Why Getting What You Want Will Not Make You Happy
Look for that instant when joy arises
Someone recently reached out to me for personal coaching. He is very well known in his professional circle and wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.
He has most certainly arrived.
He had accomplished pretty much everything he had set his mind to and, in his family circle, he was the successful one. Yet, he felt listless and there was no joy in his life.
He was seeing a shrink who suggested that his sights were too low and perhaps he needed to set more ambitious goals and he wanted my help.
Most of all he wanted to just be happy.
And all of us want this.
We strive for stuff – mansions, yachts, trophy spouses, prodigy kids, rare wines, priceless artifacts, and what have you because, somehow, we have convinced ourselves that this will make us happy.
We know this is true because it has happened many times in our life.
Think about the time in your life when you got that big job, landed that huge contract, won that tournament or received that prestigious award.
It felt great, didn’t it?
The problem is that it did not last. So what we need to do is to find the thing that will make it last.
Or enough things that will make the happiness linger.
We are making the same mistake the dog did.
He importuned the holy man, “Sire please tell me when I will be happy.”
The sage looked at him with compassion. “You will be happy,” he said, “When you stop being like that dog.”
The man looked at the emaciated cur across the street. It was biting hard on a piece of dry bone. The sharp edges cut its mouth and it tasted the blood and bit harder.
And he thought about his own life of ceaseless striving and the comparison became painfully clear.
We think we become happy because we ‘achieved’ it or ‘acquired’ it or ‘found’ it.
When we desire something deeply and get it, we do feel happy.
But this happiness does not come because we got what we wanted.
It comes because for a while, a brief while, we are no longer our habitual wanting beings. Our next ‘want’ has not yet raised its head.
And, in that brief moment, the happiness that is inherent in us wells out and enfolds us.
My prospective coaching client does not need to set more ambitious goals for himself.
He needs to see, really see, that his emotional well-being does not depend on whether or not he does so.
And then he may or may not set those huge goals. It does not matter because he learns that the journey is what matters.
The destination is a mirage.
Ponder the implications of this in your life.