The #1 Excuse That Will Ruin Your Life

Dale Partridge
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A few years ago, I was working with a client who was launching a new startup in the tech space. She had been working on it for a long time and it was a nearly constant source of stress and anxiety.

The technology portion had consumed her to the point of pushing many other important areas of her life aside, including her marriage and kids. Many times during consulting sessions, she would say, “I’ll be so happy when this this business finally launches,” to which I would respond, “Yes, you will, and then the next chase of achievement will rise up and consume your life.”

Similar to me, my client was addicted to busy. At the core, she believes her pursuit of “X” will solve her deepest problems. She had been infected with the deadliest disease of all.

The “I will be happy when” syndrome.

While her comment may have been tiny, the roots sink deep into her soul. For you it might be, “When I find a good man, I'll be less lonely” or “When I lose weight, I'll be more confident” or “If I had a job I loved, my life would be perfect”.

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Awesome photo by Lightstock

While these are all good things, reaching these external goals will never provide you internal happiness. And moreover, they will not heal the brokenness inside.

This is a disease of ruthless comparison and where our authenticity, our abilities, our bodies and our story are never enough.

If you can't be happy where you are, with what you have, you never will.

True happiness is only found in the contentment of loving who God made you to be. The you with flaws, the you with a chain of broken relationships, the you with divorced parents, the you in a size 8, and the you who doesn't make $100,000 per year.

My challenge to you is this…
Be happy today. Be content with your life now. Stop trying to heal your inward brokenness with outward success. No job, or person, or implant, or promotion, or house will ever heal the disease behind them. Seek healing through counseling, be vulnerable with a friend, and ask the hard questions of why you do this?

I believe my point is summed up nicely in this clip with Alanis Morissette, who obviously struggled with the same issue.

In the end, it’s about asking the question, “Why am I chasing this? Why do I believe achieving ‘X' will make me ‘Y'?” And the harder question, “Can I be happy without them, or it, or that?” We can’t control the future; we can’t control the outcome of most events in our lives. But we can control our happiness. And when we're happy with the real thing, there is rarely a need for “X”.

Do you struggle with this disease? What are you hoping will make you happier? What has helped? Let me know in the comments below.

76 COMMENTS

    • There should always be a healthy drive to be better and to grow personally. But there is a very difficult stigma we are dealing with of “never enough” – never being enough, having enough, etc. Comparison is the thief of joy and you need to learn to question your WHY for your drive. Where is it coming from? Is it from a desire to be healthy, or to “keep up with the Jones'”? Hope that makes sense! It’s all about the motives.

  1. Great post – this is so true. I believe it is super important to have goals and dreams to chase after in life, but enjoying life along the way is even more important (especially for our health and our relationships too)
    I had a boss once who gave me two pieces of advice that I will never forget that correspond perfectly to your message:
    1) Remember to turn around from time to time and see how far you have already climbed up the mountain
    2) Chunk the elephant – i.e. break the task down into little achievable pieces and celebrate each small achivement along the way.

    I’ve had plenty of times where i forgot this advice, but when I come back to it seemingly hard stuff just gets much easier and I am much happier.

  2. This was so right on time. I am not happy in my current job because it is very stressful but I am grateful to have a job. My thoughts were if I had a job less stressful and with better hours I would be happier. So now what?….do I stay and strive to be happy in a stressful environment or find a position where there is less stress and hope to be happy there? I’m sure there’ll be days of stress at a new place of work but my hope is to find something that I actually enjoy doing that would bring me happiness. I’m not sure what to do at this point.

    • I love that you posted this Laura.
      I come from a corporate career where I was working endless hours, nights and weekends but making great money. I absolutely loved my job but always complained about the lack of life outside of work and the fact that I was living in a state where I knew nobody but my colleagues. However, a year ago I moved states to be with my Fiancé so we could start our life together and this gave me reason to end my career and start fresh. Since moving I took a job that is 8-5 with a one hour lunch break (I NEVER HAD THAT BEFORE) and I thought that without the long hours and stress I would be much happier. I don’t work at nights, I don’t work on the weekends and I get a spring break and two weeks for Christmas… What more could I ask for?

