Happiness is in the Gap

Friday night I watched 20/20 and the topic was happiness. Not only was the topic interesting there were viewpoints from various researchers, authors and even regular human beings talking about happiness. The myths, what it is, what it isn’t, how to get more of it and even how we can rewire our brain to get happier.

I already do some of the things they suggest: I meditate regularly, focus on the positive, I have the greatest friends, a fantastic husband, and my life calling is doing the work I do as a trainer and speaker. I really have a wonderful life.

I’ve even added some fun things to my life. I’m taking dance lessons (Cha Cha Cha and Salsa) with my favorite dance teacher Alex, a former Russian ballet dancer whom I adore, so this new decision also benefits the relationship area. Yet sometimes I still feel unhappy.

After some reflection I have figured out why most of us have some trouble defining, understanding and most of all “being” happy.

The “pursuit” of happiness is the problem, not happiness itself. We pursue something with a belief that once we get (fill in the blank) THEN we will finally be happy. You get your income up to six figures, then you want a multiple six figures. Then you KNOW you will be happy when you make seven figures. I just used money as an example, the principles apply in all areas of life.
The problem isn’t that we want more or strive after more.  The problem is that we believe getting more will equal happiness. In other words, we think closing the gap is the answer but the gap can never be closed.

The Parable of the Island
There is always a gap from where we are to where we want to be. You can imagine it this way: you are in a little boat and you see an island in the distance. The island represents everything you think might make you happy.

You might be 50 miles, 500 miles or 5000 miles away from your island. Instead of enjoying the trip you get frustrated because your boat isn’t as fast as someone else’s (comparison) or because you didn’t take a map (not good at planning,) or because your boat sprung a leak on the way (not enough energy to get there quickly.)

So you work extra hours and instead of enjoying the journey you fight against the current. You keep thinking that once you get to the island you will be happy.

That is an illusion that most of us live. The truth is happiness isn’t found on the island. It’s found in the gap.

The gap is the journey…the present moment. The people in Denmark have discovered the “secret” to happiness. The real secret is to BE present and love the life you have WHILE you are in the gap on the journey from point A to point B. Love your relationships, have fun, find meaning in your work.

The fact is, even if you reach the island you will probably only stay a short while. Another island beckons you and you have to remember that happiness is in the gap.


7 Responses to Happiness is in the Gap

  1. Ann Leach says:

    I totally agree but still, I want the next island to come to me now!

    Here’s what I mean: about three years ago I was camping with my significant other at the time. We were in a beautiful cove on a lake. The weather was perfect and our camp chairs comfortable. I remember thinking “What else do you need? You’re with someone you love who loves you back and in God’s glorious creation of nature. This is true success and contentment.”

    And it was. But I can still enjoy a relaxing night in a four-star hotel or a day of shopping in Beverly Hills.

    So I understand that it is about being in the moment- whether in a camp ground or at the Mall.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. When I was a young girl, my mother insisted I take a nap while my much older brothers continued to play outside. I still remember how left-out I felt, hearing their laughter and voices outside while I was trapped in my bed. Much later –as a parent myself–I understood that my mom needed the nap as much or more than I. In fact, I often fell asleep and got much-needed rest. But that feeling persisted for many, many years: the suspicion that someone, somewhere, was having a better time than I was!

    I must have been in my fifties before I was finally able to “Be here now” and relish the moment without hurrying on to the next thing. Everyone needs a boost and a focus check now and then, but for most of us who are driven to succeed, there’s little danger that we’ll stagnate if we allow ourselves to relish — and rest in — where we are today.

    Remember the rush you felt to get older? “I’m 12 and three quarters.” Couldn’t wait to be a teenager. “I’m almost 21.” Always such a hurry. Now I think, “I’m barely over 60!” Slow down, years!

    Whether we love where we are or not, the one thing we can be sure of is that it won’t last. Ready or not, it will change.

  3. Rachael Moore says:

    What a great way to think about it!

    I have ‘resolved’ to save more money but keep finding myself dreading the steps to take to save more (cook at home, drink less tea/soda, or avoiding Wal-Mart) instead of looking around me at what I already have and realize that I have everything I need, just not everything I WANT!

    I am neglecting the fact that while I’m in the ‘gap’ I could be setting a good example for my children, teaching my children about money and how to ‘save for a rainy day’, or even that I could enjoy watching my savings grow! I could even approach the schools in my area to incoorporate money education into their cirriculum, which is what every parent expects but it is NOT being done!

    Thanks for the perspective – you’re a wonderful person Marlene!

  4. Joan Schramm says:

    You must be reading my mind!

    I’ve been working through this issue lately, and learning that I need to stop paddling upstream and just relax, let the stream take me, and enjoy the ride on the river.

    I will always have desires and will always want more — that’s what life is all about — but while I’m waiting for my desires to manifest themselves I can relax where I am right now and be happy and comfortable.

    I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Julia says:

    Dear Marlene,

    Thanks for revealing these important secrets about happiness.

    I would like to add a resource which is my free happiness pdf, no opt-in required.


    I hope you all find it useful,

    Happiness and Laughter to You and Yours,

    Julia Nestler
    currently in Sweden

  6. Dear Marlene,

    Thank you so much for all that you study, write and pass along to all of us. You are an amazing woman!

    In reading Julia Nestler’s pdf above, there was one statement that stood out above all else. About being thankful for the good in our lives, she said, “Gratefulness is a prayer and thus a sacred act which makes it very powerful.” WOW!! That is where I find happiness….in being thankful for the blessings in my life. I thank those around me, and I thank God for all the great things that happen throughout the day.

    I find that being thankful brings me to contentment, no matter what situation I am in. In looking at the blessing in any situation, makes the most unbearable situation more joyfilled. Happiness comes from looking at the positve and not dwelling on the negative, and in being content with where, what and who we are!

    Love you,

  7. Deanna says:

    Dear Marlene,

    First I’d like to thank you for all that you pass onto us and all the encouragement/inspiration that you have given me!

    I too, have struggled with this issue. With all of this technology and the fast paced world we live in, we all want more and faster! I used to tell my daughter “Don’t rush to grow up–enjoy your childhood” She’s now 18 and told me that she should have listened to me because she now has a taste of the real world. Funny how we look back only to find that we ask ourselves “Where did that time go?”

    My tribulations and struggles in life only encouraged me to never give up and reach for my own personal/career goals for the sake of me and my two children. With faith I’ve come a long way. However, once I got my head above water, I noticed a change in my children–they started wanting more/appreciating less. Yet before, we were just fine with the bare necessities. Then I realized “we” weren’t happy with what we have, yet with less money/less materialistic items, we were much happier!

    Unfortunately, at times I find myself still wanting more wether that be more money, more time, more in relationships with my kids, friends, or boyfriend. But I have to stop and thank God for my blessings! And learn to live in the moment, appreciate what I have and trust God that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

    So ENJOY today because all of our “wants” do not compare to our “needs” and we can never go back!.
    As Suzie mentioned “being content with where, what and who we are!”

    Take care!

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