Have you ever heard yourself say the words, “I’ll be happy when…” followed by something that sounds like… When I get that promotion I want, when I get that bigger house we need, when I get to take that European vacation…
When we think this way, we often make happiness a far away future elusive thing that is not available to us now under these present circumstances.
I’ll be happy when… my 401K reaches x amount, I can replace my car, or take that vacation is a dangerous way to live because it robs us of the inner contentment of pausing and enjoying what we have right in front of us now.
The Pastor of my church recently gave a profound message about money and how our perception of whether we “have enough” affects us emotionally, spiritually and relationally.
Do we choose to continuously look forward and perpetuate the anxiety provoking story of I’ll be happy only when…,
Are we ready to give ourselves an accurate message? Truth be told, research tells us that once people’s income rises to the $70-75k range annually, many people report being “happy”. This makes sense insofar as basic needs are met, no one is stressed about where their next meal is coming from, and generally it is enough to take a vacation or two… however research also tells us that making more money than 75K annually does not “make people any happier.”
When you line that up with the mainstream perception of what constitutes societal success, i.e., “money equals happiness”, no wonder so many are trying to outcompete the Jones’ for the best and biggest house, car, boat, trailer etc.
And where does all that racing to the societal and /or self -imposed finish line lead to?
Just look around to see the fallout of this. How many people do you know that are anxious and depressed over money. And it is not just how much money one has or does not possess, it’s the comparisons to others that can lead to anxiety, depression or a constant feeling of not keeping up, or not being good enough or valued enough as “the other guy.”
How many people have you seen (maybe this describes you) that have put the pursuit of making money and having lavish things over showing up for their partner and kids? Are they experiencing feeling happy on a day to day basis?
How many parents do you know that believe that as long as they have supplied “the goods” – housing, food, education, the “right brand” of shoes, clothing etc. they have “done their job?”
As a counselor and coach I am privy to hearing your stories.
I hear how many of you are suffering in the endless pursuit of more and more…yet find that always more is never enough. No one in the home is happier. We’ve just accumulated more stuff.
Part of this issue of money worship we come by honestly. We may have seen parents who struggled financially and we vowed never to have to work as hard and long as my dad to get ahead, or promised ourselves we would do it differently so money would not be a source of constant stress.
The problem is that pendulum can sure swing way over to the other side in a hurry.
Ever hung around an entitled person- adult or child? You can notice them fairly quickly as their language and demeanor give them away. “I want that, I’m entitled to that, I should have that…” are some of the phrases you might hear. Perhaps you have said some of those phrases. Do those people seem happy?
We are collectively (many of us) a society who has made money and things our god.
If you are not sure where you are at in this mix, look around at your family. Does your partner seem satisfied with you and your choices, and the relationship in general? Do your kids regularly engage with you and want to talk with you or do things with you? Do people seem happy in your home, or do you feel a disconnect with your partner and /or children?
Maybe you are someone that has been on a consistent pursuit of more, bigger, better and /or you are carrying the “I’ll be happy when…” mantra.
If this describes you, it may be a good time to reassess your life and where your actual worth comes from… pause, reflect and reconnect with your values, priorities and who and what really matters.
If you are ready for a mind shift in this area, here’s some food for thought:
1. Begin to focus on investing in the people around you- not in what you can buy for them. Partners/ spouses need our time and attention as well as engagement in one another’s lives more than they need another shopping trip or the latest upgraded cell phone. Consider the last time you engaged with a family member beyond the usual transactional stuff with your partner or kids… (how was school, did you clean your room or did you pick up the dry cleaning?)
2. Sit down and have an honest conversation about money; investments, savings, etc. and how much is really enough? At what point are the tradeoffs (less time with family) worth trying to make more and more money? Who and what gets sacrificed in that pursuit? If you are partnered have a frank discussion about each of your thoughts, feelings and ideas around this important and emotionally loaded issue.
3. Examine what money represents for you. Does it represent security? If so how much represents security and where is the tipping point of anxiety reached where you continue to pursue more not because you really need it, but because you are acting off of old scripts of perhaps not having enough in your previous life.
4. Be intentional about who / what you want to invest in. Try on the idea of investing time IN and WITH the people you love rather than spending money ON them. Don’t buy into the lie that you have to buy your kids everything they want so they’ll feel ok with their peers… that just instills and reinforces the “keeping up with the Jones’ attitudes.”
5. Focus on Gratitude. When we keep a gratitude journal – especially focusing on three things we are grateful for daily- we exponentially increase our happiness without having to buy anything other than putting out a few bucks for a journal. This is one of the best ways to shift our focus from the notion of “my job is to supply everyone’s financial desires” to my job is to help instill the value of gratitude which will pay off dividends in the years to come in right thinking and values.
6. Invest in your spiritual life/ relationship. When we pause to consider what really matters, we may realize our faith may be the thing we’ve tossed aside or relegated to a once a week hour long visit to a building or service. Investing in your spiritual relationship is so much more than that. Do you believe in God or a higher being? How does that affect your thinking both in this life and thereafter? Are you able to find your inner contentment in being a child of God for example or do you keep searching for that elsewhere? Reigniting passion for your faith can open a whole new world of reprioritizing who and what really matters in this world.
7. Decide to downsize or live more minimalist and see what you notice. What does it feel like to purge and live on less? What do you notice you feel when you think of getting by on less instead of more? How much more could you donate, give or tithe to churches and /or people or organizations that really need it if you downsize your lifestyle and spending? Can you learn to be content with less instead of the relentless pursuit of more?
Living for something and someone greater than the pursuit of money and things is one of the most important issues we can contemplate. This one issue has a major impact on our thinking, feeling, choices and relationships every day. Instead of living off of “have to’s” and what everyone else seems to be doing or pursuing, examine this important issue for yourself and /or your family.
Our wellbeing is greatly affected by how we think and pursue money, and, how we create inner contentment in ways that have nothing to do with it.
And when the “I’ll be happy when…” message starts to creep in, send it on its merry way while you breathe in inner contentment and gratitude for the blessings you have today.