Happiness is not at that “next level” in your career
I recently read an article about the actress who plays Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones. She talked about how depressed she was during the shooting of the series - how she felt imperfect and unworthy and how she isolated herself socially. Sansa freaking Stark!
This struck me so deeply, because this is exactly why I work with creative people. Many of us have this idea that “as soon as I reach that next level (sell the screenplay, get a series regular role, land the job at the fancy advertising firm, etc), I will finally be happy”. We push out our happiness onto some imagined future, and in the meantime, we feel anxious, frustrated and inferior.
It makes a lot of sense from the brain’s perspective, because imagining future happiness lights up all sorts of “feel good” chemicals in our brains that help us get through the drudgery of the present.
But unfortunately, this imagined future never comes. I know you don’t want to hear that (I resisted this truth for sooooo long), but it's true. I’m not saying you won’t be successful in the future - I have good reason to believe you will be - I’m saying you won’t be happy in that successful future, unless you start changing the way you think about this moment right now.
Why? Because we take ourselves with us wherever we go. If you’re critical of yourself, looking to others for approval, and struggling to feel joy in your life, and you are magically transported to a place where your external circumstance are different...you will just find new things to be critical of, look for more approval, and find more reasons to be unhappy.
If you keep thinking external circumstances will create your happiness, you will end up just like the actress on Game of Thrones: external success, internal misery.
Now I’d like to let you off the hook a little. If this feels like you, know that it’s not your fault. But it is your responsibility to change. Many of us are conditioned to focus on what’s not right in our lives and look for the solution outside of ourselves (hello modern marketing). We are trained by the media to notice all the ways we don’t measure up, and then think “but once I have that next thing (car, house, job, relationship, outfit, gadget) THEN I will be worthy and happy.” I have 100% been there, and I know how seductive it is, and ultimately, how unfulfilling. So forgive yourself for falling into that pattern. And now, choose something different.
Teaching my clients how to feel accomplishment, joy, and self-worth RIGHT NOW is one of the biggest gifts I can offer them. Not only does that energy have a magnetism to it that draws in success, it also guarantees that when they find that success, they can actually enjoy it.
Here are 3 of the tools that I use to help them get there:
1. Mindfulness. In order to feel joy right now, we have to actually be aware of what’s happening inside of us moment to moment, so that we can shift our mindset away from ruminating or future-based thinking and toward what actually is going well - right here and now.
2. Taking in the Good. As I teach in this video, Taking in the Good is a practice of noticing the happy moments - the experiences of success, accomplishment and pleasure - and expanding them into a whole body sensation. This rewires your brain for more happiness.
3. Celebration. We’re so hesitant to celebrate ourselves, often because of a strong inner critic and fear that it will make us complacent. In reality, celebrating the small steps along the way actually motivates you to do more, and it creates the feeling that you “have your own back” on the journey.
I invite you to try these out for yourself, and see if they help you notice more contentment with your life as it is, and more motivation to pursue your goals with kindness and compassion. Let me know how it goes!