Jun 08 2012
On the show How I Met Your Mother, Neal Patrick Harris’ character Barney Stinton once said, “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead. TRUE STORY!” It’s hilarious… partly because Barney’s somewhat of a Narcissist and partly because it’s preposterous to mentally go from zero to sixty by flipping a switch, right? If it was that easy, we’d all do it. Well, maybe it’s not quite as simple as that, but good old Barney might be on to something…
As Shawn Achor so brilliant explains in his book, The Happiness Advantage, people tend to think of happiness as being something that will happen sometime in the future, as in “I will be happy, when…” We imagine that all we need to do is get married, or get a promotion at work, or get that MBA, or whatever. It is only after that identified future event takes place or that one particular obstacle is removed that we will be truly happy. We’re just too busy, or broke, or tired, or lonely to be happy in this moment, now…or this moment…you get the picture. I read the most amazing quote this week by Christopher Paolini (Author of Eragon) that says, “Live in the present, remember the past, and fear not the future, for it doesn’t exist and never shall. There is only now.” Wow, that’s good stuff. There is only now.
Anyway, Shawn Achor posits that not only do we consider happiness to be relegated to the future; we also tend to skip it when the future becomes the now. No sooner do we reach the unreachable shore, do we sail away again. We’re off once more to some distant point, beyond the horizon. We have a new goal to reach, and this time, THIS TIME we’re really going to be happy when we get there. But, we all know what happens next: distant shore, anchor down, meet the natives, get supplies, repair the ship, get out the map, anchor up, and away we go. No celebratory dancing, no fruity drinks, no sunbathing, no contemplating the meaning of life from a hammock, no sumptuous meals by candlelight, no romantic interlude, no…happiness.