Do you place conditions on your happiness? Are you waiting until everything is in place and all your goals are achieved before you'll allow yourself to feel joy?
When we're young, we form a picture of our ideal life. It's different for every individual, but for many of us, that ideal includes marriage, career success, a family, a nice house, and some of the luxuries life has to offer.
In America, especially, we've gotten so used to the "You can do anything" mentality that we never doubt we can make all our dreams come true. Ha! Then reality gets in the way.
If you're in your twenties, you may be scratching your head about now, wondering what I'm talking about. "Of course I'm going to achieve all my life goals! Why wouldn't I?"
Part of growing up is running your head into a brick wall, not once, but several times and discovering you're not as smart or talented or gifted as you've always thought. Don't get me wrong! I believe in goals and dreams and pursuing them for all you're worth.
So does everybody else. That means competition, and nobody can be the best at everything. Sometimes you're going to miss out. You won't do everything you set out to do. We all think it will be different in our case, that we'll work harder or do more or that we've got what it takes.
Sometimes you do have what it takes. You can achieve some of your goals, but probably not all. Life is never "just right." The perfect life is a myth, something we see on TV or in movies but doesn't come together in the real world.
There's a real danger to thinking, "I'll be happy when…" You think someday you'll have all the right pieces in place, then you can kick back and live happily ever after. When you place conditions on your happiness, you cheat yourself out of enjoyment you might experience along the way. You place all your hope in the destination and fail to enjoy getting there.
For a single person who believes they can be happy only after they get married, this becomes a real danger. I was one of those people. I thought, "When I get a wife, I'll be a whole person. Life will really come together then. Then I can be happy, truly happy."
Fortunately, I jettisoned that attitude while there was still time. I realized I may never get married. I'd taken enough bumps that I knew my life would never be perfect.
I saw, as I often point out on this site, that the clock was ticking on me. Every day I didn't make some happiness happen or see the humor in something or appreciate the absurdity of life was a day lost. That's a day lost without being happy.
When you stop putting conditions on your happiness, you learn to cherish life more. You become less anxious when things don't work out. You handle disappointment in stride because you know there will be more opportunities.
You begin to see that there are small things that make you happy along the way. You create happy moments, which make up a happy day, and you come to realize that a happy life is a necklace of happy days strung together.
Don't put conditions on your happiness. Don't think you can "only be happy IF…" What if that big IF never happens, from getting married to career success to fame and fortune? Are you going to let those IFs dictate whether you have a happy life?
You've probably seen contestants on TV talent competitions who put their entire life's hopes into one audition. They don't get chosen and they crash. Forced to rethink their aspirations, they struggle along in a daze until they finally admit life holds other happiness for them besides lost dreams. Disappointment can be devastating, but it doesn't have to be fatal.
Believe me, and I speak from years of experience, you can still be happy even if you don't make all your goals. You can see life as a worthwhile experience even if everything doesn't work out the way you planned.
God's love, intimacy with Jesus Christ has provided me with a never-failing source of happiness throughout my life, despite the ups and downs.
I think Christians tend to underestimate God. Deep down, they believe what they can see and touch will give them more happiness than he will. The result is that they pursue career, car, clothes, and a nice house, turning the acquisition of those things into their most important goals. And yes, I made the mistake of doing that too. I learned by doing—the wrong thing.
But by placing conditions on your happiness, focusing on these things, you miss out on the joy God can provide, right here, right now. Our eternal life and our share in the kingdom of heaven doesn't start when we die; it starts here on Earth, when we accept Christ as Savior.
Anything you can see you can lose. Everything you chase outside of God has the potential to disappoint. The chase itself may be exciting, but the attainment is inevitably a letdown. Trust me on this.
Maybe you're not Christian. Maybe it makes you angry when I mention
Jesus, but this is the reality of my life, what has worked for me for
over 50 years. My duty on this site is to tell you the truth, to tell
you what works.
So don't put conditions on your happiness thinking you can have it only in some distant future. God is the source of everything, including happiness. When you look to him for your fulfillment, you will find it, starting here and now.
For the believer, the kingdom of heaven starts on this earth, the moment you claim your citizenship. Look around you and start seeing the blessings that are already yours.
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