Fairy Tales and Happy Endings

Recently, I had a client ask me:  Have you ever had a client that achieves all their goals and is just living the dream and happy?

She wanted me to say Yes! I have made her life a dream. I can solve ALL of your problems too, I promise. I can make you happy. I can make your life happy.

But that wasn’t the truth. There is no happy ending. There is no happily ever after.

The truth is that even when we achieve our dreams, we still feel like crap half of the time.

I remember when it first set in for me. I had a job at a big, fancy firm, and I was riding the elevators one evening and I realized This is what I went to law school for. This is what all those late nights and missed parties were for. This is what my life is going to be like for the next 50 years. I will never forget the feeling I had that night as I rode the elevator down to the first floor. It was such a heavy and depressing reality. I thought becoming a lawyer would feel differently. I thought I would feel different. That I would feel happy and successful and confident. I didn’t.

I didn’t feel any differently than I had always felt.

It was a such a poignant experience. I was faced with the reality that my big accomplishment did not change anything. I felt the exact same as I did all those years prior.

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.

James Oppenheim

Our happiness is not created by achievements or by people and events outside of ourselves. Accolades do not create happiness. What we think about ourselves having received that accolade is what creates happiness.

Consider this: If you won an Academy Award for your role in a movie that you were never in, would that award make you feel happy? Of course it wouldn’t because it wouldn’t generate any positive thoughts for you other than confusion. But if you were in that movie and received an Academy Award, you would feel happy because you would be thinking I have finally made it. This proves that I am an amazing actress. The award itself conveys nothing—if it did then even those who had no relationship with the award would feel automatically happy once they receive it. The happiness comes from what we are thinking.

The problem is that when we look for happiness externally, it is fleeting. People will forget who won Academy Awards and years later, few people will think of you when you think of that award or accolade. So the cycle begins again.

The cycle of finding another external goal to re-create the feeling of happiness.

It is a never-ending cycle. I see it so often in my clients who achieve massive goals to become doctors or lawyers or acclaimed scholars only to find that they still aren’t happy. The achievement didn’t bring them happiness.

Happiness comes from within. It comes from how you think about yourself, your relationships, and your life. Achieving a goal will not suddenly make you happy. It won’t solve all your problems.

You will still be a human and your human life will always come with its own struggles, at least 50% of the time.

So, the truth is that no, I don’t have clients that achieve all their goals and are suddenly happy. Rather, I have clients who achieve their goals and completely miss it. They are so busy looking for more and still trying to feel something different that they don’t even take notice of all they have accomplished. They don’t take time to celebrate how far they have come because it was never really about the accomplishment. It was about how they thought they would feel once they got there. When they don’t get that feeling, when they don’t suddenly feel happier, they just keep on moving and searching. They don’t even notice the accomplishment.

As a coach, part of my job is to make sure that you take a breath and celebrate all those victories and all those goals. Celebrating yourself with loved ones can bring its own happiness and good memories—maybe even more so than the goal itself.

If you are striving toward some big goal, make sure that you have not convinced yourself that goal will make you happy or will make your life easier.

In order to find happiness, you have to look within and develop that relationship with yourself.

Without that relationship, no achievement is ever going to make a real impact in your happiness. If you aren’t doing your inner work, all that outer work will go un-noticed and will leave you feeling deflated. Learn how here.

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