When are you done?
At what point do you say, “I’ve accomplished all I wanted in my life, and there’s nothing more I want”?
When will you say you’ve made enough money?
What does the mountaintop actually look like for you? What surrounds you at the peak?
You’re working so hard.
You put in IMMENSE effort each and every day.
You strive for more and more, challenging yourself to reach new heights and constantly self improve.
In this marathon of life, is there a finish line in sight with a banner that reads “happiness”?
Each week I’ve been breaking down what I call the 4 Natural Programs that run within us, causing us a great deal of unhappiness, stress, and anxiety. Here is the third program…
It’s important I make something very clear: there’s nothing wrong with wanting more in life. It’s perfectly healthy to aspire to achieve, save money, and work to accomplish goals.
In fact, bettering ourselves can be a vital ingredient to achieving personal and professional goals. Stepping into areas of discomfort that prove your resiliency and inspire you to seek more for yourself can build you towards unflappable freedom of spirit
The problem comes when that desire for more evolves into a craving that can never be satisfied. And when you never fill your hunger or quench your thirst, desire begins taking a toll on your wellbeing.
Think back to earlier days in school. What were you taught?
As young as 1st grade, you’re taught what you need to do to get to the next level.
You learn what you must accomplish to get that next grade.
As soon as you finish 1st grade, you’re shuttled to 2nd grade where the process begins again.
You graduate from elementary school to minimal applause and head to high school.
Next up is a high school diploma. Check that box!
Next comes college. You get your degree!
Now you need to get a job. You get a job!
Now you want to get promoted.
This continues until you’re hired for the perceived “job of your dreams”.
As you stand on the mountaintop, you look around and think, “Well, what’s next? I thought I was supposed to be happy now. But I just…want…more.”
Never letting up, you measure your success with your performance. In school, grades told you what you were worth. As an adult – jobs, promotions, commendations, sales prove your value. You know that you deserve happiness, but none of this provides the gift of contentment for very long.
This approach to life never provides us with true unconditional happiness. When we invest our happiness in the future, we can never be happy in the present.
Even when you accomplish that ‘final’ challenge and reach your mountaintop, it feels like you can only enjoy it for a little while, before that great feeling of accomplishment dissipates. Where you expected relief from the constant pressure of working for more, you instead find yourself struggling with fear of losing that object/status symbol of your desire, or face dissatisfaction as you look for the next value-proving challenge.
So how do we override this program and stop always wanting more?
Step 1: Take Inventory
First, we need to understand what we invest our happiness in.
Fill in this sentence.
I will be happy when ________________.
Make a list for yourself of what you believe you need in order to be happy. What does your perceived final mountaintop actually look like? What do you have? What have you earned and accomplished?
Try not to self-edit. Remember, your goals and work ethic got you where you are today. Be proud of the work it took to get you here, and how resilient you are. This first step simply helps illuminate what you believe will make you happy so you can recognize your programming and what truths you hold self-evident.
Step 2: Challenge Your Beliefs
Second, smash this belief entirely.
Whoa, Jay, what are you saying? Are you saying I shouldn’t try to be happy?
Not at all, my friend. I’m saying something different. It might make you dubiously roll your eyes. It might be difficult to swallow. But hear me out for a minute.
What I’m saying, is that you do not need anything, I repeat, ANYTHING, to be happy.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back – absolutely nothing outside of you is needed for you to be happy.
Extrinsic validation, materials, and accomplishments may give you a slight endorphin rush, but they don’t bring long-term contentment. Once the short-term rush of claiming your object of desire fades, you’re in search of your next rush.
How do I know?
Let’s go through an exercise in self-inquiry.
Explore the answers to these questions.
Have you ever felt anything outside of you? And I mean viscerally felt.
Let’s walk through an example to better understand what I mean.
When your finger touches your phone, are you feeling the phone itself?
Or, are you feeling your finger touching the phone?
Simply put – You are never feeling anything outside of your own sensations.
It is a physical impossibility.
Understanding that sensations are only experienced inside of you, let’s take it a step further to perceptions.
Have you ever experienced anything outside of your perceptions?
Have you ever gone outside of your own mind to experience something?
Have you ever experienced another person OUTSIDE of your perception of that person?
No? Okay. Then if you’ve never experienced anything outside of you, can you honestly say that the source of your true happiness is outside of you?
No? Okay. So if the source of your true happiness is inside of you, do you need anything outside of you to be happy?
We all come to the same conclusion when going through this self-inquiry. Happiness is cultivated from WITHIN. Therefore, smash the belief that you need something outside of you to be happy.
Look at that list you made of all you need to be happy.
Challenge your beliefs by affirming the following (either write this down, say it outloud, or if you wish to be so bold, say it to someone else).
Step 3: Shift What Drives You
Third, shift from craving to aspiration.
Rather than invest your happiness in a future object, see that future object as a preference in your life.
When our desire comes from craving or need, the driving force behind our work is fear. We fear that we will be missing out on something if we do not achieve what we set out for. We fear that we won’t be happy without the accomplishment. We let our fear be the source of our activity to succeed.
And usually? We don’t get our best results when we operate from fear and need. Clients can sense it, our creativity suffers, we become inefficient as the weight of needing to succeed buries us in mental fatigue.
Instead, affirm your happiness by knowing that it is a way of living – it is not something that can be earned. It is something you foster resiliently within yourself.
You still aspire to achieve – you still fuel your actions with a deeper sense of WHY, your compassion, your love, however, you set out to achieve without any attachment to the result.
You KNOW that happiness is not on the other side of the achievement, because happiness is within you right here, right now.
You KNOW that everything you’re working towards is a preference in your life, and it is NOT something that you depend on for your happiness.
You KNOW that happiness is fully accessible at any time, and there are ZERO requirements for your happiness.
I invite you this week to be aware of your Never Enough program. Notice when you are striving for a future experience due to a perception that the experience will make you happy. Follow the steps outlined above and remind yourself that true happiness is only found in one place; within.
Your programming is not your fault.
But it is your responsibility.
Next week I’ll close out the 4-part series by sharing the last and final program, which is Nothing More Important Than Me.
P.S. Need help learning how to manage your drive to succeed while maintaining a sense of fulfillment and contentment in your life? Schedule a FREE 30-minute session with me to discuss how I may be able to help.