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30 minutes across town happiness is waiting for me.
In this case, it takes the form of a dance class filled with The Perfect Playlist, women I like, and a teacher I adore. I HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR IT and every class I miss is a $20 bill I’m starting on fire and waving in the air.
And yet! Even though I know this class will make me happy, even though I’ve already paid for it, instead of going I’m … not. I’m saying “Hey, Happiness! I see you over there, waving frantically. I see you and Imma opt to sit here in my dirty yoga pants and watch Parks And Rec reruns instead of hanging out with you.”
Have you ever done this? If you’re a human who is alive, I’m pretty sure you have.
If you haven’t, will you teach me your ways?
There are all sorts of reasons we resist doing things that make us happy. Just like anything, when we notice what we’re doing and start to understand why, we’re a million times more likely to change our habits.
4 reasons we resist happiness + what we can do about it
We resist happy-making activities because sometimes they’re really hard
Well, obviously, right? Getting up early so you’ll have time to writing your morning pages = hard. Finding the courage to leave the job you hate = hard. Mustering the time, energy, and interest to regularly work out = hard. Living on a tight budget now so you can afford your dream house later = hard.
It’s just SO MUCH EASIER to sleep in, to workout twice on the weekends, to convince ourselves that job satisfaction is laughable myth created by idealistic millennials.* And rather than doing the hard, hard happy-making stuff we settle for the band-aid, just-for-now happy-makers. (I’m looking at you, Netflix and Anthropologie sale section.)
What we can do about it
Acknowledge that what we’re doing is hard! Let’s stop downplaying the effort that goes into a successful business, a career transition, changing our health habits, or a huge trip. Downplaying the effort that goes into our accomplishments serves no one.
When someone ask you about your daily running habit or the novel you’re writing, say “Sometimes it’s really hard, but it makes me happy and it’s always worth it.” When you’re struggling to lace up your shoes at 5 am, remind yourself “I can do hard things.”
We resist happy-making activities because the default is easier
You guys? Sometimes happiness is a hassle. I know that trying weird, challenging new recipes with my husband makes me happy. But when faced with a pile of unknown cookbooks, a 23-item ingredient list, and instructions that feature French verbs, I’m inclined to throw up my hands and
scream “Cereal buffet!”
So many of the things that make me happy are logistically cumbersome: International travel, weekends away with big groups of friends, buying pretty much anything from Craigslist. So often it feels easier to quietly opt-out.
If I’m not careful, I can convince myself that dinner with friends is as good as three days of memory-making on the lake with board games and a rickety pontoon. I can talk myself into thinking my bargain-getting needs can be met at Ikea rather than the ‘between $50-$75’ Craigslist searches. (Spoiler alert: They cannot.)
I imagine I’m not alone here. How often do we default to the easy/familiar/slightly mediocre because the truly wonderful would require a week of planning and talking on the phone to strangers?
What we can do about it
As deeply, deeply cheesy as it sounds, when I’m in midst of doing a hassle-filled, happy-making thing, I say to myself “This makes me happy.” I’m sticking a pin in the map of my happiness and saying “Here. X marks the spot and I’m glad I made the effort to get here.”
When we note these happy-making things, we’re literally strengthening the pathways in our brains and making it easier to find our way back here.
We resist happy-making activities because they don’t fit with our ideas about who we are
True Story: a dear friend of mine is an Ivy League-educated academic. She’s constantly presenting impressive things at conferences and making theoretical arguments I 100% do not understand. She also looooooves the Real Housewives reality tv franchise.
I have been friends with this woman for 15 years. The first Real Housewives debuted 10 years ago. I only learned of my friend’s affinity for this show four months ago. That’s almost a decade that she’s been hiding something that brought her joy! 10 years she could have been watching this show with friends and happily dissecting Bethenny’s romantic choices!
But she didn’t want anybody to know because she thought this happy didn’t take the shape it ‘should.’ She thought ‘someone like her’ shouldn’t enjoy ‘something like that.’ And when she made the decision, she opted out of a more than a decade of happiness and fun.
What we can do about it
None of us are walking around with name tags affixed to our shirts broadcasting our hobbies, interests, or the things that make us happy. If something brings us joy, nobody is going to know unless we tell them.
And if we do tell them and they judge us, well, they’re probably not someone we need in our lives. The more you like your decision, the less it matters if other people do. Click To Tweet
We resist happy-making activities because they make other people uncomfortable
Let’s say you’re a tightly wound, pearls-and-sweater set, PTA mom-type. Now let’s say your biggest joy in life is your burlesque class, particularly the routines that feature a bit of ass-slapping and Marilyn Manson. The people in your life might be less-than-100% comfortable with this.
Or let’s say you’re the very beloved only child of two very doting, slightly neurotic parents. Rock climbing makes the blood sing in your veins and it makes your dad yell in your voicemail. Anytime they see your harness or chalk bag, you get a glare. Anytime they hear about an upcoming climbing trip, you get a guilt trip.
When the people in our lives – people who love us! people who usually have our best interest at heart! – aren’t comfortable or supportive of what makes us happy it’s easy to abandon it.
What we can do about it
Know that being uncomfortable never killed anyone. It won’t kill you to feel a little awkward when other PTA moms heard you take burlesque classes. Your mom won’t die when she sees photos of you at the climbing gym. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, you’re allowed to do what makes you happy.
How often do you resist doing things you know will make you happy? Why do you think you do that?
P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!