This is somewhat off topic, but every now and then I enjoy a bit a philosophizing. This particular bout was brought on by my 7-year-old daughter who told me the other day that she wants to be “a single and just have a cat” when she grows up.

After explaining it’s “single,” no “a” required, I told her I have a friend who is single and has a cat. My daughter was very impressed, and it occurred to me that in her mind this friend was Living The Dream.

On the surface it seems like a strange thing to want: solitude save a pet. (My daughter does also want to be a zoologist.) But she has yet to run into that societal pressure that will tell her she should want a boy, that above all things having a boy (or girl, if you lean that way) like you is key to your happiness.

Good for her.

Maybe she’ll never have to deal with that overwhelming belief. Maybe she’ll hear it and reject it for the lie it ultimately is.

Happiness is not an outside thing. You can’t spend your life thinking another person will make you happy. Yet so many of us look for our happiness outside ourselves. We attach ourselves to a hoped for outcome: “If only X would happen, then I’d finally be happy.” And X could be anything from meeting a mate to publishing a book to finding a perfect job to recovering from an illness and so on.

But here is what I’ve learned in life: the more attached to any outcome we are, the less happy we become.

Living The Dream—just think about that phrase for a moment. “Living” in and of itself proclaims a process, something in progress, not something that is finished. We are not finished until they’ve capped us and we become past tense. Only then do we have an actual outcome. Until then, we are in progress. We are living.

And life is what you make of it. If you have too narrow a focus, you’ll miss all the other things that might bring you joy simply because you’re so fixated on that one thing you believe will make you happy. The greater the expectation, the greater the pain you’re in when those expectations are not met. (Just like an over-hyped movie is never as good as you expect it to be.)

I hate the saying, “You must choose to be happy.” I think everyone would choose to be happy if it were that easy. For some people, chemical imbalances keep them from being happy a lot of the time. So I’m not saying we should choose to be happy. I’m only saying we should let go of whatever thing outside of ourselves we think will make us happy. Because it won’t. The pressure to attain that thing is actually making us miserable. So detach. Go within. Know that you are enough and you have enough. It may not be easy; it takes practice to change your perspective. But when you’re able to acknowledge these things, you’ll find a weight lifting. Things will look a little different. Happiness will feel much closer.

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