OK. So before we begin, as a licensed therapist I must tell you that there is technically no such thing as “Happiness Destination Syndrome” or HDS. It is not listed in any diagnostic manual. I made it up to describe a pattern of behaviors and thought patterns that is pretty common among many many people.
And as a person recovering from HDS, I can tell you that it is very real and its symptoms are profound. Here are some examples of statements that usually come from people plagued by HDS:
- “After I find a new job, then I can make more money and be happy.”
- “When I find someone to truly love me and start a relationship with, then I can be happy.”
- “Once I have kids, then I’ll be happy.”
- When I retire and my kids are grown, then I can finally have time to myself then I can be happy.”
See where this is going?
HDS is constantly thinking that happiness is always somewhere “out there” over the next hill. HDS is feeling like the current moment or set of circumstances is never enough to feel “happy.” People who live with HDS feel like there is always the need for “more,” or “better.” It is simply a never-ending treadmill.
Now let me say here that there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve the quality of your life. There is nothing wrong with setting and achieving goals. And sometimes the feeling of dissatisfaction can actually be a powerful motivator to change things that you dislike. But thinking that you are not enough and can absolutely never be happy until the next great thing happens will only result in you feeling empty and dissatisfied even after you have achieved the goal.
Because the underlying thought behind HDS is that you need to DO more and ACHIEVE more in order to BE more. And that simply isn’t true.
I can attest to spending the first chunk of my young adulthood with HDS. Thinking that the next relationship, or job, or degree was going to make my life magically better. I thought that I just needed to attain the next and best shiny thing in order to feel better about myself and my life. But what I would routinely discover is that once I would reach that next destination, I would feel good for a short while, but then eventually go back to thinking something was missing. I was looking for something to fill the void.
But happiness is not a specific destination. Happiness just is. And it exists everywhere. It is all around us and within us.
So here are my 3 tips to cure any Happiness Destination Syndrome outbreaks:
Stop Magical Thinking
Nothing is a magical cure all. There is nothing and nobody that will make all your problems go away. Stop thinking that. No job, relationship, education, or amount of money will make all your problems go away. No matter where you are and what you have, there will always be both joys to experience and challenges to overcome. Without exception. Moving into different circumstances simply means that there will be new joys as well as new challenges. And sometimes moving into new circumstances exacerbate your current challenges. I think lottery winners are a good example of this. You can read some of these sad stories here or here. These examples show that money wasn’t a magic cure-all. Even after winning millions of dollars, these people still struggled with addiction, unsupportive relationships with people who did not mean them well, and unfortunate judgment. The new set of circumstances merely exaggerated what was already there. That’s why jumping into new external circumstances as an escape never has the effect we think it will.
Flip the Script
Sometimes we don’t even realize the complicated conditional statements we impose on our happiness. When you make your happiness conditional, you have created specific paradigms and bought into certain belief systems that simply are not true. A paradigm is an operating belief system. Let’s take the common thought “I won’t be really happy unless I’m in a romantic relationship. ” Another way to say that statement is “The only way for me to be happy is if I’m in a romantic relationship.” When you express the statement this way, it sounds truer to the point and more in line with your operating paradigms. And I urge you to think more about why you think that is true for you. Who told you that this is true? Why do you think you are only worthy of happiness in a romantic relationship? All real change comes through internal paradigm shifts.
But in the meantime, one way to disrupt your unhelpful operating paradigms is to ask yourself: How can I experience more joy today in my current set of circumstances? Ask yourself this every single day until you have some answers and then actually start to enact it.
Remember Your Life is Happening NOW
This is your life and it is happening right now. This is the core message in all the work that I do. Every single moment of your life is an absolute gift. Do not wish your current life away. That is wasteful. And you deserve so much better. The past is gone and the future is not promised. The current moment is the most important. You will never have the chance to re-live anything. And your life does not stop while you are in pursuit of your goals. This means that it is up to you to decide to find happy experiences in every single day.
Life is not solely a picnic. Serious and grave things happen. But life is not all a drag either. Beautiful and wondrous things happen too, all the time in fact. And because the serious and grave things happen, the joyous things are even more meaningful and precious. Your job is to savor these daily moments of joy. They exist. You just have to make the effort to train yourself to identify them and appreciate them. Again ask yourself, “How can I experience more joy today in my current set of circumstances?”
Now I’d love to hear from you. In the comments below, please share something that you thought would bring you “happiness” but when you got it, it didn’t.
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