Rethinking Roadblocks to Happiness


(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

By Lindsay Grippo

(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Over the summer, I started keeping a journal for the first time in a long time. Instead of writing formal, daily entries, I jotted down some thoughts I had each day. The entries ranged from my most trivial to my most existential reflections, but when I went back to read them, I noticed a pattern; so many of my thoughts began with phrases like “I can’t wait for…” or “I’m so excited to do…” – and that’s when I realized I wasn’t as good at ‘living in the moment’ as I had previously thought myself to be.

People have created a variety of ways to describe Happiness Destination Syndrome, a very real phenomenon in which people believe happiness to be elsewhere and that one day after they make it through all the barriers, they’ll finally achieve it. This thought-process convinces people that contentment is attached to future successes and hindered by current obstacles.

It is the idea that what you’re experiencing right now isn’t enough; you need more or to be better in order to be completely fulfilled. It’s a mindset that’s forward-looking to a fault; it separates happiness from the now, and it’s inherently unsatisfying.

We sit in class staring at the clock until we can leave and do whatever else we actually want to be doing. At work, we just try to make it to our lunch break, then from our lunch break to when we clock out. We look forward to Friday, then all of a sudden it’s Sunday again, and we’re already looking forward to the next weekend. September comes, and everyone wants Halloween, then Thanksgiving and then Christmas. As soon as the weather gets too cold, people want summer. People suffer through jobs they don’t enjoy to save up enough money to live comfortably.

Before we know it, we wind up spending days, weeks, months, even years acting this way in hopes of finally arriving at that moment in our lives in which we believe contentment to be waiting for us.

This way in which so many of us have conditioned ourselves to go through life is a dangerous one; it breeds false hope and perpetual discontent. Happiness ever deceives us; it is always ahead and never attainable. Life passes us by, and only when we look back do we realize we’ve spent so much of it chasing something that had the potential to be with us the whole time.

Putting emphasis on that ‘one day’ in which you’ll finally get what you’ve wanted not only makes you feel unfulfilled now, but also sets you up for disappointment later. Nothing in life can live up to the expectations your brain is so good at conjuring up.

The truth of the matter is until we understand how to extract all of the happiness out of each present moment, we’ll never be satisfied. The alternative is participating in a life-long race to a finish line that just keeps inching further and further away.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have goals and to approach the future with a positive attitude. Having things to aim for drives your life forward and promotes self-growth. Demotivation and laziness are even worse for one’s well-being than being overly ambitious in seeking happiness. But happiness doesn’t have to be solely connected to the achievement of these goals. It doesn’t only have to live in the future. If it does, it can never live in the present.

Training one’s mind is a hard thing to do, but I believe it’s possible to reverse this thought-process. Being mindful and fully present each day allows you to appreciate parts of your life that you otherwise might not notice amid your tunnel vision for future happiness. Be grateful for the good, and try to learn from the bad. Discomfort isn’t a roadblock on the way to happiness, it’s a stimulus for growth.

Friar Alfred D’Souza once said, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last, it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

Happiness is not something to get, but rather something to make each day, all the time; don’t waste your life reaching for it when you could be holding it close.