Finding Happiness Throughout Every Stage of Life

happyAs a young business owner, I sometimes catch myself wishing away the present moment for a milestone in the future in which I think things will be happier, easier, more successful or less stressful. I’m just beginning my career, so there is a lot of time ahead of me before I can even think about slowing down or planning for retirement. The span of time between now and then will define most of what I’ll remember as being my life. When put into this perspective, I immediately regret any time that I wished away the work week to get to the weekend. If I continued to live my life only enjoying 2 out of every 7 days, I will enjoy only a fraction of the time I’ve been given! I don’t feel alone in this mindset; in fact I know I’m not. To be truly content, we need to learn to find happiness throughout every stage of life. There’s no reason that the joy we feel on Christmas or the first day of vacation can’t be felt each and every day.

The Problem: Deferring Happiness

Whether we know we’re doing it or not, we often defer our happiness for a point in the future when everything will be perfect. Do either of these phrases sound familiar? “I just want it to be the weekend so I can relax!” or “Once I get that promotion, I’ll finally treat myself to an overdue vacation.” We should find relaxation and enjoyment every day, not just on special days. This is deferring happiness.

The problem with deferring happiness is that we don’t allow ourselves to be truly content until we reach a fictitious and self-imposed target – a target that is always moving. There are enough variables in life that this “perfect situation” we’re waiting for will likely never happen. If we continue to deny ourselves the ability to be happy right now, then we will live the majority of our lives rushing through the present for a future that is always out of reach.

The Solution: Practicing “Nowness”

Pause for a moment and reflect on the thoughts that normally fill your mind. If you’re like most, these thoughts are either projections into the future or memories from the past. It’s rare that we really stop and focus on the exact moment in which we’re living and take in the experience of the “now.” It’s hard. The present is not always exciting. In fact, much of it is a well-memorized routine and so it’s easy to go into autopilot. But to be truly happy throughout every stage of life, we must practice “nowness” and learn to find contentment each and every day.

So how do we break the bad habit of deferring happiness and get into the new habit of practicing nowness? Here are just a few ways in which you can take the first step:

Stop using the phrase, “Once I retire I will…” There’s no reason you must reserve these enjoyments for retirement. With moderation and a little planning, things like traveling to a foreign country, pursuing a hobby or just taking a nap from time to time can all be woven into our lives right now. Plus, once you reach retirement age, things like skydiving, climbing Mt. Everest and salsa dancing might not be as feasible to you as they are right now.

Put a sign on your desk, mirror or refrigerator to remind you that right now is the best moment of your life—or at least it can be if you have the right mindset. This small reminder will make a big impact on your mood and remind you of everything you have to be happy about right now.

If you find yourself fantasizing about a future moment in which you’ll finally be happy, stop and make yourself think of at least one thing you’re happy about right now. Even on the dullest of days you can still be happy about good health, a delicious lunch, a visit from a friend or feeling accomplished at work. An upcoming vacation, holiday or career change are all reasons to look to the future for happiness, but don’t discount the happiness that surrounds you right now. Learn to celebrate even the smallest things that bring you joy on a daily basis.

15 thoughts on “Finding Happiness Throughout Every Stage of Life

  1. Good article. Often times we tell ourselves that in the future we will be happy but we neglect the here and now. If we are striving for anything it actually points to imperfection in the here and now. and often we put faith in things to bring us happiness that in the end don’t.

    1. Absolutely! I find it so sad when we defer our happiness for some moving target in the future. Each and every day is a gift and the sooner we learn to appreciate it, the sooner we learn to fully enjoy the time we’ve been given.

  2. This is excellent advice. When I was in college I attended a meditation class that changed my life. I continued meditation classes, identified my attachments and aversions and learned to let go and just be in the now moment. More to the point I learned that the now moment is not what happens – it’s the space in which now happens.

    1. That sounds like a wonderful class! I think I could really benefit from learning meditation skills. I enjoy yoga because it focuses on the present moment and fully living in that moment. It’s amazing how powerful this can be. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Wow you bring up so many good points in this blog post. I guess I am one of those people who fit into the category of waiting for the future because I assume it’ll be better. I only look to the future because on most occasions the present is far too plain or in some cases to painful to endure, so one can only hope that better days will come right? Having said that I do have moments in life in the here and now that I appreciate like having the occasional nap or going to the cinema or having a good night out with my mates.

    1. You’re definitely not alone – I also still find myself wishing away the here and now from time to time and have to stop to “reset” myself. The best thing we can do is be more aware and more appreciative of the present! I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

  4. Great post – I’ve struggled with this my whole life (there are family stories of me getting on one ride at the fair only to be proclaiming that I simply couldn’t wait for the next one) and it’s helped to approach activity with a ‘journey orientation’ rather than a ‘goal orientation’. My best experience with this has been in networking – it’s not about hitting a goal of meeting x number of people (or certain people), it’s about enjoying that I get to hear new stories and learn more about others – us humans are an interesting bunch!


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