Balance Archives

Why “Happily Ever After” Is a Curse

We all know that “happily ever after” is a myth, but how many of us are unknowingly still live by it? And I’m not just talking romance.

Happily-ever-after-disney-princessHonestly ask yourself whether you think:

– Once you’ve achieved a certain income, you’ll live happily ever after.
– Once you’re self-employed and no longer have to work for someone else, you’ll live happily ever after.
– Once you have the child you long for, you’ll live happily ever after.
– Once you have your dream house, you’ll live happily ever after.
– Once you retire, you’ll live happily ever after.

I think a lot of us have bought into this myth and don’t even realized we’re living our lives based on it. We give up enjoying the moment in order to chase whatever think we will make us live happily ever after.

After achieving a goal that we think will make us live happily ever after, it doesn’t take long before we start feeling dissatisfied. When this happens, we think there was something wrong with that goal we had just achieved, that it wasn’t enough. We then go on to seek out another goal that we think will make us live happily ever after. Sacrificing our lives to achieve it and then circling back to that familiar disappointment.

In reality we create our lives in cycles.

  • We complete our initial education (one cycle). Then go on to create our career (the next cycle).
  • We date and find our soulmate (one cycle). Then go on to create the life we want with our partner (the next cycle).
  • We develop a career we love (once cycle). Then outgrow it and find the urge to try something new (the next cycle).

There is no one goal that once we achieve it, we’ll live happily ever after. If we embrace this natural cycle of creation, then when disappointment arrives, we know it’s just the first step to our next cycle. We can use that disappointment to help us find the next thing we want to create.

We sacrifice a lot for a goal we think will make us live happily ever after. If accomplishing it did just that, the sacrifice would be worth it. But if we look at goals as part of a continuous cycle—achieving and relishing one goal will eventually lead to new ideas and new goals—would we be willing to sacrifice in that same way? Or would we instead seek a way to attain our goals while still enjoy our life in the process?

Transformational Goals Will Raise Your Issues

When I pursue a transformational goal, because it’s transformational, I inevitably run into my issues. An example is when we decided to build a custom green home. Here’s a few of the issues it brought up for me:

  • How to make big decisions with my new spouse in ways that worked for both of us.
  • How to have a good relationship with our builder and workmen while still getting the high standard of work I wanted (i.e. how not to be too bossy nor too lax).
  • How to let go of my perfectionism so we can build our house in a reasonable time frame.
  • How to make important decisions quickly when I was used to take a long time to think over these types of decisions.

When an issue comes up while I’m pursuing a goal, I have 3 choices:

house building interiorMy first choice is to ignore the issue and try to attain the goal anyway. This typically leads to pain. The process of attaining the goal becomes treacherous. Many times I don’t even achieve the goal. The times I do, the victory is hallow and isn’t very sustainable (like yoyo dieting). And to top it off, the issue I ignored later arises to give me trouble again.

When building our house, I could have neglected taking the time to work with my husband on decisions we disagreed on and instead bullied my way or just gave in to his desires. As our builder warned, building a house together can destroy a marriage.

My second choice is to totally focus on the issue and forget about the goal. Of course, this doesn’t bring me much closer to achieving my goal. If I do resolve the issue, I can refocus on the goal but when another issue comes up, I’ll be side tracked again. There will always be issues and with this approach, my progress will be incredibly slow.

When it came to building our house, I could have insisted that my new husband and I go to seminars on communication and work on our decision-making skills, waiting until I thought we were perfect enough to take on the monumental challenge of building a house together. But doing it that way, we probably would have never built.

My third choice is to address the issue in a balanced way while still focusing on my goal. This has been the most effective approach for me. There’s a reason the issue showed up. It’s an issue that, in the past, had blocked me from achieving similar goals. If I address the issue and keep my focus on the goal, I not only resolve the issue that’s been holding me back but I actually achieve a goal I’ve been wanting to achieve.

Life experience can be one of the best teachers. Working on our relationship skills while we built our house turned out to be perfect. We held onto the belief that if we brainstormed enough we could find a solution to every decision we initially disagreed on. And we did. Building our house together actually strengthened our relationship rather than weakened it.

Ideas and desires are like seeds, you’ll always have plenty of them. That’s the good news. The bad news is we’ll have more ideas and desires than we’ll ever be capable of actually carrying out.

How many of us feel dissatisfied with our lives because of the ideas and desires we’re not pursuing? I know I can feel that way. I buy into the belief that I can have and do it all. But that’s actually a false belief that will always keep us feeling unfulfilled and critical of ourselves.

sunflowers

In nature, plants produce more seeds than they would ever need in order to reproduce. If a sunflower plant was determined that every seed in every flower she bore had to create a new sunflower plant, she’d be stressed and discouraged as birds ate her seeds, as some fell to the the sidewalk to be swept away by a homeowner, or as some lay on the ground not germinating for one reason or another. Nature intentionally creates more seeds than is needed for just reproducing, there’s plenty of other uses for them.

That’s the same with our ideas and desires. Some we’ll achieve. Some will lead us to other ideas and desires. And some we’ll give to others to use.

Unlike the sunflower plant, we can choose which ideas or desires we want to pursue. A secret to fulfillment is picking the ideas and desires that currently fit us best and pursuing them in ways that also fit us best. The others will fade and be forgotten or return another time when we are looking for something new to experience.

Image courtesy of thawats / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Staycation—A New Style of Vacation

I believe down time is as important as taking action toward your goals. It brings about a powerful balance you can’t have without both.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I decided to try a new kind of down time—a staycation. For those of you who don’t know what a staycation is, it’s where you stay home, but you enjoy yourself in the same ways you would if you were on a trip. (Our cat especially liked the stay home part.)

We started our staycation by getting massages. Later, we had a authentic French dinner at a restaurant in our home town of Albuquerque…bringing back fun memories of our 2011 trip to France.

La Boca Santa Fe

The next day, we explored nearby Santa Fe—museum, art galleries, shopping, sherry and tapas for lunch, and good beer and mussels for dinner.

One of the advantages of taking a staycation is that we could sleep in or take long naps and not feel like we were missing sights we’d never get the chance to see again. We were able to relax even more than we typically would traveling. On our 3rd day we did just that.

On our last day, we went for a sunny winter hike. It felt so good to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful nature in our area.

Taking a staycation gave us the opportunity to enjoy those things in our area that we don’t always take the time for. Plus, it gave me a chance to see how I’d like to live my ideal life and start putting it into practice. Temporarily upleveling my life here at home was a powerful step in creating what I want in the future. I highly recommend a staycation.

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