By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service.
Every time you say to yourself something like, “I’ll be happy when…I get married…land that job… get that car…lose this weight…” and so on, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’ve just told yourself that you can’t be happy or whole until something that may be beyond your control goes aerie.
These “when contracts” can have a lot of power over us. They keep us from accepting our lives for what they are and not being disappointed because we are not living like the people we see on a reality TV show.
I’m not saying you should have no ideals or goals. Having goals can help move your life forward. What I am saying is that having them still ahead of you is no reason to hold yourself back from feeling good. In fact, feeling bad because you haven’t reached your goals will only makes them more difficult to reach, because feeling this way translates internally into you thinking that you may not be able to do much at all.
Even when our lives are seemingly put on hold because of an accident or illness, there are things we can do to keep ourselves moving in the direction we want. We may even find a new direction.
A friend of mine who is a very talented and well-respected horse trainer injured her foot very badly when one of the animals stepped on it. Being a very active person, she has a problem with just sitting still, but the doctors told her that she had to stay off her foot at all costs. She needed to do something.
Now, as it turns out, other people have written about Tamara Solange and her almost magical work with horses, but she has never written a book of her own.
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This recovery period is the perfect opportunity. She can heal, put her foot up, and dictate into her phone; she doesn’t even need to sit at a desk or type. This prospect has made her happier, and she again feels she has a purpose, which is something we all need. No doubt she will find new ways to continue running her business and will probably conjure up another creative idea to use this time well. What she is not doing is waiting to start her life again by saying to herself, “When I’m better, I’ll get back on a horse.” Instead, she is finding positive ways to improve her life.
Most all of us will have similar circumstances in our lives. The difference between people who are happy and those who struggle with finding joy is that the happy people are actually doing something with their lives that gives them energy, no matter what the circumstances.
If you wait for the right things to happen so you can be happy, it may be a long, long time before that happens. So here is the deal: Accept yourself and your circumstances for what they are, and then you can find ways to make your life more of what you want it to be. Stop making these when contracts with yourself, and realize that you can choose to be happy where you are right this very second. Go ahead and try it. Just say to yourself, “I am good enough, and so is my life.”
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)