Why Am I Still Unhappy?

Many of us spend our lives gaining, earning, accumulating the objects we think we need to be happy. We make our plans, marry the right people, enter the right professions. We make our money, save, invest, borrow, overextend ourselves, claw our way back to where we were.

And the whole time, we tell ourselves we’re setting ourselves up for ultimate happiness. We endure self-inflicted misery by telling ourselves we’ll be happy when we reach this milestone, or this net worth, or this age. We’ll be happy when we marry the right person, when we have a kid, or another kid, or a kid of the right sex. We’ll be happy when we have the right house, the right job, the right car. We’ll be happy when we’re divorced, or when the kids move out, when we can go back to school and learn the skills we secretly always wanted.

But as we reach each milestone, we’re often surprised to discover we haven’t magically become happy.  Maybe the car of our dreams comes with a hefty note, or repair bills, or anxiety that it will be damaged or stolen or one of the kids will make a mess in the back seat. And the fear and anxiety and discontent we thought would be cured by this thing we’ve dreamed of having are still there.

Make no mistake–money can bring security. It can make life easier. But it can’t make us happy. We have to do that ourselves.

If we want to be happy, we have to choose to be happy.

Yes, it’s that simple.

No, it’s not easy.

Because the fear that drives us to seek possessions, to acquire the things we want, is still there. It’s there whether or not we have everything we want. It’s there whether or not we’ve reached the pinnacle we imagined for ourselves when we first made our plan years ago. It’s there whatever our bank account says, whatever house we have, whatever car we have. The fear that drives us to acquire turns into fear that all we’ve acquired could be taken away.

It’s natural to want more. But if we equate more with happiness, if we believe we can only be happy when we have the next thing on our list, we’ll never get there. There will always be another goal to reach, another thing to acquire before we’re happy.

Instead, let’s choose to be happy today. Let’s take time to admire the sunset during our commute home. Let’s take a walk around the block and try to identify the trees we see. Let’s leave our phone inside and have a cup of coffee on the porch on a cool spring morning. When our friends call with good news, let’s make an effort to be happy for them instead of envious. Let’s take one minute at lunch and list six things we’re grateful for.

Let’s choose to be happy about the good in the world around us. Because no matter how stressful our lives get, there’s always good.

Let’s figure out how to uncouple being happy from having the things we want. We can still do the seeking–but we’ll enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Choose to be happy today. Your fear is the only thing stopping you.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.