“Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” — Guillaume Apollinaire
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Over the course of a four-year period I spent 64 hours a week helping to take care of an elderly gentleman. I affectionately referred to myself as his butler, however he simply called me a caretaker.
Being of service to others is one of life’s greatest joys, however this time wasn’t always filled with joy. I spent four nights a week at his house, barely spending any time in my own home.
This was especially frustrating because at the end of a long day all I’d want to do is go home and veg out, but instead I’d have to go to someone else’s home and constantly 'be on.' I’d often find myself saying, “I’ll be happy when I can finally go home and relax.”
Have you ever noticed this tendency? For people to say, “I’ll be happy if…” or “I’ll be happy when…”?
The challenge is that Ifs and Whens don’t always come to pass, so delaying happiness because of these variables can potentially deprive us from experiencing the fullness of happiness that might otherwise be available.
There are a number of ways to eliminate these phrases from our life, and one solution I stumbled upon is to focus on process goals rather than on outcome goals.
Outcome goals tie our happiness to a narrow definition of success, whereas process goals tie our happiness to the engagement of a process regardless of the outcome.
How might this look in practice?
And for me—during that time of my life where I spent a significant time away from home—I changed my perspective of where home was. I reframed my mind to view work as my home, and my actual home as my work. This reframe empowered me to take joy in the process rather than on a specific goal.
Of course, another way to approach this dilemma is to change our circumstances, but that’s not always possible or practical. Sometimes we simply have to work with what we’ve got.
So the next time you find ourself about to say, “I’ll be happy if…” or I’ll be happy when…” remember to shift your focus to a process goal rather than to an outcome goal. In so doing you'll find that happiness can be found within every day, regardless of the Ifs and Whens.
How might a focus on process goals affect your perception of happiness?
Want more on this topic?
I created a course that unpacks The 5 Levels of Happiness that can help you to focus on your process, thereby increasing your experience of joy in everyday life. Register today here.
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Jonas Cain is an instructional designer, facilitator of fascination, and purveyor of positivity—helping to initiate and manage positive change for individual, team, and community growth.