If only I could lose weight…
If only we lived somewhere else…
If only my kids would listen more…
If only we could make a little more money…
If only I could get this business off the ground…
If only, if only, if only.
Are you guilty saying things like this?
I certainly am. I have lots of hopes and dreams for the future. I have goals that I’m pursuing this year and for my family’s big picture. I even have some big, scary dreams. You know, the kind that gives you butterflies in your stomach. The “dare-I-even-say-this-out-loud” kind of dreams. Do you have those too?
Dreaming big is great! But it also puts you at risk for missing out on the here and now. If you feel like you won’t be happy or content until your dreams come true, then listen up! This is important.
Joy is not something to put off until later, no matter what your dreams are.
If You Are Putting Off Joy Until Your Dreams Come True…STOP!
Here are the reasons why I want you to start finding joy in your life now:
1. None of those “if only’s” are magic pills.
It might not feel good to think about this, but that doesn’t make it less true. If you feel empty, none of those “if only’s” that you keep repeating are going to fill you up. None of those solutions are going to make you feel whole. You aren’t going to be miraculously at peace when those things happen. If you don’t learn to be content now, you won’t be content later. When you achieve your goals (or whatever your “if only’s” are), you’ll simply move your focus to something else that you wish would change.
2. You’re missing out on all the joy in your life right now.
What if it takes 10 years to achieve your goals? Or what if you never achieve them at all? I’m not trying to be a downer here. I know that you’re capable of amazing things! But I also know that sometimes what we plan for ourselves doesn’t work out or takes much longer than we expect.
Our life is happening now— it’s not waiting until the “If only’s” come true. If you’re not savoring the present, you’re missing out on time that you can’t get back.
A few years ago, I was working 50 or more hours per week in a job that I didn’t love. My husband and I had made several financial mistakes and were in over $40k worth of debt, not including our mortgage. We started a family and I wished desperately to be home more. We were also in a house that was quickly becoming too small for us.
I felt like I was always waiting for something. When this happens (fill in the blank), then I’ll be happy. I thought, “When we’re out of debt, then I’ll be happy.” Or “When we move into a bigger house, then I’ll be happy.” “Once I can quit my job, then I”ll be happy.” All three times I was pregnant, I thought “Once I have this baby, then I’ll be happy.”
What I learned
Guess what I found?
Things are never perfect.
Your life might get better in some ways. If you’re working hard (and praying hard too), it probably will. That’s something to be happy about, right? You have much to look forward to!
But that doesn’t mean you won’t have issues. You’ll still face problems and pain, and you’ll still wish you could change parts of your life.
Think I’m being negative? Actually, I’m trying to get you to think more positively. Because, with the problems and pain in the future, you’ll also experience joy and love and hope and laughter and goodness. Just like you have the problems and pain now, there’s good now too. You just need to focus on it to learn to see it.
Check out my post How Changing Your Focus Could Change Everything to read more about shifting your focus to the beauty in your life.
The result of my story
Fast forward in my story a bit…we got out of debt and we moved into a house that’s more fitting for our family. I love my home and I’m so thankful to be free of the burden of credit card debt and student loans. I was able to quit my full-time job to spend more time with my kids.
I have a beautiful family with three little girls. My life is wonderful, but it’s still not perfect. There are still things that I wish were different. What I can change, I’m working towards changing. But there are still struggles.
Every stage of life carries new challenges.
But every life stage has its own charm too. You have much to be grateful for at this very moment.
Imagine… what would happen if you started believing that you have everything you need to be content right now? How would you feel? How would that change how you approach this day?
Remember, the longer you put off happiness and contentment, the more life you miss.
Check out this post I wrote a few years ago while I was working my way out of debt in a career that I didn’t love: Love Where You Are While You Get Where You’re Going
So, should we stop dreaming?
