When I was growing up, our living room was off limits, even when I was old enough not to spill grape juice on the carpet or break a lamp. My parents saved the biggest room in the house for special holidays or family gatherings around the fireplace—I actually thought of it as a museum because we couldn’t touch anything.
Sound strange? I now know this: We all save the things we care about most for special occasions, when we could increase our happiness by enjoying those things today.
Why do we do it?
We’re waiting for the right opportunity
So many of us put off doing the activities that bring us the most joy until the craziness of our days settles down and time opens up before us like stage curtains. The problem is that time will never arrive.
Maybe you do this with reading—that stack of books you can’t wait to devour sits in the corner untouched. If we want to do more of the things we truly love, we have to schedule them just like we do a doctor’s appointment, because if we wait until nothing is hanging over us, we will always be waiting. Make a plan to do what you love most and then make it happen.
We have a saving mentality
A friend of mine never spent money on clothes, preferring to shop at consignment stores, because she’s quite frugal. Then one day she had a realization: What is she waiting for? Is she waiting until she is 50 to buy a beautiful dress or something that makes her feel or look good? She gave herself permission to splurge a little so she could live more right now.
We can do this, too. Buy the good wine. Put out your best towels for your family. Use your best ideas now. Read the magazine article you clipped. Don’t let your special pens dry up—use them on a regular day instead of waiting for “special correspondence.”
We are waiting until we feel we deserve it
We all have a tendency to choose the things we think we need to do over the things we want to do. The problem is our wants get pushed aside.
Maybe you want to paint but you won’t let yourself until you are caught up with work. Or perhaps you love to crochet but you aren’t going to give yourself permission until your chores are done. Remove your self-imposed conditions for your rewards. If you won’t allow yourself to play until your work is done and you’ve earned it, you will always be putting off playtime. Live anyway, live right now.
We haven’t practiced doing things for ourselves
If you always put your kids first and say yes to every friend or neighbor who needs a favor, maybe you need a little more practice putting yourself first. Spend the birthday money you received on you and not your kids. Treat yourself to things you consider “frivolous.” Make a list of your favorite things to do and then put them on your calendar. Your kids will still benefit by having a happy parent and seeing that you value yourself.
We plan but don’t act
Setting a resolution to read or exercise more isn’t the same as actually reading more or exercising more. Don’t let yourself fall into the comfortable trap of planning, or you will get stuck at “someday.” Planning without action doesn’t cut it. Actually doing your favorite things is where the joy comes in.
We follow rules that aren’t really rules
You don’t have to use the china you inherited at your wedding just because you think you should. If someone gave you a cat blanket when you don’t really like cats, you don’t have to keep the blanket. Get rid of what’s not beautiful to you. Follow organizational guru Marie Kondo’s rule: If something doesn’t give you joy, don’t keep it. Decluttering and letting go can lighten our physical and mental loads, leaving space for happiness to enter.
Our time here is limited, so wear the "good" jewelry! Buy those shoes! Live it up in your living room all year round.
Sandra Bienkowski is a contributing editor forLive Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.