Trading Your ‘If > Then’ Statements for ‘Here & Now’

The meaning of life is to change, or is it?

Before I left New York, I was secure in an identity which no longer serves me. Well-dressed, popular, tough, a little bit of a bitch at times, catty, idolizing New York City, the place, ideas, women, and high-powered figures of PR I’d loved on Sex & the City. My life’s so different now. The way I saw myself in 10 years at 18 was an executive at a powerhouse in Public Relations, sitting in a corner office that overlooked the Manhattan skyline, tape measuring drapes for my Uptown apartment, starting my own PR firm, sipping lattes, and wearing Jimmy Choos.

There’s nothing in that scenario that said, ‘Oh yeah, and remind yourself to just breathe, to let go, to enjoy life, and to believe in magic.’ This was my ideal life at 18; the sassy, sophisticated New York City woman, a role model only in her wealth and status.

I wasn’t cut out for that life. Two weeks before moving out of New York to Vermont, my father died, in a hit and run accident in New York City. A month later, my boyfriend of two years and I split up. Three months later, I signed up for a trip to Tanzania for the first time. Nine months later, my entire outlook, and future career, seemed entirely different.

Then and now. Then and now. Then and now.

Looking forward, I can see that similar changes will be in my life at 34, the same as were at 18. It’s hard to not make a plan, to steer the ship in the direction we see fit for ourselves, even when the waves have other plans, to lead us to other places. My joy comes less from having material possessions, but from experiences, spending time with people who truly care about me, and being kind to others.

I was led to believe that a life of ‘If > thens’ would make me happy.

The ‘IF I am a successful PR spokesperson by 27 THEN I can buy my own PR firm,’ ‘

IF I marry my high school sweetheart, THEN I will be happy for the rest of my life,’ and so on.

The thing that’s so funny about this, is by deciding ahead of time what exactly it is that is going to make you happy, you create a limiting view of happiness.

There’s no way to see how happy you truly could be with ‘If > then’. IF I lose ten pounds, THEN I will love myself. The ‘here and now’ is far more needed, saying, ‘HERE I am 10 pounds overweight. NOW I choose to love myself, today.’

The ‘here and now’ and the present moment are all we have, so stop limiting your own happiness by pretending you know what is going to make you happy. You started thinking of things while reading this list that will make you happy, but once you got those, you would want something else, constantly researching and reaching for a goal always slightly out of reach.

There doesn’t need to be a death, a breakup, or a terrible disease diagnosis for you to take your time, slow down, amp up, and start living the life of your dreams. The life of your dreams, surprisingly, is the one you’re already winning, the one you’re always in, the one you’re actually living. Don’t think that whatever it is that’s just around the bend if it blows your way will make you a greater friend, a better lover, a more kind and just father; it won’t. You can have faith everyday that something you’re already doing, today, choosing to do in this moment is making you all of those things.

A new job, a new wallet, a hot car or a younger girlfriend, settling down and having babies, leaving a job you hate- take action to search for the feeling you want to create, not the concept you think will make you happier. Most of the time, happiness sneaks up on us anyway, settles into our collarbones like beads, strands dangling around the neck.

Awesomely admit to yourself your failings; we’re humans, we’re learning, we’re not perfect. Say to yourself that you’re going to make it better today, in this moment, and not another day, time, season.

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