This week we are exploring the relationship between happiness and gratitude.
We all look to the future and envision how we’d like our lives to be. We may do this consciously or subconsciously.
Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strategic Coach, calls this our ideal. In his book The Gap and the Gain, he suggests the ideal is a thought, a feeling, the best of all circumstances, a perfect picture of ourselves in the future. This ideal is make-believe. But that doesn’t make it all bad.
Because every new thing starts with believing in something that doesn’t yet exist.
Now, the ideal is different from a goal, Dan explains. Goals are specific. Measurable. The ideal exists in our minds as a thought. A goal is a distinct destination.
But the ideal illuminates so we can see what our goals should be.
So, what does all this have to do with happiness or unhappiness?
As we live our lives, we move forward in the direction of our goals. Here lies the rub. Unhappy people tend to measure themselves vs. their ideal. Which is like the horizon, writes Dan. We will never get there. Ever…
There will always be a gap between our present circumstances and our ideal. And, no matter how much we achieve, if we measure where we are today vs. our ideal, we will never be happy.
Have you known someone who from the outside people view as a success? Yet, from the inside, the person doesn’t see progress at all. All they see is the gap. Between where they are today and an idealized future.
Perhaps this is you.
Some of us have learned not to allow ourselves to feel happy with the progress we’ve achieved. No matter what we accomplish, we never get to where we think we should be. Which leaves us feeling disheartened, discouraged, and disillusioned.
There is a better way.
When we reach our goal, or even when we haven’t yet achieved it, we measure where we are now vs. from where we started. We see progress. Perhaps tremendous progress, what Dan calls the gain.
Which gives us confidence, satisfaction, and happiness.
Happy people use the ideal as a way to generate goals. But we measure our progress from where we started, not vs. an idealized picture of where we would like to be someday. We are grateful for the distance we have traveled.
Do we see the gap or the gain? We get to choose.
Reflection: Do I tend to compare where I am currently vs. an idealized vision of the future or vs. where I started?
Action: Commit to keeping a gratitude journal for 100 days starting today.