I was waiting in line at a grocery store in St. George, Utah when I struck up a conversation with a woman who was eight months pregnant. She had two daughters in tow, ages four and six. The six-year-old was excited about going to an Open House for kindergarten. The four-year-old wanted to know when SHE would get to do that. I was struck by the phrase, "I'll be happy when..."
"I'll be happy when I am in first grade."
"I'll be happy when I get to junior high."
"I'll be happy when I get to high school."
"I'll be happy when I am in college."
When you are a kid, happiness is always just a step away from where you are now. The spring of my senior year in high school lasted forever. I couldn't wait to blow that pop stand and get to college to play ball. We continue the habit as parents: "I can't wait until the baby is born." "It will be so nice when the kids are out of diapers!" "Won't it be great when the kids are in school?" And so it goes.
"I will be happy when..." is a trap. It presupposes we are guaranteed happiness when we get to the next level. Believe me when I say, once your nest is empty, all you have are memories. Life's everyday aggravations and milestones, the ones many parents complain about when they are in the midst of them, become the very moments they pine for when the aggravations and milestones are nothing more than memories. Ironic, isn't it?
I think the life cycle is all backwards. George Carlin thought so, too. He wrote: You should die first; get it out of the way. Then you live in an old folks' home. You get kicked out when you are too young; get a gold watch and go to work. You work for forty years until you are young enough to enjoy your retirement. You drink alcohol in excess, you get ready for high school, then on to junior high and your first kiss. From there, it's off to grade school where things get easier, with shorter hours. You play with your friends and have no responsibilities until you become a little baby until you are young enough to go back in the womb, spending your last nine months floating without a care in the world.
Seriously, how do we avoid the trap of "I'll Be Happy When..."? "Someday Isle" is a lie we tell ourselves and it robs us of the joy of the present, as we hopelessly long for something better down the road. Here are five strategies to change that:
- Have a Positive Expectation of the Future. Expect to succeed. By all means, set challenging goals and work smart to move toward them daily. At the same time, have purpose and meaning in your life and work; have reasons to get out of bed in the morning. Choose optimism and really believe, "The best is yet to come!"
- Be Grateful For What You Have NOW! Make a list of the blessings you have right now: a healthy body, a clear mind, family, good friends, meaningful work. Remind yourself why this is the greatest country in the world. Choose to have an Attitude of Gratitude every day. It's a decision, a choice, and a philosophy of life.
- Work Smart. Plan your day on paper. Never walk out the door without well-thought-out marching orders. Invest in "The Hour of Power". Every day, for 20 minutes each, READ, THINK, and PLAN. In addition, go the extra mile. Give your customers and employer more than they expect from you. Under-Promise and Over-Deliver! Ask yourself, "How can I increase the quality and quantity of my service to others on a daily basis?" Chop wood, carry water.
- Savor Each Day. Live each day as if it were your last day on earth. One day, you will be right, but with no regrets. It's called the present for a reason. Each day truly is a gift. Listen to Tim McGraw's song "Live Like You Were Dying" or "In The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics as a reminder. Life is short. Forgive the people you care about. Forgive and forget.
- Have Fun and Learn to Laugh Now. Work hard, play hard, have fun, and remember to laugh every day. Take that vacation. What are you waiting for? I have never regretted a single trip I took (even when I felt like I couldn't take the time off or afford it). Herman Hesse said, "All higher humor begins with ceasing to take oneself seriously."
"Someday I'll (Isle)" is a lie. "Someday, the kids will be out of the house and then I'll be happy." "Someday, I'll go to Hawaii, Disneyland, and Australia with my wife and kids." "Someday, I'll get to...." What if Someday doesn't arrive? Do it now.
Sixty-eight percent of American men are dead within 18 months of retirement. Why are you waiting to be happy? What if you did what you love? Take a risk? Nike was right: "Just do it!"
I'll be happy right now. I will embrace the day now. I will book that trip to "Someday Isle" today. What are you waiting for? Tempus fugit-time flies. Enjoy the journey; don't miss the trip. Then pass it on.
I wonder how that open house went for the little girl in Utah. I bet she can't wait for school to start in the fall. Me, either!
On the Lighter Side
It's a Man Thing
Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life. As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Nova Scotia backcountry. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn't stop for directions.
I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late.
I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.
The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.
And as I played "Amazing Grace," the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept; we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.
As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen anything like that before, and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."
Apparently, I'm still lost....it's a man thing.
Mark Matteson gives over 75 presentations each year. Book him now to secure the inspiring message that will spark your group's success! To watch Mark's demo video, go to: www.sparkingsuccess.net. Call 206.697.0454 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.