“What’s your plan?” asked one of the instructors as we warmed up before class. I had just gotten my red belt so I thought he meant my training plan in preparation for the downward slope to black belt. I was about to list some of the cross training exercises I did, perhaps make a vague promise to cut back on wine, but he had a funny look on his face and narrowed his eyes. “You mean am I going to get black belt and then quit?,” I said. “No way.”

“Good answer.”

I didn’t tell him that taekwondo had given me my life, my health, and my sanity back. I didn’t tell him that quitting would veer me away from the new life I had chosen. The plan is…there is no plan. I just want to be there and I want it to be a part of my life as long as my¬†life allows it. Yes, getting my black belt is a major goal, but it’s not the end goal. I have no end goal.

happy sign

Taekwondo seems to be the one place in my life where I haven’t set an “I’ll be happy when” ultimatum. I’ll be happy when I get a new job. I’ll be happy when I have a boyfriend. I’ll be happy when I have a flat stomach. I’ll be happy…come to think of it I’m not sure I’ve ever been truly happy. Something in me, a protection mechanism or self-loathing or a combination of the two, wouldn’t allow it. Superficially I’ve had a very good life, but a calm surface can belie a storm. Actions behind closed doors combined with lies my mind told me have driven me so deep into the pit that once in a while it still feels foreign to be out in the sunlight.

My conditional approach to romance had all but destroyed my chances of having a healthy, mature relationship. The slightest letdown¬†would send me into a tailspin. On the flipside I tolerated abuse, neglect, and disinterest (on both sides) for much too long. I’m surprised my heart continues to beat so strongly. I’m surprised I was able to dig out of that mess and find my best friend and life partner.

I tend to go through cycles with my workplace happiness. Dissatisfaction is not necessarily a bad thing. Listening to my gut that a job change needed to happen helped me leave a comfortable but stagnant situation for much more money, freedom, and opportunities to learn and grow. I can tell when the pursuit for greener grass is getting the better of me when I begin each morning with a job search and pouting at statistics from salary.com. It’s very easy to fall into that trap and hope someone or something will come along and save me. Usually I’m just dreading an upcoming assignment–as if a new job would be any different!

Lo and behold, when I’ve stopped obsessing over a job (or a person) things fall into place. I stop relying on that thing or that person to make me happy. We are so goal-focused in our culture, and part of my job is helping others set and reach goals, but can’t we once in a while cast the goals aside and just enjoy the moment? I am still dreaming about that black belt, but I can’t beat the moments when I’m driving home from a good class, phyically exhausted but beaming. Can’t the moment itself provide happiness rather than relying on achieving the goal?

Are you relinquishing your power to be happy to someone or something else? Are we so focused on the future that we are never content in the present?

I found an interesting article about casting aside goal-setting for 100 days and just enjoying the moment, the process, the journey. I’m not ready to give up on my dreams, but I could use a break. What about you?

One thought on “Happiness Ultimatum

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