Have you ever fallen victim to ‘I’ll be happy when…’ syndrome? (If your answer was no, I’m truthfully not sure I believe you.)
I’ll be happy when… is one of those deeply ingrained societal messages that we internalize as a belief over time. We hear it so often that we wholeheartedly believe it to be true and don’t give the meaning behind the phrase a second thought until the moment we realize it’s driving our endless dissatisfaction with our own lives.
Can you relate to…
Reality is we achieve the next big milestone and it rarely makes us happy. It’s like we expect this rush of joy to flood over us and for satisfaction to instantly set in. And in searching for that ‘expected feeling’, we actually just miss the moment. We aren’t present. We miss out on how rewarding achieving a goal can actually be because our dissatisfaction we’ve been dragging along didn’t instantly vanish when the clock struck midnight.
This idea of constantly seeking satisfaction in an endlessly dissatisfied world is one I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since finishing the book ‘Radically Content’ by Jamie Varon. The book was full of wisdom & insight into what it means to be radically content with your life.
As humans, to belong is one of our greatest needs.
And so we seek this external approval & validation to meet this need. But external approval isn’t the answer.
In the book, Jamie talked about how the only way to release dissatisfaction is through your internal satisfaction.
Dissatisfaction seeks external resolve when it’s an internal problem.
I can seek approval from others to move across the country and buy a home in the middle of the mountains on 2 acres of land and when I don’t get that approval feel dissatisfied with my own needs & desires or I can choose to lovingly accept and know that that is what will make me happy regardless of external opinion. To Jamie, this means opting out of what society has told us to be true.
I’ve always been one to go a little bit against the grain and to take the path less traveled and so this idea of the ‘opt-out’ was especially appealing to me.
I think one of the hardest parts of my journey has been coming to terms with what it means to take ownership of my life and to opt-out when societal conditioning isn’t serving me. With every opt-out, I’ve felt less of an urge to seek external approval & validation. And so with each opt-out I find a little more freedom & contentment.
Sure, when I’m operating from a less than healthy place I still grasp for that approval but I also accept that as part of the human experience. We can have all the tools to practice radical self-acceptance and still revert to old self-preservation tactics when we are going through it.
This idea of ‘I’ll be happy when…’ is something I grappled with for many years. So if you’re thinking, “wow, this is me and I have no idea how to break this cycle”, know that you aren’t alone. Expecting satisfaction when you achieve a goal is normal and what we are all striving for. The struggle to break the cycle is part mindset work, part brain rewiring, part self-compassion, part grace for the messy parts of the human experience. It’s not always equal parts either. I think of it like cooking. Add a dash of this, a couple tablespoons of that, a pinch of this and see how it tastes.
I don’t think there’s a magic solution to this one. And I do believe your journey to heal from ‘I’ll be happy when…” syndrome will look different for each of you. Sometimes I think what we need most is permission to not have the perfect solution and to allow ourselves to lean into that trial and error phase of healing.
Something I work with my coaching clients on is this idea of perspective. When we can shift our perspective, even for just a moment, we create space to receive new messaging. We open ourselves up to receiving and in turn invite new ideas in to see what sticks. For me, the idea of the opt-out is what stuck. For you, the opt-out might not be the secret sauce and that’s okay.
If you’re looking for support over a magic solution, I’ve got you. Let’s have a virtual coffee and chat about how I can help you find your own version of the opt-out.
Alyson Pallanck is a Life Coach and host of the 'But, What if You Did?' Podcast - a podcast where we normalize what millennials go up against in the messy middle seasons of life. After spending 15 years in the corporate space, Alyson is on a mission to create space for millennials to more mindfully navigate transition seasons so they too can live life on their terms. She does this through one-on-one intuitive life coaching and through sharing conversations with friends, thought leaders in the personal development space, and holistic wellness advocates who have been where you are and are here to show you just what's possible if you choose to jump!