3 Hurdles to Happiness

Why “Happy”? Part One

Of all the blog topics out there in the world, why choose to write about happiness? 

Because I believe it’s universally wanted, and perpetually missed.  I think we all see ourselves, our friends, and our family members fall victim to the same three hurdles to happiness:

  1. Conditional Happiness
  2. Over-complicating our lives
  3. Ignoring our health

I have struggled with each of these hurdles at different points in my life. 

1. Conditional Happiness

Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “When I finally get a good job, I’ll be happy”, “When I get married, I’ll be happy”, “When I get a raise/get out of debt, I’ll be happy”? 

We have to learn to be happy in the midst of challenges, not in the absence of them. 

“Maybe you think happiness is a function of your circumstances…This pattern of thinking is delusional and will lead you away from happiness, not toward it

Kevin Pearson

Why delusional?  Seems a bit harsh, no?  Maybe not.  

Imagine having the following conversation with your daughter, sister, niece, friend, whomever.

Friend: I know I’ll be happier when I’m married.

You: Really?  Have you ever seen a couple who is 100% happy all the time?

Friend: Well, no.  Not all the time.

You: Do you think it’s going to be easier or more complicated to combine two personalities, two schedules, two lifestyles under the same roof?

Friend: Well, that might be more complicated…

You: Do you want to be responsible for making and keeping someone else happy? 

Friend: um, no.

You: <<gives sidelong glance, hoping she will connect the dots here…>>

In this imagined conversation between you and your friend, do you think your friend could see rationally the errors in her belief that she would be happy “if only…”? 

Delusional” is defined as “a belief maintained despite being contradicted by rational argument”.  But, when presented with the rational contradictions to our theoretical “if only” beliefs, do we let them go, or do we stuff them down deeper inside us, where no one can poke holes in them? 

I think this is what Kevin Pearson meant when he said, “this pattern of delusional thinking will lead you further away from happiness, not toward it.”

What is Conditional Happiness?

I call this “Conditional Happiness”: attaching the promise to ourselves of being happy at some later date, dependent upon certain conditions, or circumstances.  The problem with this mindset is there will always be another hurdle placed in your path. 

This is done intentionally.  We are living on Earth to learn and grow; ease and complacency produce little change. 

Grateful, Faith in God, Uchtdorf

Gratitude always leads to happiness. Find something to be grateful for in every situation, and you will find joy no matter what the circumstances of your life.

2. Over-complicating Our Lives

We live in a society that equates busy-ness with productivity.  We’re a culture of list-makers.  I am very guilty of falling into this trap.  At the end of the day, I feel empowered when I have been able to check a large number of things off my list.  But I can’t maintain the insane pace I set for myself to feel “successful”.  Then, because I have wrapped my self-esteem up in my alleged “productivity”, I start adding things like “Keep Kids Alive” and “Eat” to my list just so I have something to check off!  

This creates a false—and very fragile—shell that lies over a foundation of remorse, insecurity, and frustration.  

We are bombarded everywhere with information overload, which leads to schedule overload, which in turn leads to emotional exhaustion, poor health, and anxiety. 

Along with over-complicating our lives, we also place value in the wrong things: video games, pop culture, shopping, gossip, etc.  Then, in turn, we allow our time to be consumed with those things, and find ourselves at the end of the day flustered and angrily wondering, “Where did the time go?!”

Prioritize for your purpose

Let’s simplify: If it doesn’t help you fulfill your purpose, reach a goal, better the lives of yourself or others, it’s a waste of time. 

If any of this resonates with you, try this exercise:

Start with how you wanted yourself and those you interacted with today to feel at the close of the day.  Next, make a list of all the activities, both significant and trivial that you engaged in today.  Then, cross out every activity that didn’t contribute to that goal feeling. This might help you identify things in your life that are taking up your time, but not contributing to what you want for yourself.

“Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course”

James Clear

If you’re emotionally and physically dragging across the finish-line at the end of the day, or feel constantly frustrated by the “not enough hours in the day” syndrome, prioritize the things that fulfill your purpose.  Drop things that are dragging you down. 

Happiness, Boundary Management, Time Management, Choices, Betsy Jacobson

3. Ignoring Our Health: Physical & Mental

THIS. IS. A. BIG. ONE.  I think we can all agree that nothing is more crippling than being seriously ill.  Even a bad flu can bring us to our knees in misery. 

Yet, once our body has healed itself, we revert back to our poor habits.  And what is almost always at the focal center of our excuses for doing so? TIME. (see above!)

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.

Spanish Proverb

We allow a lack of time–or poor time management–to excuse putting food into our bodies that we know isn’t good for us.  You would never put used motor oil into an expensive vehicle and expect it to run like a fine sports car. Our bodies and minds can only operate with what we provide them.

The Mind-Body Connection

Your body and your mind are inseparably linked, and in fulfilling the laws of nature, have to operate in harmony.  One cannot function poorly and allow the other to operate in peak performance.  We cannot hope to live in a state of happiness and neglect our physical health. 

The lowest point in my life preceded my only non-birth-related stay in the hospital by only three months.  I don’t believe for a moment that is a coincidence.  Conversely, I finally started being really mindful of my diet, and my sick-days went down to almost zero in two years.  My life is a testament that our physical, mental, and emotional health are inextricably related.    

Those who suffer with chronic physical ailments, are you doubling-down on caring for your mental and emotional health to counterbalance the physical ailments you’re struggling with?

Those of us with mental health challenges, are we spending as much time as we can outside in clean air and sunshine to counter the darkness in our minds?

The six best doctors anywhere, and no one can deny it are:

Sunshine, Water, Rest, Air, Exercise, and Diet.

Wayne Fields

If we put only that which is good into our bodies, it will compel our bodies to force the toxicity out!  More fruits and vegetables, more unprocessed food found naturally in the Earth.  Flood your mind with positivity, your body with healthy activity.  Walk in sunlight.  Sit by water.  Surround yourself with light, truth, and love, and happiness will have no choice but to be your constant companion!     

If you could pinpoint just ONE hurdle to your happiness, (doesn’t have to be one of the 3 I listed,) what would it be? Let me know in the comments below. Let me see what other information I can find for everyone! 🙂

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