Life always seems to be one step ahead of us. We can’t wait for something looming right over our horizon. I get it. I’ve been there. I couldn’t wait to be in high school, then school would really be fun. Then I couldn’t wait to graduate high school, because then my life would really begin. I had to get through college before I could actually start my life, and then finding a career was next. I thought that maybe one day this cycle of “waiting” would end…but it never does.
What are you supposed to do when life keeps putting our complete happiness just right out of our reach?
While it isn’t easy, and we need constant reminders, here are three steps to help you keep your life from being a waiting game.
1. Define Why You Are Being “Held Back”
Being held back can mean so many different things. It could mean that you are waiting for a raise, a new opportunity, for an event to come (or end), or just plain old for you to be happier. While it might seem really obvious on the surface level for why you want something to happen, take a look at that event on a deeper level. What would it mean for you to achieve that? Or have that event behind you? Would you have more time? Less worries? A different lifestyle?
Usually the reason we are actually wanting these milestones in our lives to happen is because we feel our life will be drastically different after. Maybe it will (some milestones are like that), but big or small we’ve tied some measure of happiness to their completion. Why? Write down a list of reasons your life will be better when this milestone happens. This is the first key to learning to love your life as it is now.
2. Do What You Can Now
Now that you know why you are “waiting” and what you believe is the result of when that waiting is over, see what you can change now. Give it some serious thought. Yes, I understand that you feel stuck but seriously (literally sit down with some paper) think about what you can do now. If you spouse being done with school means that you can quit your job, play around with the idea of going part time. Instead of waiting for a raise ask for one. Get creative with solutions to help ease the pain of the waiting void. It’s okay to want change to happen in your life, and eventually it will happen but until then there is a lot you can do to increase my happiness now.
Now in the fear of sounding insensitive, I fully understand that some of life’s milestone can’t be rushed or altered. You can’t speed up a wedding, you don’t always land your dream job right away, you can’t kick your kids out of the house just yet. You feel stuck. Those feelings are so normal, and while you might not be able to change your circumstance now I would encourage you to do everything in your power to add simple joys into your life and follow step three.
3. Remember Today is Wonderful Too
It doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80 there will always be something you are looking forward to. I will never forget my cancer-weary grandmother telling me she was eagerly counting down the days until the new hospital was completed in our city so she didn’t have to drive so far to get her treatments. If there is one thing you need to understand it’s this: We will always be waiting for wonderful things to happen to us.
And who can blame us? We all want our lives to get better, but to avoid wishing our lives away take a moment to write down why today is wonderful.
I was once on a 6-hour flight home from a service trip to Guatemala while in college. I had counted down the days then hours until I got to go home to beautiful Utah and could embrace my family. On the flight, the flight attendant started passing out headphones. I knew from other flights that movies and games were extra money so I turned down her offer for the headphones. Every hour it seemed she would come by and see if I had changed my mind and want the headphones. I kept telling her no and sat in silence as I counted the seconds until we landed on the ground. It was a very long flight.
It was only after our flight was over and I was walking to my terminal when a friend of mine asked me what movie I’d watched on the flight.
“Oh, I didn’t want to pay so I didn’t watch a movie,” I said.
My friend looked at me with a quizzical glace. “You knew all the movies were free, right?”
Sometimes we live our lives with the idea that any extra joy, or anything that would make our “waiting” less painful is unavailable to us. Instead of the “grit your teeth and bear it”, attitude, find joy in your journey now. The chances are your happiness doesn’t come at any extra charge.