If a social science researcher interested in collecting happiness data from pedestrians on the streets of Washington, DC (where I work) asked me if I was happy, I think I’d say yes. I am gainfully employed; I live in a safe, clean neighborhood; and I have a harmonious marriage – who am I not to be happy?
But sometimes I wonder why I’m not happier than I am. Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? Do I have a perception problem? Do I have an inability to reframe situations to see the positive? I have always believed that my willingness to so readily ask these questions of myself was a strength, a demonstration of my commitment to self-reflect and evolve. And the answer is always, no. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with me. I do not have a perception problem or an inability to reframe situations to see the positive.
Though it was not until recently (while I was riding the Metro, an activity I find at best tolerable but most certainly not happy) that I had an insight into my happiness problem. I have attached happiness to a vision of what I think I want my life to look like versus what it does look like, without letting the present be good enough. I don’t have a happiness problem. I have an acceptance problem. This is difficult for me to admit because admitting I have an acceptance problem feels like I’m giving up achieving my goals. It feels like I’m giving up on hope.
Though, I consciously know that accepting where I’m at is not accepting that I will never advance. I know that I cannot force my hopes into existence through hard work alone, and that luck plays a role in our success. But sometimes it’s difficult for me to accept the now even when now is where I have worked to be.
I doubt I will resolve my acceptance problem. It’s not a new insight, it only feels new each time I have it. Perhaps this is the needed balance to move forward – desire for the new overwhelming now and coming back to now again.