      It all sounds great in theory but believe it or not I’ve found myself completely bored and unhappy in my job or lack of career because I’m not challenged like I was in the past and
      it frankly does not interest me one bit. I am currently seeing a therapist and
      have realized so many things about myself and my happiness. She too has asked
      me that question…”if you move to the next will you be happy there?” My advice
      from my experience (not professional) is that you have to find Your Happy First
      and prioritize your life… Whether it be making lots of money, traveling the
      world, starting a family, retiring at a young age, giving back to others, etc.
      Once you know what your happy is you’ll be able to make those tough
      decisions. And heck, if you take that leap like I did and it doesn’t work out… Move on to the next until you find it. I do believe that we will all look back and be grateful for what we learned along the way.

    • So it’s definitely nice to know that I’m not the only one out there going through this 🙂
      I’ve been asking the same question for about the past year now and though I don’t think there is one right answer, here are some thoughts I’ve had:
      1) If I do decide to change jobs, I don’t want to look back on this one and regret not having tried hard. Imaging that the current job does have an end helps me “look back” on it and gives me extra motivation to do the best work I can while I am there.
      2) Though it’s not what I would envision a dream job being, viewing stressful situations as challenges instead of burdens makes the work better. It takes some practice consciously thinking “this is a challenge, I can’t wait to accomplish it!” but it does help
      3) An important point to consider is whether or not there is growth opportunity at your current job. Not necessarily promotion growth, but any kind of personal growth. If you think your job can teach you skills you’ll need anywhere else later on (stress management, communication, confidence, or other technical skills), you should take that into consideration
      Ultimately you are the only one responsible for your own happiness and you should trust how your feelings but don’t let them trap you. Good luck!

    • Hi Laura! I’ll start off by saying that I think there are some great responses below. 🙂 There is absolutely nothing wrong with realizing you’re in a dead end job (not saying you are) that is stunting your personal growth and causing you nothing but stress. Your career choice is a MASSIVE chunk of your life and likely affects all other categories of your life – so it is extremely important that you find the right one for you. In regards to stress, you may need to learn some stress management techniques. If it’s too much for you to handle, you need to find another job or it will begin to overflow negatively into your family, relationships, energy levels, health etc. I’m sure I do not need to lecture you on the monumental negative effects stress has on your body. (; There’s nothing wrong with striving for more. But there is also a beauty in learning to be where you are, and that you have a purpose where you are. However, seasons DO end and new seasons begin. Only you can decide if this is your season’s end. Hope that helps!

  3. I fall into this trap too all the time. It’s a difficult habit to break. But like you said Happiness is a choice, and we can’t always control the direction our lives take – but we can control our attitude on the journey.

  4. Such a great reminder! I am so thankful to be living in a time where humanness is becoming truly a sought after value, how imperfect is the new perfect, how vulnerability is strength and healing can be found on page upon page of the internet.

    We are on a great road. It is nice to see hope on the horizon, rising like the sun, warming souls and growing smiles. Thank you for being a part of this healing journey, for so many people, God is so good!!

  5. I’m always chasing. I tell myself it’s a “healthy discontent” and it pushes me to greater things. But there’s a fine line. In my mind, I’m either lazy or going 100 mph. And it affects me. My husband. My kids. Is it worth it? In the end…no. So why do I do it?
    Oh, and P.S. my brow furrowed at the “you in a size 8.” Come on. Most women would kill to be a size 8, so to use it in the context of a list of life flaws…Boo. Just…BOO.
    But, I’ll forgive you…this IS, after all, the first post I’ve read on your blog and my sister says you’re pretty cool. So, for her, I’ll keep on reading. 😉

    • Haha! Forgive me. 😉 I’m glad you enjoyed the article anyway. I too run at 100 miles an hour until I crash. I always think “I feel good, so I’ll hammer out a 16 hour day.” And then I crash. Haha it’s a definite balancing act.

