Why the Pursuit of Happiness is F*cked Up
Is this you?
I will be happy once I get my undergraduate degree;
I will be happy once I get into law school;
I will be happy once I finish law school;
I will be happy once I finish my articles and become a lawyer;
I will be happy once I save $(insert your number) for retirement;
I will be happy once I find a long-term partner to marry;
I will be happy once I get married;
I will be happy once I end my marriage;
I will be happy once I retire.
One of my mentors, when asked, how do you be happy? He said, “That is easy. Just be happy.”
I thought, easy enough for you to say. You have a multiple seven-figure income, have a long-term relationship with your soul-mate, and your work is something that inspires you. Try being a divorce lawyer for five minutes mister.
Happiness is where you start, not where you finish.
I have had the honour of getting an advance copy of the book called The Gap and the Gain by Ben Hardy and Dan Sullivan, two very smart guys. This book is about a lot more than being grateful.
Having ideals and dreams are great, says Sullivan and Hardy, however, we want to use our dreams and goals as an inspiration that lights up the path that we are to follow, and, at the same time, we want to release our attachment to the dreams themselves.
The problem is that most of us focus on the gap between where we are now and where we want to be. This is normal human nature.
Compounding the GAP is that most of us get very attached to our goals and if we have not yet reached them/
We are waiting in the GAP before we make it or feel we can be happy, or feel we have reached success.
Sullivan, who has coached some of the most “successful” entrepreneurs in the world says that many high achievers never become happy, even if they have millions in the bank and reached so many of their goals. They are not happy because they are always on to the “next” thing.
Hardy and Sullivan point out that even the Declaration of Independence does it. It has Americans chasing happiness rather than simply just Being it: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” What if The Declaration of Independence said, “Life, Liberty, and profound happiness?”
Yeah, well, it doesn’t.
When we embrace the pursuit of happiness, we rob ourselves of happiness in the here and now.
When we chase happiness externally, that is, “I will be happy once . . . “, you are disconnected internally.
Maybe you too have reserved “happiness” and “success” for your future, but never your present. Sullivan and Hardy say that unless you embrace your happiness in the present and internally, you won’t ever be happy.
I am beyond guilty of this concept. This is something I have repeated to myself for more than six years now: I will be happy once my issues with the Law Society of British Columbia are resolved. Yeah, literally put my life on hold for a very long time waiting for the stress of it to end.
Now don’t get me wrong. Having goals, and ideals can be a really great thing.
Ideals are meant to provide direction, motivation, and meaning to our lives, They are not, as Hardy and Sullivan say, to be a measuring stick!
If we see our ideals as a measuring stick and keep moving the ideal (once we have accomplished a goal), then we will never get to happiness or the ideal. This means we live in a GAP mentality.
Sullivan and Hardy say that instead of us focusing on the gap between where we are and where we want to be, to instead, focus on the gain of how far we have already come in life.
They say to set and achieve goals, not to make yourself happy, but because you are happy and want to expand your happiness.
Being in the gap not only makes you miserable, it makes those around you miserable. It turns us into tyrants, with ourselves, our co-workers, and our families.
I think about how guilty I have been of this in the space I rent for my law office and current team. Within a couple of months, I moved my office, put all of our historical information on the cloud, and worked off the cloud for the first time ever. The thing is that for the past 16++ years I always had long-term staff that overlapped. So, when one person left, let’s say after 10 years (miss you Tiffaney!) the next person in line would have been there for five to seven years and so on. Then, all of a sudden, last year, my two key people left within two weeks of each other leaving a huge problem in my office in that someone had to be trained from scratch rather than coming up through the ranks within the office.
I was not aware of it at the time, but there was a huge GAP in my training materials. My new team did not save documents according to certain protocols that I had developed over the past 25+ years. Clients were not cc’d on significant materials. Trial prep appointments were not properly set. Court materials were not filed on time. The issues have gone on and on and on.
To say I have been in the GAP mentality is an understatement. I have been frustrated, ornery, and overall completely ticked off. Yes, I also fired a couple of people including a bookkeeper that was not doing the job they were hired to do.
So, I have thought of my law practice as one big GAP. The vision of my smoothly running well-oiled machine has had some SERIOUS hiccups over the past 10 months (and counting).
And as I am reading Hardy and Sullivan, I am thinking about the GAIN. I have to admit there are a lot of them. I have moved my office location from a larger expensive space that I hated working in, to a smaller, less expensive and much more beautiful space. I love coming to the office in a way I have never ever felt in any office I have worked in. I am surrounded by art and large nature photos that I love and feel so blessed to work in such a gorgeous environment. I re-branded the firm a year and a half ago and our organic marketing is working wonderfully well. I have many great clients and an abundance of work. I have made huge strides in cutting down useless overhead. I am a better leader to my team.
So, as Dan Sullivan says:
The way to measure your progress is backward against where you started, not against your ideal”
Focus on the gain, not the gap.
Another example for me in my personal life is the fact that I made the $1,000,000++ mistake. I can focus on the worry about my ginormous mortgage . . . (GAP), or I can focus on the fact that I have arranged my home life in a way (GAIN - I love living with other people) so that I have mortgage helpers and that I live in a home that I love and is something that was beyond my wildest dreams as a young person.
This goes a heck of a lot deeper than simply being grateful.
In every moment, we can either be in the GAP or the GAIN.
Measure yourself backwards from where you were before, not to what you want to attain.
Sure, have huge dreams! Have huge goals. Expand the heck outta your life . . . and also remember where you came from and the gains you have made so far.
The same for your goals for success.
Research psychology says confidence is not what creates success, but rather, prior success is actually what creates confidence.
When we focus on our prior successes, rather than where we want to get to, we create more success and fulfillment in our lives.
And when we have those ginormous setbacks GAIN thinking is all about remembering that things always happen FOR us, not TO us. So, when we have those big setbacks, we can get into the habit of asking ourselves the GAIN question . . . what did I get to learn from this?
It is way better than perseverating over a bad experience and focusing on that GAP.
So, I have been focusing much more on the GAIN.
It is a very different lens to look at life through and I like it.
In this Episode: