I have it all, so why am I not happy?

Work hard in school. Get a degree. Land your dream job. Buy the house, buy the car, marry the right guy/girl.

Follow that blueprint and you should be set, right? Happiness is almost always guaranteed… except when it’s not.

More and more people are reaching their twenties, thirties and beyond and coming across a substantial flaw in their life plan: it’s not making them happy. They have everything they believed they could ever want, but still something remains missing. This is quite the quandary, because if the set life plan that’s sold to us isn’t what ultimately brings us fulfilment, what will?

We’ve come up with three major reasons for the discontentment so many of us seem to feel. Read on to figure out which one might apply to you.

1. Did you ever think about what you really want?

When we’re young and impressionable, of course it’s easy to see the path that’s already been carved so beautifully before us and assume it’s the one we’re destined to follow. The milestones are so handily predetermined and because the path has been trodden by so many before us, we don’t consider questioning it. If it worked for them, why wouldn’t it work for us, too?

The thing with this model is that the life plan we expect to follow might not necessarily be suited to us after all. The job with the biggest pay packet might not be the one that has us smiling on Monday mornings. The house in the suburbs might not be where we feel most comfortable. The fancy car might be great, but really, perhaps we’d prefer to zip around town on a bicycle and feel the breeze in our hair.

The wonderful thing about life is that it’s mostly in our hands. If something isn’t making us happy, we have the ability to reassess and make changes where we can. Think about how you’d prefer to feel in your life. What are the things you could do today, and in the long run, to make you feel that way? It doesn’t have to mean a massive career change or house move. Making a small change to your daily routine or cultivating the ability to say no (or maybe yes!) to more opportunities might be what does the trick.

2. Are you taking time for yourself?

The assumption that comes with the pursuit of “it all” is that it takes all our time to get there. If we’re continually working towards an end goal at work, for instance, the temptation is to keep plugging away until we meet it. But this can be dangerous for our wellbeing. As well as the pursuit of career-based achievements, we need to balance out our lives with downtime, too.

Burnout is real. It happens when our minds are so focused on one single outcome that we fail to prioritise things like exercise, nourishment and rest. But the irony is that if we’re not well-rested, we won’t perform to our optimal capacity in any other area of our lives. We all need to take some time out to recharge our energy and reset our focus, so we don’t end up falling short of where we want to be and resenting the pursuit of our goals. If you’re feeling burnt out and discontented, perhaps a break to do something different – go on holiday, try a new sport or even just take an evening to unwind with a good book and a hot bath, for instance – will help you look at your life with fresh eyes.

3. You have it all, but do you appreciate it all?

If our heads are always down, we forget to look up and appreciate what’s around us. The practice of mindfulness is hot stuff in the media right now, and while it might seem like another buzzword or passing phase, there’s a reason it’s such a big deal.

If we’re always trying to “have it all,” our focus is never on what’s in front of us – it’s on where we’re going next. What’s the next goal, the next milestone, the next thing to tick off life’s list? This stops us from being present in the moment and truly appreciating where we are. It can be scary to stop in time and take that breather, but if we don’t, we risk missing out on the very lives we were working so hard to build.

Don’t wish time away in pursuit of what’s yet to come. Be here now. Take some deep breaths and think about all you have. Take a couple of minutes in stillness each morning to focus on your breathing, centre yourself and ground your thoughts. Then take a few minutes each night to list something you were thankful for that day. These very short and simple practices can be overwhelmingly helpful in keeping you present.


READ THIS NEXT: 5 Buddhist philosophies that can teach us about happiness


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