When Joy Fails To Deliver – Redefining Joy In Your Life

2013 - When Joy Fails To Deliver

There’s a way that we all seem to go around in this world thinking we KNOW what would make us happy – that if only we could get ourselves from here, to wayyyyy over there, life would be grand.

Maybe it’s a lifestyle you long for, or money in the bank. Vacations around the world, or a sexy partner you’re crazy about.

But what happens when you get those things, and you’re still not happy?

It’s called the arrival fallacy, and it’s very, very real.

The arrival fallacy is when you continue to believe that once you have that thing – the job, the house, the lover, the money – your life will be prefect and you live in eternal happiness.

I can tell you from firsthand experience as a girl with perpetual travel bug – the arrival fallacy is real, and it will suck you in every single time if you let it.

I’ve always been on the move. And if I suppose if I had to be honest, I’d say that it used to be in part because I was always searching for the next big adventure that I thought would make me happy. I thought that somewhere out there in the big crazy world, the perfect life must be waiting for me….

And while I’ve since come to learn that no wild adventure can measure up to what it feels like to be genuinely happy (you know, from the inside), I still travel often.

Most recently (as in, last week!) I returned to Toronto from a long stint during which I lived in a van and rockclimbed my way across the US. Living the dream, as they say (if your dream is to sleep in Wal-Mart parking lots, shower every 10 days, and spend your time hanging off a cliff).

I wanted the freedom to run my business from anywhere, and I was willing to take it on the road (during my first year in business – imagine!) in order to realize my ultimate dream – working for myself, form anywhere in the world.

Then, and only then, would I be happy, I told myself. (Dammit – and there it is again, creeping its way in – the arrival fallacy!)

And I was happy on the trip, I suppose. That is to say, I loved the idea of it. I loved that I was actually doing something I had always dreamed about.

But as the months went on, a strange thing happened – I stopped being as happy. It became harder to get my work done. It wasn’t feeling like this mind-blowing experience that would keep me sustainably happy forever. It was pretty much just like everyday life, except I was in a new state every month and I was peeing outside a lot more than when I lived in Toronto.

And while it was pretty cool to be able to work from the road, it wasn’t like somehow, all of my wildest dreams came true and I could die a happy woman.

But… why? Wasn’t this my dream? Wasn’t this what was supposed to bring me ultimate joy?

Yes… And, what beings us joy changes. Why should we expect that what we wanted 5 years ago is still what we want? Hell, how can we know that what we want today will still be relevant next month?

We can’t know. And so it serves us well to pay attention not to the experiences and tangible items we want to have, but rather to how it is that we want to feel.

Your core values, your desired feelings, and the intangible motivations that keep you moving forward – these are what will bring you joy. And (and this is the most important part), they will likely (inevitably?) change as you go.

So when you go about planning your life, keep in mind that not only do you have the power to redefine what brings you joy, you should expect to modify as you grow and change as a person.

Check in with yourself regularly. Ask yourself, honestly, whether you are happy, moment-by-moment. And if you start to notice the answer is no, give yourself permission to take your happiness back into your own hands in the present, instead of keeping it stuck in the past.

Your future will thank you for it.

*Photo Credit:

Rebecca Tracey

About the JOY Coach

Rebecca Tracey

As a Life-Switch Coach + Professional Adventure Instigator, Rebecca helps freedom-seeking fanatics bust out of their self-imposed cages and create lives + careers that cheerfully defy conventional logic. Ready to take your top-secret, rule-bending, crazy-town dream—and lay out a plan, to bring it to life? Let’s tell your excuses to suck it. Together. www.theuncagedlife.com.

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