  6. While I think it is important to live as authentically as possible, flaws and all and embrace everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, I think it is wise to be cautious not to use vulnerability, helplessness, etc. as a “badge of honor”. We all have insecurities and areas in which we should strive to improve and we should encourage each other and build one another up; what I have seen on occasion is people who stay in perpetual “victimhood” as a choice because they like the attention. When they wear one “helpful encourager” out they move on to another.
    For those who are not satisfied with their jobs, I think the dissatisfaction comes because you haven’t found the place you are meant to be yet. Visualize and pray for your “perfect” job, use all the things that you imagine would make you happy and do this continuously, using specifics. In the mean time, go to work with a positive attitude and look for any good you can do there. Do a great job with a cheerful heart at your current place of business, but keep your eyes open for other opportunities. When the time is right, I truly believe that you will find the thing that helps satisfy your soul and mind. The first key is to find satisfaction, however small, in what you are currently doing.
    Being “busy” is just a way of avoiding/masking insecurity in a similar way to people who take drugs, or alcohol or eat too much. If you really want to figure out what the trigger is you have to be still and let your mind reveal the true problem. Sometimes we are afraid or ashamed to admit the truth though; so this can be tough.
    Good luck!

  7. Funny… I have been seeking financial success for years and once I got there it was not the pinnacle…not all that. Happiness is the mountain top.

    • We can’t keep telling ourselves “If I could just get ‘there’..then I’d be happy.” There is no “there” there! It’s an illusion.

  8. This is a great post! I’m always in the ‘I’ll be happy when’ stage. I know I shouldn’t be, but it’s hard to change your thoughts overnight. But I loved this reminder from you that it’s not a good way to live. It’s always important to be happy now. I need to remember that, and actually put it to use.

  9. Reminds me of the country song,
    “Wherever you go, there you are.” After years of hopping from one job
    to the next, moving from one apartment to another, from relationship to
    relationship, I realized that this behavior was not alleviating my discontent.
    And for a long time, I would blame everyone else. Then it hit me. I was the
    constant, the common denominator in every single equation. I finally had to
    admit that I was miserable and there was no earthly cure. So, I really, really
    like how Paul describes his solution to the church at Philipi: ” I am
    not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever
    the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what
    it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and
    every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or
    in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” But I
    felt like I was still missing something, until I read Nehemiah 8:10 which tells
    us that “the Joy of the Lord is your strength.” And joy is a fruit of
    the Holy Spirit. So what Paul said finally made complete sense! Man I love how
    the Bible ties itself together! (I really hope this makes sense to someone else and doesn’t come across as the convoluted ramblings from inside my head. Cause it’s really late and I’m having back surgery in the morning so I’m tired but can’t sleep and trying not to ramble on. whoops. too late.)

  10. Dale – Great post! The question I have is where is the line of falling prey to “I’ll be happy when…” and setting up a goal. Sometimes I’ll say this as if it were a goal, not to say I WON’T be happy and life is meaningless if I don’t achieve it however to say this is what I really want to happen God willing. If I don’t make it, it’s not the end of the world I’ll learn a lesson and make adjustments. I think it runs a fine line…just stepping over it just a little can be destructive if you have that mindset of if you don’t make it it’s over. In essence, our we really in control??

    • Yeah absolutely. There is definitely a fine line and it looks different for all of us, so you have to get good at finding joy where you are, in ANY season, but also knowing if you’ve become stagnant or in a circumstance that you can change that will result in a higher quality of life. Meaning.. more time with family, or health, or less stress… etc. 🙂

  11. Dale great read. I have fallen into this in my life. After being molested as a child, I felt I could only rely on myself. This continued in my adult life, not allowing anyone in and developed into ” I will be happy” when goal is achieved. Unfortunately as in your article. I would just move on to the next goal, never smelling the roses. My incredible partner Steffanie is helping me through this. Dale thank you for helping put this disease into perspective!

    • What a testimony! I’m so glad you have such supportive and encouraging people in your life. Remember this: you are not what has happened to you.

  12. Honestly I think I´m a pretty happy person and try to incorporate this into my daily life. I try to be happy in the now. Still there is one thing I desperately want. Something I think will give me a better, more fullfilled and happier life. And this something is more time. More time for myself to read, to think,to train martial arts, to create, to be there for the people I feel close to, to go hiking and spend time in nature. Somehow I think everyone would be better of with a little bit more time filled with those kind of things and less time spend in a work environment.

