I distinctly remember having a conversation with a friend of mine when I was in my early 20's where I said, "I will be soooo happy when this semester is over!" I was a stressed-out college student, and couldn't wait for finals to to be over. She looked at me with the utmost sincerity and said "Why can't you be happy now?" I laughed it off, but kept on my pursuit of "I will be happy when..." WHEN, I discovered, turned out to be elusive. WHEN always changed. WHEN became meaningless, because when I got that WHEN, a new WHEN would emerge.
It was a constant state of achieving the WHEN, feeling satisfied for awhile - could be a day, a week or even a few months. But inevitably, the new WHEN would rear it's ugly head, and off I went....chasing the next WHEN of happiness.
Jobs, finishing a project, getting promoted, graduating college, taking the vacation, remodeling the kitchen, getting a dog, buying a car, buying a house, seeing my favorite band in concert - you name it, I was always going to be happy WHEN.
The WHEN, of course, was superficial. Possessions and positions. Things. Stuff. Titles. I would obtain them all and be happy! For a moment anyway. And then... yep! I would become restless. That THING just didn't bring me that long-lasting, fulfilling happiness I thought I would have.
Things, I found out, come and go. So do relationships, titles, the concert, the shoes, the handbag the ________ (you fill in the blank!) . The new car becomes old. The remodeled kitchen even gets boring after awhile.
I realized those things were merely filling a hole that needed to be filled with something that came from the inside. That completing the work project, graduating college, getting the promotion we are all ego-based and would always need updating or upgrading. Using this model of fulfillment, I was always going to be chasing happiness.
When I began to change my understanding of happiness and shift my awareness - understanding it's an inside job, happiness hung out with me longer! Actions such as Seva (service to others) meditation, journaling, discovering my life values, daily gratitude lists - all of these things started a shift in me. One that moved me towards longer terms of happiness through holistic and nourishing experiences, deep and meaningful friendships, service to others, being true to myself.
And while I am not perfect and yes, there are activities I still do that bring short term happiness, that I won't give up (like my manicure and pedicure!) I am finding out that life is much more rich, colors are more vibrant, music sounds better, and love is much deeper, when I don't move from happiness, to happiness to happiness. But rather know that I can create and carry happiness in my heart and soul with me always - and that is the true, long-lasting happiness I have always been searching for.