Feeling unhappy makes us dream about big life changes. To be happy perhaps all we need is a new job. To find true love. To go off on the holiday of our dreams. After all, if what we're doing now isn't making us happy, perhaps true happiness lies over the horizon, on another continent, in a new house or a better job? Not so. My years of research have led me to the view that grand plans are a waste of our energy. They stop us enjoying the present and make us more dissatisfied. In fact, it's the small changes that have more of a lasting, positive impact on us.
We dream of big changes because of the way our thinking works. In opposites. I'm not getting on with my partner - then I need a new one. I'm sick of where I live - I should live abroad. I want more stuff - I need to be rich. If only we could make that big change, we think, we'd be ecstatic forever. After all, look around at the evidence. Our Facebook pals seem to be enjoying one long party surrounded by grinning, hugging people. Couples in films are riding a wave of ecstatic love. Perfect houses in TV ads are populated by shiny families and a dog that never gets fleas.
But that's not reality. That's fantasy land.
Don't waste your life chasing a dream that doesn't exist.
Reality is here. Now. Today. And today is filled with small things. Tiny moments. Fleeting sensations. Those are what influence your immediate happiness. And you have control over them all. What if you focused on those small things instead of the big dreams? Instead of fantasising about your Provencal farmhouse, paint your kitchen yellow and learn how to bake croissants. Instead of bemoaning a mundane relationship, go for a long walk and hold hands. Take an honest look at your lousy job, then speak up about your needs. Don't fret about having the right shoes, go barefoot on the grass or feel the sand between your toes.
What I've learned through my research with Do Something Different is that unhappy people feel they need to scratch a massive itch, to leap out of a rut, to satisfy a deep desire. And they can do that with something very small. A tiny, positive action can bring happiness today. And again tomorrow. And every day. Dreaming about a better tomorrow is simply a waste of energy and does nothing more than fan the flames of dissatisfaction. Refocusing and doing something different today, something very small but beautiful, could be the big answer you've been dreaming of.
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