    • Haha yes 24 hours in a day just does not seem to be enough! But I firmly believe if we had 30 or 40 or 50 hour days, we would still need to find a way to MAKE time. Maybe this requires a bit of re-prioritizing, or being intentional about waking up an hour early so you can spend some quiet time to focus and prep for the day. We live in such a busy, fast-paced world that we all need to learn how to slow down and make time for the things that really matter.

  13. What I know for sure is that I am not happy. Most of my life I have not been happy. I am unfulfilled. I am desparately lonely and isolated. There are very few pleasurable opportunities that are not available to me because I have no money. I am very poor. So, beginning here, in this broken down house that I couldn’t live in if it weren’t for sharing the expenses with my son, how do I find happiness. Once many years ago I was granted a sizeable amount in back benefits after being cut off from Social Security. While I had that money I was far more self confident, and far happier. I went out a lot, and made friends and upgraded my life. I even met a wonderful woman who would not have noticed me before I had the money, and I married her. She did not marry me for the money, she married me for the person I had become after receiving the money. But when the money was gone, I could no longer function well, lost my wife and everything I had gained while I was not so poor. I am quite familiar with the old cliche “money can’t buy happiness,” But I was truly happy while I had the money. And I believe my happiness would have continued if I had continued to have money. It’s awfully difficult for me to believe that happiness is available to someone as impoverished as I am. If it is, it is well hidden.

    • Hi Jim, I completely understand where you are coming from. Here is one thing I know: You are still alive and breathing, which means there is still a purpose for your life, even if you do not believe it. You have a computer or a phone, or access to one, in which you typed this message, which means you’re already richer than most of the world. And you have a son. Do you know how many couples I know that are unable to have children? Sometimes it’s not very easy to look around us and see the blessings in our lives, but we must learn to view life through lenses of gratification. One cannot be both depressed and grateful at the same time… so it’s all about learning to be content in whatever season or circumstance you are in. Perhaps you need to do a little soul-searching spiritually. My advice to you is to read the book of James. It is extremely encouraging about what mindset to have during our trials, and why we go through them. Listen, we ALL have discontentment and have to sometimes have to search a little harder for our blessings. But they are there. You just have to open your eyes my friend.

  14. Excellent message; biblically based. Be happ y in the here and now. I just recently stopped thinking/stopped saying, “why did I leave NY. Margaret, my confident/good friend has constantly said you have a choice – be happy where you are and make a life for yourself or move back home. Either way make a decision and stop complaining. She asked me, “do you know how blessed you are”? Yes…no…but I took stock and decided I am happy where l am. If I miss family/friends fly home or they can visit me.

  15. I feel like you make a lot of derogatory comments about women’s sizes that are said very fleetingly in many of your articles. A size 8 is in no way a flaw; I don’t think it’s right to place “you in a size 8” amongst your listed ‘flaws’. You do this quite often to be honest and it turns some of us off from your – otherwise lovely – articles. It’s a shame. :/

    • Hi Michelle, please accept my apology as I in no way intended to offend. I’m not quite sure what the acceptable size would have been? I am a man and unfamiliar for the most part, in that territory, so I ask you to have grace with me. I will be sure to be more aware for future articles, and appreciate your honesty. 🙂

      • Oh Dale, there really isn’t any size you can use here. The average american woman is a size 14, so many of your readers would probably be thrilled to be a size 8. But, the real point is that women shouldn’t be valuing themselves by *any* size, not just “the right” size. I think the sentiment behind that thought is what you were really trying to say in your article, too. But the topic of female body image is one that takes excellent explanations to truly understand if you aren’t a female. Basically, women are judged significantly more by how they look than men are. We have a dramatically wider range of fashion styles and appearance rituals to navigate. We are constantly being told by people, companies, and the media what to do with our bodies to be “attractive.” The best way to fight this issue, to help women regain their personal control isn’t to have us redefine what “attractive” is by using a larger size to define normal. It is to help women stop judging themselves based on their appearance. Instead of saying, “the you in a size 8,” you could have said, “the you with love handles.” Then, it could have applied to both men and women without setting a definition for acceptable. Other than that, excellent article!

  16. What about the mystery of depression, which prevents people from feeling actual happiness or joy, and thus rendering them incapable of answering the very question: “What would make me happier right now?”

