When “Happily Ever After” Isn’t An Option.

Happy Holidays!

As we head into the holidays and plan for the new year, I want to challenge you to re-think the idea of happiness. “And they lived happily ever after”. That simple sentence at the end of children’s fairy tales, while perfect for the end of a story, sets us on a path destined for disappointment. When you hear something repeatedly, it seeps into your subconscious. “I’m supposed to live happily ever after.” Then you lose a job, go through relationship challenges, have a sick kid, or any number of other normal life experiences, and in the midst of them is the little voice in the back of your head saying, “But I’m supposed to be living happily ever after”. It’s easy to feel disappointed when our reality doesn’t meet our expectations, but it’s impossible for our reality to live up to “happily ever after”.

Just like sadness, anger, fear, and frustration, happiness happens in micro-moments. Emotions are not a constant state, and just like the weather, if you wait it out, they will change. Most of us get caught up in what we think will make us happy. It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of “I’ll be happy when ________”. When I get a promotion, buy a house, get married, have kids, retire, etc. The list goes on and on. The problem with that mindset is that you are waiting on something external to “make you happy”, and unfortunately, no one and nothing can make you happy.

I went to the University of Kansas for my first semester of college. I had been raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, and like many teenagers, I wanted to go far away for college. At least that’s what I thought I wanted. I was miserable. I missed my family, friends, boyfriend, and everything I couldn’t wait to get away from. One night I was l was talking to my roommate and said, “I can’t wait to get home. Then, I’ll be happy”. She said something that has stayed with me: “If you’re not happy where you are, you won’t be happy where you’re going”. I thought she was nuts. Turns out she was a genius.

Happiness is not about “doing”, it’s about “being”.

It is a choice, and sometimes a hard one at that. Our emotions are an automatic, neurobiological process. We can’t always control our emotions, but we can choose how we manage them. And while some of them aren’t comfortable, they are all necessary. If we didn’t have the uncomfortable emotions, we wouldn’t appreciate the great ones. While genetics certainly plays a role in our levels of happiness and optimism, research has proven that through repetitive action and habit building, we can move the needle to make up for good ole’ mom and dad.

If happiness seems to be out of reach, try these 3 strategies:

  1. Choose your expectations wisely. We all have expectations, and when they aren’t met, it can be frustrating. I often joke that if you want to be happier, take all of your expectations and lower them. You will find it easier to appreciate the positive if you are deliberate about your expectations.
  2. Savor delicious moments. Whether it’s having a belly-laugh, enjoying a hot bath, the first sip of coffee in the morning, or a great meal, savor the little moments. When we take time to acknowledge them, we train our attention to look for more of them.
  3. Rather than making happiness a goal, make it a choice. Declare your intention in the morning, before meetings, when you’re with family, and even running errands. Choose to look for the little moments that bring you joy and contentment.

#TuesdayTruthbomb: “Happily ever after” isn’t an option. Choose happiness and build your life on purpose!

From our family to yours, wishing you a perfectly realistic holiday season and a wonderful year ahead!

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