Personal Growth: Being Happy Where You Are
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of constantly comparing where you are in life to where you could be if you simply changed one little thing. Negative goal-setting is the act of telling yourself that if you achieve one thing, you will then be happy/fulfilled/satisfied as a result of this. Realistically, no goal brings immediate and real happiness. Temporary bliss may be achieved, but long-term satisfaction is impossible to gain from changing or gaining one thing.
A goal I fall prey to regularly is the old classic, if I had a boyfriend, then I would be happy. Checking this off my list isn’t going to immediately cure my ailments and my unhappiness. It will, however, make me more unhappy when I realise that the one objective I set myself changed nothing. There are of plenty other things that I feel I should have achieved by now but have ‘failed’ to, but realistically, this isn’t a failure. It’s a change of plans.
Being happy with where you are is a hard feat to accomplish but it’s doable – here are a few ways of getting there.
In order to feel that you’re not falling behind or struggling, you have to first understand that you are right where you’re supposed to be. When I was sixteen I thought I knew exactly where I’d be when I was in my mid-twenties, but instead I’m here and just as clueless as I was when I was that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenager. That’s because it’s impossible to plan your life using a set of goals to monitor progress! If I’d set myself goals at sixteen then I would be significantly far behind, yet a part of me still holds myself to that standard. I still feel that I’m failing because I haven’t decided on a career, and because I’m not currently in a steady relationship. Yet 16-year-old me isn’t aware that I’m working on achieving a Masters, that I’m working in a pharmacy, that I’ve got romantic prospects. I’m succeeding in all these things and therefore I am a person who is achieving all she can! Just because I am not exactly who I wanted to be does not mean I am not a person I shouldn’t be proud of.
The goals we set ourselves prior to growing up are unachievable and unrealistic – it would be insane to expect that we could all do what our sixteen-year-old selves hoped we would. Instead, we need to take a step back and realise that those young girls are proud of us regardless of where we are, simply because we’re here. There is never a need to be disappointed with yourself because you’re not exactly where you expected to be. Being comfortable with where you are comes with being comfortable with who you are.
Just because setting goals can be unhealthy, doesn’t mean setting goals is a generally unhealthy act. Setting achievable, realistic and small goals while also understanding that these goals won’t change your life overnight, is perfectly healthy.
Yes, telling yourself if you achieve objective A, you will find happiness, is an inherently bad thing to do due to the consequences you’ll end up facing. Basing something as huge as happiness or satisfaction on the achievement of one goal is a dangerous game to play, but setting smaller goals that can be continuously accomplished is a healthy way of getting on track to where you want to be.
Instead of telling yourself, ‘I’ll be happy when I’m in my dream home’, which is unrealistic in terms of achievability, try telling yourself ‘If I improve my spending habits and spend less on unnecessary items, I can begin saving to live in a home I love’’. Placing the focus of the statement on what needs to be done to work towards that goal, rather than on what the goal is and what the supposed outcome will be, makes it a far more attainable and realistic objective. Instead of being a be-all, end-all type of sentence, it turns into a plan of action, telling you what you should begin doing to get to where you want to be rather than insisting you do something that will immediately lead to a positive consequence.
Every day I challenge myself to write down five things that I’m grateful for. These can vary from ‘my delicious breakfast’ to ‘my friends’ to ‘being alive’! I always include reasoning for each statement, explaining why this is something I’m grateful for – for example, I am grateful for my friends because they are fantastic people who support me regardless.
Practicing gratitude and keeping track of what you’re grateful for encourages self-awareness which encourages being conscious of where you are on your path. It also reminds you of how much you have to be happy about and grateful for, meaning that you have less need to worry about what you don’t have and what you could be grateful for. One of the main problems we have when considering where we are in terms of our lives is thinking about what could be or what might have been. This is a fruitless and negative method of thinking, but can easily be resolved through practicing gratitude; remind yourself that yes, while you could have gotten that promotion a year ago, you stayed in the same position, gained experience and moved on to a higher paying job thanks to this.
The things we are grateful for can vary from extreme to miniscule. Regardless of the size or magnitude of each item you’re grateful for, they are all things that we have and we are happy to have. In a world of what if’s and could have been’s, it’s good to take yourself back to realise and focus on what we have already. There may be things we want and things that we could have had, but these don’t change the things we have at this exact moment.
It’s a cliché, but we are all exactly where we’re supposed to be. If we don’t like where we are, then there are things to do to change that and thus put ourselves on a path towards where we would rather be, but there’s nothing of value to be gained by setting unrealistic goals. By telling ourselves that accomplishing one goal will lead to a cathartic sensation, we are setting ourselves up to fail. Therefore, being comfortable and happy with who we are, setting healthy and realistic goals, and being actively grateful for the amazing things around us are a set of easy ways to become more happy with where we are on our paths.
About the Author
Bethany Butterworth holds an English Literature and Media Studies Degree from Portsmouth University UK. Bethany has an impeccable standard of both written and spoken English and is currently seeking employment in communications, media and writing. Visit Bethany's Blog