    • I would recommend that anyone suffering from depression to seek out wise counsel. For my wife and I, it was a therapist. And that therapist changed our lives and saved our marriages. Therapy is SO UNDERRATED in our world, and its ridiculous. There is nothing filled with more integrity than humbling yourself enough to seek wisdom.

    • On top of counseling, exercise and good nutrition, they might also seek out an integrative doc who does neurotransmitter testing to help correct imbalances on a molecular level so the body and brain can begin to heal itself and come back to balance.

  17. As individuals we our responsible for our own actions; yet, at the same time our society sends a have it now, instantaneous message. Only a few short years ago it nearly brought our nation to the brink of bankruptcy, now we snub our noses at Russia.

    Yes, we should be able to be happy without this and that bobble. No, things don’t guarantee us love, riches or happiness; but that isn’t the message our society projects or rewards. We reward those without a shred of talent for tawdry actions, holding them up so our your girls/boys can emulate them. Act a fool in public and you too can be a star. Our press pounces like prey on stories of domestic violence, feigning shock and disgust; yet failing to make a positive message for impressionable youth. These are lost teachable moments. We have a breakdown of societal/family values that is sending shock waves throughout our country.

    Until we stop rewarding the wrong things as a society and encouraging hardwork, stay in school, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, layaway not credit, we will continue to breed an instantaneous, frustrated, want it now society. All things that lead to depression. Sad, yet true!

  18. Dale,I totally agree that we need to make the effort to be happy where we are now. I made a conscience decision to take delight in the “little things” in my 30’s. This has made a huge difference in my happiness factor. I can be happy and thankful that I have a job, or complain and grumble about what I do not like about my job. I can look around and see all of the things that I do not have, or delight in the things that I do have. We take so much for granted! Clean water, a warm bed to sleep in, arms & legs that work, electric light. Basic things in American society, but not basic things for a large number of people in the world. It’s true that we can compare ourselves to others who have more, but we can always compare ourselves to others who have a lot less (not just financially, but emotionally, mentally, & physically).
    My 8 year old nephew came to me the other day after watching something on t.v. about people who did not have complete use of their arms and legs and said, “I am so thankful that God gave arms and legs that work!” He was able to recognize his blessings and be happy about them. He isn’t dwelling on the fact he does not have an active dad in his life, or that he doesn’t get to see his mom very much because she is working hard to pay the bills and provide for him.
    Fame. fortune, & people do not make a person happy with themselves permanently. Fame and fortune can be gone in an instant. People move, leave, and die, but peace in your heart and peace with yourself that brings true happiness!
    I have happiness in knowing that their is a God who created me, loves me, and gives me the hope of a future in Heaven with Him. My wish is that everyone will find this happiness.

  19. I struggle with this so much! I watch tons and tons of movies (i.e. chick flicks, romantic comedies, hallmark, and even Christian movies) where there always seems to be a happy ending and resolution where the girl and guy end up together as a result of perfect chemistry. It is becoming more and more difficult to be content with singleness and to be satisfied with a God who often seems intangible or distant in our lonely lives. Please pray for perseverance and contentment for Christian singles young and old, it is much needed especially in this day and age the struggle is real.

  20. Dale- great post! but still I have a question ? I don’t know why even after watching the video I still feel,even I would be happy If I complete my so called ” To-do ” list
    like my sets of priorities are
    1.Like I want to have my own start-up by 2021
    2. Before that I want to complete masters degree in International business in Germany
    3. I would be happy if I would get hired by auto mobile firm sooner than later
    4.I would be happy if I score really well in my Deutsch examination.
    5. Nominate my Tedx talk
    And to name of few. These set of to- do list keep lingering in my mind , like I have to this , that …blah blah blah ,,,but I don’t feel I am happy inside ,,by true means because of these set priorities. Can you pour your suggestion?

    • There’s nothing wrong with wanting to move forward in life. The trick is to find joy and contentment in each season no matter what, otherwise we are always striving for the next thing and forgetting to live the life that is right in front of us. Hope that helps!

