Is the “If Only” Syndrome Robbing You of Your Happiness?
When I was a little girl in Northern California, I wanted a trampoline more than anything in the world. I whined to my parents, “If only I had a trampoline, I’d never be bored.” But when I got a trampoline, nothing really changed. Well, not nothing—the mantra changed slightly. It became, “If only I had a moped, I’d never be bored.” When I was sixteen, my mantra changed again. If only I looked like Beautiful Lisa, I’d finally be content.
I employed the same “if only” strategy early on in my career: “If only they’d update our product, then I’d sell more; if only I were promoted to manager, then I’d be happy.” It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that when the adrenaline rush from the trampoline and the moped, (I never did look anything like beautiful Lisa) wore off, I was left depleted.
As a sales strategist, I’ve spent the past 30 years studying how gratitude, optimism, and resilience shapes people’s lives. Research has shown that feeling grateful has positive effects on our behavior — making us more honest (I swear!), increasing our self-control, enhancing our performance at work, and our relationships at home.
Given that, you might think I’m going to write a blog on gratitude, how to achieve it, and make it last. Nope, not today. I did that last year. Truth be told, just as important as how to make gratitude last, is understanding what we do to sabotage it. For the purpose of brevity, (because I’m sure you have stuffing to stuff, cranberries to boil, or in my case dinner reservations to make), let’s look at the three behaviors that erode gratitude and your productivity.
1) The ‘If Only’ Syndrome
A bad case of the “if onlys” eats away at gratitude. So long as we focus on what we don’t have (the million dollars, the promotion, or better leads), we’ll never be content. When you believe that you have enough money, love, resources, and support to realize your dreams, you will attract even greater abundance. Engaging in a simple gratitude exercise is one of the most effective methods of improving your overall well being, says Dr. Dan Baker, author of What Happy People Know and a proponent of the positive psychology movement. The founder of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman, developed a famous exercise designed to enhance gratitude. It’s pretty simple. You just write down three things you feel grateful for each day. For example, today, I might write my dog Mia, my family, and pedicures. The next day I may write living in Park City, French fries, and my mother. Other positive psychology experiments, like engaging in small acts of kindness throughout the day, have also been shown to boost happiness.
The people who turn their lives around are the ones who first and foremost change their attitude. If you’re happy within, you can be happy without.
Eleanore Roosevelt famously said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
The great temptation during the holidays is to gossip, particularly about those who aren’t at the table. Just like we default into poor sales behaviors, humans default into gossip. Why? It’s easier than discussing ideas because to do so requires thoughtfulness and knowledge. The temptation to drift into this behavior is very strong but overdone; it robs us of feelings of gratitude.
3) Giving up
It’s Q-4, and too many sellers throw in the towel. “If only I had a more reasonable budget, then I’d be…”. Instead of giving up, pouting, or talking ill of that jerk manager, try setting new goals even if they have nothing to do with your profession. You’ll find very quickly that the satisfaction of hitting a stretch goal, whether work-related or not will help you regain the confidence to reach your sales goals. As Jim Rohn said, “For every disciplined effort, there’s a multiple reward.” When you’re pushing yourself, when you’re absorbed and lost in time, that’s the happiness that helps us to achieve joy and greater prosperity. Remember what comes first.
Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. – Shawn Achor