So, should we just stop dreaming right now and accept life as it is now? No, I would never say that. I don’t think I could stop dreaming if I tried. It’s part of me. If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs or Enneagram personality profiles, both of mine are called the “Dreamer” (INFP and 9w1). I never stop dreaming about what could be, how I can be better, or how I can improve my life.
It’s not wrong to have dreams. or to desire to change your life in some ways. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, or to find a better job, to deepen your relationships, to get out of debt, or to try a new parenting strategy.
The problem comes when we think that achieving these goals will solve it all. We run into serious issues when we feel like we can’t be happy or relax until these things happen when, the truth is, we have everything we need right now. We miss out on life now when our minds are turned only towards the future.
What should we do instead?
You’ll never hear me speak against dreaming. I believe in having goals and being diligent about achieving them. But I also know that how we approach goals and our current situations and is an important part of the process.
“In between goals is a thing called life that has to be lived and enjoyed.” -Sid Caesar
Here’s what I know…
-It’s possible to be insanely grateful for your current life while working towards a new one.
-You can appreciate your current job and the opportunity you have to work, even if you’re working towards your dream job.
-You can love your home and cherish the memories made inside, even if you’re planning to move.
-You can enjoy the craziness of your kids being young while still looking forward to them growing up and allowing you more freedom.
-You can love being single or married without kids, even if you’re hoping for a family soon.
-You can make the most of today, even if you’re living on a budget or working hard towards a big dream.
Here’s an example
Let’s look at the example of weight loss. If your goal is to lose some weight, what is your reason for that? Is it because you hate your body? Is it because you’re comparing yourself to other people? Is it because you feel like you’re not living up to society’s standards?
Or is it because you love yourself, you see your body as a gift and you want to take better care of it? Are you wanting to heal your relationship with food? Do you want to feel better, set a good example, and live a healthier life?
With the first set of reasons, you’re approaching a goal with the hopes that the end will “fill you up.” You’re assuming that once you hit your goal weight, life will be completely different than it is now. But you’ll probably still hate your body in some ways, you’ll most likely still compare yourself to others, and you’ll still feel like you don’t live up to some people’s standards.
With the second approach, you love your body while on your weight loss journey. You learn to love what you’re capable of and see your body as a gift to be cherished. You set a good example for your kids by taking care of yourself but you won’t pass on body image issues because they won’t hear you shaming yourself (they are always watching, right?).
Check out this related post: Why All Moms Need to Give Up Chasing the “Perfect Shape”
Both paths have the same goal, but the mentality behind the goal is completely different. One path is full of shame and brokenness, the other is full of hope. They may both lead to the same desired result (weight loss), but only the second will bring joy and contentment— which starts at the very beginning!
How can we be content now?
How do we learn to enjoy where we are in life now even when we have big dreams?
You can start by listing out everything you have to be grateful for right this moment. Write down every blessing you can think of, no matter how small. Try to remember prayers that have already been answered. Add those to your list and thank God for them. Think about the goals that you’ve already reached and be thankful that you’ve had the opportunity to achieve them.
Consider your relationships, your opportunities, your strengths. Think about where you live and everything in your life that you wouldn’t want to change. Try to recognize the good that you take for granted daily.
Train your mind to see good around you
You can train your mind to see the good around you by keeping a running gratitude list. Add to it daily, but never repeat anything. After this first day of listing out all your blessings, wake up tomorrow and try to add 3 more. Do this every morning and soon you’ll be searching for things to be grateful for in your everyday life. Instead of focusing on your problems and what you wish you could change, your mind will start seeing all that’s right in your world.
You can be grateful now. You can be content now. You can find joy now, despite all that’s bad in your life by focusing on all that is good.
Loving where you are now won’t make you less focused or goal-oriented. It’ll just make you happier along your journey and make you appreciate your destination that much more.
You might also like my post: How to Quit Comparing Yourself to Others
Verses about contentment for my Christian sisters:
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:11-13
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.” –1 Timothy 6:6-12
Verses About Joy:
“This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.” -Psalm 118:24
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” -Philippians 4:4
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
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