The ‘I’ll be happy when…’ trap

One of life’s illusions is that the attainment of a particular goal, whatever that may be, will provide us with the happiness, fulfilment and peace of mind that we want. It is an easy trap to fall into.

James was an adviser I worked with who wanted to grow his practice and bring more clients on board. Nothing at all wrong with that, but he always felt tense and distracted because he was putting himself under a great deal of pressure to reach his goal. He had fallen into the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ trap and, as a result, the future always looked better than the present to him.

In one of our coaching sessions I shared with him a story that had once been shared with me. It was about a corporate business executive who on a trip to a beautiful Island saw a fisherman rowing to shore. The boat is full up with his catch of fish and the executive asks him what he’s up to.

The fisherman says he is going to hang out on the beach and enjoy a BBQ with his family and friends. In the evening he will spend time with his wife and stroll together hand in hand along the beautiful moonlit shoreline.

The business executive said “Why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?”

The fisherman replied, “Why would I? This is enough to feed my family and friends.”

The businessman then offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I am a specialist in growing businesses. I could help you to become more successful. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. And when you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Then, you will be able to afford to buy more boats, employ more fishermen and build a fleet. You will be able to set up your very own fish factory and sell to the mass market, all over the world. You can grow the business to a big business and float it on the stock market and make even more money.”

The fisherman asks, “So, how long would that take?”

The business executive replies, “About 15 to 20 years.”

The fisherman continues, “And then what?”

The business executive said “After that, you will be rich, your income will be coming in by the millions!”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a beautiful island, spend time with your family and friends, have a BBQ on the beach and spend time with your wife strolling together hand in hand along the beautiful moonlit shoreline.”

James got the point. We explored the truth that happiness, contentment and joy can only exist in the present moment. And they are not circumstance dependent. If we believe that we need something to make us happy then we are right back to the “I’ll be happy when…” trap.

Why is this so important?

Well, apart from the obvious thing that we all want to get the most each moment, the way we are being also has an impact on other people. Including our clients. If you want to help your clients get the most from their lives then you have to go there first. As James had been finding, you cannot inspire people if you turn up feeling tense, under pressure and distracted. Life just doesn’t work that way.

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