The Grass Ain’t Greener, The Wine Ain’t Sweeter…
The concept of happiness has been reduced to something of a buzzword these days, with every internet ne’er do well plugging their own theory about the secret to smiling more. From a Netflix series about cleaning your closet to Twitter threads blaming your unhappiness on every possible external event, the possibilities are truly endless.
But once in a while, you find a suggestion that’s really worthwhile. Something that actually changes your perspective on the question of how to be happy. The unfortunate part about such discoveries is that they are often difficult to implement, as meaningful change doesn’t just happen overnight. I found such a suggestion in December, and have been trying to utilize it ever since.
I was reading a book by my second favorite United States senator (I can’t tell you who, or I’d lose my apolitical credibility, but the book is very good). And they talked about how the biggest mistake people make, with regards to happiness, is to assume that their lives have not yet begun. That they can start being happy when their career takes off, or when they start living alone, or get married, or have children, or whatever. We all have the tendency to think that the best is yet to come, but once we actually arrive there, we simply start waiting for the next milestone. The key to being happy, in this senator’s view, is to constantly try to make your life better, but enjoy everything as if this is the best it will ever be.
I immediately recognized this as truth, but applying it to my own life has been less fun, to put it mildly. When you assume that you’re just in the waiting period, and that everything will be perfect in a few years, it’s easier to write off bad days. If you make a poor decision, no worries, your “real life” hasn’t started yet. If your weekend isn’t as fun as it should be, who cares, there’ll be more than enough fun in the future when you really peak. Once you abandon that mindset, you’re forced to hold yourself accountable for what you’re doing today. If I write a bad script, I can’t just say “oh, I’m sure I’ll be fantastic when I’m 30.” I have to think about what I can do to get better today. If I’m not enjoying parts of my life, I have to figure out why and actively work to change them.
It’s not easy, but it works. People of my generation, myself included, often dream of having professional lives that are completely intertwined with our personal lives. We want to make a living doing something we love, with people we love, and commit all of our free time to our jobs. Which is great, but the flip side is that when your career hasn’t taken off yet, it’s easy to let that cloud every aspect of your life. Forcing yourself to enjoy the moment, or at least acknowledging that the present is just as valid as the future, is a good remedy.