How many times have you told yourself, “I’ll be happy when..”? You’ll be happy when you get a new house or a new job. You’ll be happy when you move out of your hometown. You’ll be happy when you get married and have kids. This is referred to as the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome, or conditional happiness—and it means that you believe your happiness will be increased when you accomplish something. You may have the question, “What’s so wrong with wanting to experience the feeling of happiness after completing my goals?”. To answer that, it’s okay to feel good after achieving your goals, but being dependent on your accomplishments in order to be happy is not okay. Why? Because if you’re relying on your successes to keep you happy, then what’s going to happen when plans fall through, and you’re not successful as you hoped to be? Most likely you’re going to feel let-down, defeated, and even possibly depressed. I know this all too well because conditional happiness is something that I struggled with myself, and I have years of experience with it.
I was the queen of saying that “I’ll be happy when”. I would put off doing things that I enjoyed, just so I can work harder on the goal that I was trying to accomplish. However, when I achieved those set goals, it actually didn’t make me a happier person—and I was left feeling disappointed. What’s worse is that I found myself being stuck in the same cycle, constantly wasting time waiting on being “happy”, when I could have been finding happiness in the little things in my everyday life.
One thing that allowed me to break out of that cycle was realizing just how short life is. After being hospitalized for multiple lung collapses last year, I thought about how easily I could have died. I thought about all of the things that I was putting off because I was too busy building my businesses and trying to make it through graduate school. I decided that instead of waiting for my life circumstances to change in order to be happy, I would intentionally seek happiness in the present moment. I started saving money to attend concerts because it’s one of my favorite things to do. I started going out to coffee shops more often because that’s an environment that brings me peace (and I absolutely love a good cup of joe). I take as many opportunities that I can to make memories because if I’m fortunate enough to have time to reflect back on my life before I die, I want to remember all of those moments that made me happy. That said, I want you to be able to do the same.
If you’re struggling with the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome, I have two tips that can help you break the cycle:
Find happiness in the “now”.
Don’t wait for your circumstances to change before you allow yourself to be happy—find happiness in the present moment. Take time to do the things that enjoy.
Make a gratitude journal.
Research shows that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. So if you’re having trouble finding happiness in your life right now, try writing down what you’re grateful for in a journal. Make it a daily routine so you can be reminded of everything that you have to be thankful for in the present moment.
Don’t let the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome rob you of enjoying the only life that you have. Choose to seek happiness every day, and make as many memories as you can, while you can.
Finding happiness may not be easy for everyone—sometimes it involves rewiring your brain. There are many books out there that focus on how to achieve happiness and positivity in one’s life such as The Happiness Advantage, Happier, and Hardwiring Happiness if you are interested in reading them.