A lot of my coaching work is about helping women work out how to be happy.
Of course that’s not necessarily what they say when they come to me, but essentially, for all of us, that is our ultimate goal, isn’t it?
So maybe it’s about figuring out who they are after a divorce or separation, or after years of child-care-and-parent-care-and-relationship-care, and they went to remember what it feels like to have self-care.
Or often it’s about a career change; a new job, a new direction; a new idea they want to pursue. Or it’s about finding clarity amid the confusion of, you know, life.
Or it’s about deciding what life might look like now the kids have gone, or kids have arrived, and where the hell did my life go?
Sometimes it’s about trying to grasp a moment in the midlife madness to get grounded and come out from under the overwhelm.
But essentially, all of that equates essentially to trying to find happiness.
Yet often our goals aren’t about happiness.
Our actions aren’t about happiness.
Our thoughts aren’t focused on happiness.
Our goals are often acquisitions that we think will make us happy.
Our actions are often distractions from being happy.
Our thoughts are often focused on the negative, on the unhappiness.
Happiness isn’t a destination. It’s a state of mind that can be accessed wherever, whenever. It’s always a choice. But often we live in two very distinct states. I call these the Here and There states.
The Here state is now, with all it’s complexities and complications, the mayhem and overwhelm, the to-do lists and the flab, the tight waistbands and the knackered old shoes, the stroppy teenagers and the selfish left-homers, the dirty, cluttered make-up drawer and the curtains that need re-hung as most of the hooks have broken off (or are these last two just me?).
The point is, the Here state, while obviously having lots of good stuff too, feels cluttered and chaotic and full of ‘if only…’ and ‘when I’ve…. ’s.
The There state however is in the future when we think all of these things are fixed and we can finally be happy:
It looks a bit like this:
As the Queen of To-Do lists, here’s what I know about them. As soon as something gets a momentarily satisfying tick ✅ something else replaces it. As soon as you get one DIY /upkeep job done in your house, your attention turns to another. As soon as one dream or goal is realised, you create another. As soon as one set of problems is fixed, you find another set to focus on.
You continue obviously to absolutely have a vision for the future, but the majority of your time, energy, focus, attention and thoughts remain in the HERE state of now.
I talk a lot about self-sabotaging beliefs - beliefs that hold you back from living your best life. Beliefs like “I can’t” and “I’m not good enough… “. They stop us taking action, or keep us stuck in our comfort zone. I didn’t swim in the sea for most of my life because I had a self-sabotaging belief “I’m not one of those people.” Then I challenged that belief and became a frickin’ mermaid.
But the most self-sabotaging action you can take is devote all your energy to the THERE state rather than the HERE state. I’m not going to lie. It takes practise. I get derailed often by furious fascinations with some "better" future moment. But I'm practising and practising and practising. It takes being switched on enough of the time to catch yourself. Because when we live on autopilot, THERE is where we hang out.
HERE might be messy and complicated and cluttered but it’s the space and place you are at your most alive right now. It’s the ONLY place you have any control of.
You’re not hanging your happiness on some future outcome that may or may not happen; you’re choosing to make the best of whatever HERE is, seeing what is here, and that in it itself allows you to really know what you want there. Catching the moments of joy, catching the feelings that you want more of, catching the connections and concentrations, and curiosity and creativity here and now, means they become the goals of there, not the things we often think will make us happy.
This morning as I walked my 10 year old to school in the cool April sun, she took my hand as we nattered, and I caught it. I caught that moment, that feeling like a butterfly in a net. I wasn’t jumping to the hour later when I’d be at my work desk thinking about what I had to do, or wishing it was 6pm already and I could pour that glass of Friday wine… I caught that moment of her slipping her hand into mine, both of us buoyed up by each other and the sun and life itself, and in that perfect little moment, HERE was where I wanted to be.