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.
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