difference with me I suppose is that I don’t have the family to give my time to or the full time job that wipes me out.

    I do have my precious 4 legged daughter though but I definitely take time every single day to show her love and attention. She is not ignored at all, she actually helps me realize that it’s time for a break.

    I also love what I do so I’m very happy all day every day. I reap the rewards of my efforts so it’s great to have that feeling each day.

    Others can get caught up in getting those goals met that everyone else is put on the back burner and soon they realize that this isn’t really all that fun. I hope that doesn’t happy to most people. I hope they enjoy the ride as much as I am.

    Thanks for sharing this post with us and I do wish you all the best in your quest for that dream job. I have no doubt you’ll get there.


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne! You are one of the most balanced, positive and happy people I know and I appreciate you sharing your experience and wisdom.

      When I talk to people about work-life balance I often say that balance isn’t about equal parts work and play. It’s important to have work and play, of course, but our individual needs are different and may even change from day-to-day or year-to-year! The most important aspect of balance, and the happiness that comes with it, is checking in with ourselves and adjusting our activities as necessary.

      Have a grateful day!


  2. Really enjoy this post, Cordelia and Chrysta! An essential point – if you are not enjoying the work to get where you think you want to go, then you might need to pause and re-evaluate. It is one of those introspection moments we need to have from time to time. Excellent! Thanks. Jon

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon!

      I find reassessing my experience and my progress necessary for my health and happiness. No matter how well (or not so well) I have planned for my future, things often happen differently I planned. Stubbornly sticking to my original plan is a recipe for unhappiness!

      Have a grateful day!


  3. Cordelia and Chrysta,

    Oh what a great post. This is me! I’ve been trying so damn hard to change, and improve. I read and write and read and you know what I am overwhelmed by it all. I’ve had to stop writing on my blog for now becuase it was all becoming so damn stressful.
    My fundamental issue seems to be not finding great information, not finding awesome people to read, but trying to find a strategy for actually moving forward. I am in information overload and I can’t seem to find the right way to move forward. So yes, I am exactly this, feeling miserable trying to change and be happy!
    Being present is definitely part of the answer, but how to really action it? How did you both find the way to focus on the “right” change?

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Chris! I’m happy to hear this post resonated with you! I hope you check out Kelly’s blog- it’s great!

      It has been my experience that happiness happens in the here and now- all we have to do is be open to experiencing it. Trying to create a better life is a great goal but not if that goal is at the expense of our happiness today.

      When I started on my journey I had no idea how to be happy today or in the future. I kept trying new things, little by little, until I found what worked for me. Being present in this day was a huge part of discovering I can be happy right now!

      Have a grateful day!


  4. Love this post, Cordelia (and Chrysta). I loved your personification of the present with the words, “let’s play”

    So often we work so hard to create a happy life, but when we get to the future, we find that we’re still unfulfilled because we never learned to be happy in the present. Great insight!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Steve! :)

      I absolutely agree if we can’t be happy in the present, it’s unlikely we’ll be happy in the future- no matter how great that future might be.

      Have a grateful day!


  5. The Buddhist in me knows there is nothing but the present. What’s the saying, that you can’t step into the same river twice? I know that I can do nothing about the past. It’s, well, passed. And I have no idea what the future holds. I can only be present in the present and get every last ounce out of life this moment. I’ve come to believe that I can build the best future by building the best present. And, when the future is now, I will look back on now and have good memories. Make sense? I don’t know. It sounded great when I was thinking it. Thanks for your post.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Christian!

      I love the perspective you’ve shared on happiness & the present. This same idea was discussed in my most recent post on happiness, too. It’s a great insight into happiness.

      I can only live for this moment, and living my best life means making the best of today and being happy in this moment. A big challenge for me is staying present when I’m feeling anticipation and excitement for a life change or even a fun vacation. It’s easy to look forward at what’s ahead and focus all of my energy there, and associated feelings of excitement can provide an emotional high. Yet I have found that my best life is lived today and, as much as possible, I choose to be present and grateful for this day even as I am working towards an exciting future.

      The perspective you shared makes perfect sense to me, and I agree that is an excellent happiness practice. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Have a grateful day!


  6. Thanks for the opportunity to guest post, Chrysta!

    • Thanks for your awesome guest post! It is my pleasure to host your awesomeness!


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