  21. Dale!
    I loved this article. Normally I am happy without achieving my goals or receiving things but, right now that is not the case. I consistently am thinking I will be happy when my concussion heals. For me my life generally consists of sports, school, and work but, right now I cannot do any of those due to my health. How can I be happy when I cannot do any of the things I love and consistanly have headaches every day? It has been over three months and I refuse to except that I will be in this condition for another three. Even reading and wrighting this gave me a bad headache trying because of consintration. What is your advice?

    • Also because I am not working I do not have money therefore cannot afford the few things I can do, like get a massage. I have just enough money to pay my mandatory phone bill each month that I signed into while I had a job.

  22. I strongly believe in this philosophy-and it is not as easy as flicking a switch on. I recently came to a realization that I know little about what I like. I am on this search for that group of friends you call home and later the start of my family. But how can I add anything to these people’s lives if I don’t know what makes me happy/I have fun doing? I need to be happy with myself and fulfill myself first.

  23. As I read this in bed struggling to find the motivation to go to my 8am class…I realize I have been guilty of this ‘I will be happy when I am not in law school…I will be happy when I launch my charity….I will be happy when I have money to do as I please”…what an awakening…now I know what I must do!
    Thank you for this awakening Dale!

  24. Brand new to your site and I just love it. You’re talking about joy (unconditional) as opposed to happiness, which is conditional. I sure struggled with this. Meditation on Biblical promises and passages was absolutely helpful, but my mind was too cluttered. Meaningless things thrown at you all day long start to take on meaning. I found a good “how to” resource in a book on Amazon called “Easy Life Skills You Never Learned in School”.

  25. Hi I just so happen to stumble into this article … I think god was telling me too…. Because this is so me…. What do I do to change this??? My mom and boyfriend tell me all the time I should talk to someone? I see you stated that… But I just don’t know where to begin… I have trust issues … Idk i do know that I want so badly to be happy

  26. I’m 15 years old I’ve been kicked out of my parents house’s too many times to go back, they believed money was the answer to everything..

    Not that I believe I’m becoming them. But I thought that when I was able to get some income or education so I could get welfare I’d be happy.. Me and my boyfriend would be able to get our own place, not have to stress too much about affording rent and food so I don’t starve again and loose all my weight progress, I figured once I was able to elimate outside people with their own naste opinions, and problems out of my immediate life and cut down the stress I shouldn’t have at my age a few notches I’d be able to handle life and become happy.. So I am wrong?
    How do you get over feeling and thinking this way then? What does make people happy?

  27. Im at the point that no matter what people will never be happy until their happy in their selves ive been in a relationship for 12 years and it never changes its always about him so being happy I never get to be

  28. I am currently in this place of trying to be happy and positive when my husband and I are going through a struggle to start our family. I keep telling myself how blessed we are that we have each other and that we are so happy in our marriage despite the lack of children. We really are truly happy with each other. Unfortunalty I cannot get this idea out of my head that I need a child to feel like my life is complete or has even begun. I feel like I’m going to ruin everything with him if I don’t release it and just be happy. I pray every day to be blessed with a child and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I think I need to realize that it may never happen and be blessed and happy anyways because if it doesn’t happen at least we have an amazing marriage and I have my faith in God and we have so many people who love us and pray for us. We are truly blessed and I think I need to start enjoying the journey with him. Thank you for this article Dale. It really opened my eyes.

  29. im alone my husband left me 23yrs ago wit a 3/7/12yrs old children life was hard & he made it hard he divorce me but he kill my relationship with my kids i havent seen my eldest 13yrs & my middle one in 3yrs my youngest has so many problems i think between the two of uss we destroyed them!
    im mad am sad am alone im depressed & u cant give me back my past & my future isnt there !

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  31. Dale,

    I believe you are right on. Today our society preaches on our own happiness. They say “just do what makes you happy. The truth is, we do not know what will make us happy. We think, if I get this then…When in fact our lives are truly not for our happiness. By trying to make ourselves happy by pursuing X we are drawing ourselves farther away from happiness. Someone once told me, to get out of depression there are 9 steps. Step 1- go help someone. Step 2- do step 1 again. Step 3 – do step 2… and so fourth. See as humans we are made a specific way and our lives and true purpose are not for our own selfish happiness. But if you truly want to fulfill your purpose Step 1- look up the 2 greatest commandments and act on them. Step 2- do step 1 again and repeat.

    Find Your Purpose

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