Since my last blog post I spent a week in the hospital with acute pancreatitus. I won’t go into details other than to share a quote from one of my doctors: “You never want to piss off your pancreas.” In addition to learning lots about our digestive system I learned that there are no medications available for excruciatingly painful pancreatitis. Time is the only medicine. I’m thankful to be on the mend.
During my recovery I’ve been reading John Leland’s, “Happiness is a Choice You Make – Lessons from a year among the oldest old. Leland spent a year with six adults aged 85 years old and older. One of the lessons he learned is that as we age, we become less fearful of the future. The future boils down to one inescapable fact: we’re going to die.
Once that fact is accepted, there is nothing to worry about. The oldest old don’t worry about interest rates or debt ceilings or dents in the car or the meeting tomorrow or whether that attractive person likes us or not. They don’t allow future concerns to deprive them of their present moments because they have learned that happiness is found in the present.
Let that sink in. Happiness is found in the present not the future.
I get that wrong all the time. How about you? I set goals and make plans thinking once I’ve achieved them or accomplished them, I’ll be happy. I forget during the goal planning process that happiness is right in front of me if I choose to see it. Happiness is in the journey.
Recognizing that happiness is found in the present doesn’t mean the future no longer matters. Our actions and choices have consequences for ourselves and others. Nor does it mean we stop striving toward our life’s goals. An important part of coaching is helping clients discover action steps to move them forward toward their goals.
Rather, recognizing that happiness is found in the present puts the future in its place. Our happiness no longer depends on the future results of our efforts as we strive toward our goals. Seeking happiness in the present prevents the fear of failure from robbing us of pursuing our dreams.
The irony is that future-proofing our happiness frees us to pursue goals greater than we might imagine because we know our happiness isn’t dependent on the result.
Keep in mind, I’m talking about life-giving interactions with others. I’m not suggesting we do whatever we want without regard for the well-being of others or our own safety.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions to future-proof your happiness:
1. Imagine today is the last day of your life. Who do you need to tell you love them? What slight do you need to forgive? What guilt or shame might you release? In this moment as you read these words, what brings you joy? A personal example is that I am free of pain.
2. During stressful situations, consider something for which you are thankful and remind yourself that whatever the result, happiness is available to you and there is always a positive you can take away.
3. How might your life be different if you claimed happiness in the present moment rather than seeking it in the future? What goal or relationship might you pursue if you no longer worried about what others thought or about failing or being rejected?
What practices come to mind for you as you seek to future-proof your happiness? I invite you to share your ideas so we might learn from one another.
Let me know how I might support you in future-proofing your happiness while pursuing your life’s goals. Schedule a free Welcome to Coaching session today and let’s have that conversation.
Until then, keep thriving.