“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” ~Alan Watts
I love how instant modern life has become.
When I’m hungry, without really moving, I can instantly get food delivered to me. Pizza, of course. When I’m hungry for knowledge, at the touch of a button on my mobile, I can discover answers to the questions I’m pondering. No need to head to the library to search for and flick through books.
Some would argue that this instantaneousness is making us lazy. Regardless, I find it astonishing the speed we can get what we want.
Why, then, have I found myself delaying the one thing I want most—happiness?
Like many of us, I’m driven. I love to challenge myself, set goals, and do my best to achieve them.
There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. It’s only a problem when I tell myself “I won’t be happy until… happens” or “I won’t be happy until I have…”
When I set goals for myself, they’re naturally future-based, and when I tie my happiness to those goals, it too becomes a thing of the future.
But is there another way? I’ve been pondering this question for a while, and I’ve decided to choose happiness before success. Here are three reasons why.
1. There will always be more to achieve.
In the past, once I achieved a goal, I’ve barely celebrated before setting a ‘’bigger, better’’ goal and moving on to the next thing.
This focus on the next thing looks suspiciously like the journey we find ourselves caught up in as children. Little school. Big school. First job. Better job. Buy a house. Promotions. Buy a bigger house. Work. Working harder. Harder still.
Alan Watts said this about getting to the end of our lives after chasing the illusive next thing: “But we missed the whole point all along, it was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance whilst the music was being played.”
There will always be more. More success (whatever that looks like for us individually). More money, bigger houses, faster cars. We have to decide, at what point we are ‘’there’’? What if we were there now? What if we already have everything we need to be content and simply enjoy our lives, even if there’s more we’d like in the future?
2. My happiness now will attract success in the future.
With this journey we’re on, the assumption is that once we’re “there,” once we’ve “made it,” we’ll be happy. In other words, once we have success we’ll be happy. What if it was the other way around? What if once we’re happy, we will have success? Maybe not society’s definition of success, but success we’ve defined on our own terms.
I’ve made a conscious effort over the last few months to make my happiness a priority. I’ve started to live my life my way. Prioritizing the habits that are most important to me, like meditation. Doing business in a way that lights me up, rather than what the gurus tell me. Exercising in a way I want to—daily walks in the forest—rather than listening to the experts who insist on joining a gym to get fit.
As a result, I’m attracting the types of opportunities, experiences, and people I want to into my life. By doing things that feel right for me, I’m naturally aligning with the right people and situations.
I’m also reinforcing to myself that I have everything I need. I’m already complete, I’m already enough, and I can feel good right now regardless of what kind of success I achieve in the future. I’m dancing to the music now, rather than delaying. And that, to me, is its own kind of success.
3. It’s not really success we’re after.
I’ve discovered that the only reason I want to achieve any goal is because I believe it is going to make me feel a certain way. When I set goals now, I ask myself, “Why do I want this?” I’ll continue to ask myself this until I get to a feeling.
We don’t want more money for the sake of more money; we may want the feeling of security we believe it will give us, or perhaps a feeling of significance.
We don’t want fast cars for the sake of fast cars; we want the feeling of fun we experience when driving at speed or maybe the sense of freedom the car gives us.
It’s always the feelings we want. I’ve found that I can cultivate those feelings now.
My walks in the forest give me a sense of freedom. Appreciating my health—which I often take for granted—can give me a sense of security. There are a million and one ways I can have fun today, without waiting for a fast car to be in my driveway; people-watching over coffee, calling an old friend, reading or watching a movie—the list of simple pleasures is endless!
I’m not saying I’ve given up on having the success I want. There is nothing wrong with wanting and receiving the objects of our desires. I’ve just given up on the illusion that I’ll be happier once I’m “successful.”
I’ve given up delaying how I wish to feel in the future and started creating those feelings now.
I choose happiness now.
About Will Aylward
Will helps people around the world to feel more confident, calm, and fulfilled, without them having to fake it. He is the author of Becoming Unstuck: Your Step by Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Life. Learn more at willaylward.com