What do you want to do next with your career? What are your goals at the gym? When will you buy a house? Do you have any holidays planned for the rest of the year? When are you moving to a new city?
It's a struggle to remember that we live in a very future-focussed society. We're obsessed with what's next. So much so, I think we forget to be happy now.
Ask most people if they're happy, and they'll say yes. Ask the same people what they are striving for – and whether achieving that will increase their happiness – and they'll also say yes.
Perhaps this "I want to be MORE happy" mentality is making us forget what's already good in our lives: what we have already achieved through hard work, determination, and luck.
I am often asked where my career is going. In the past year, I've accepted that I've achieved a certain level of success over 10 years as a writer, but I still don't make much money. I have the privilege of having a voice and a platform and being a part of a conversation, but I can't get pay rises, promotions, or end up a manager one day.
Am I happy, accepting that I'm stagnant in my job? Yes I am. I'm not complacent and I still take opportunities when I see them, but I don't let the fact I'm not "moving up" affect the way I feel about myself, either.
The same goes for my body and the house I live in. Could both be bigger, better? Of course. Yet won't I just be at the same relative level of happiness as I am now – having just moved the marker on the scale slightly?
We humans like progress. We like gradual milestones of increased success. They motivate us, they drive us, they keep us from being sad or bored.
So what if we stopped focussing so much on this progress? What if we realised all it might lead to is a "grass is greener" worldview, where you'll never be satisfied with what you have and always be chasing what's "better"?
I definitely used to be a "grass is greener" kind of guy. I moved to Auckland then Sydney then London chasing jobs. I'd push myself to the extreme at the gym (and in the kitchen dieting) to get bigger pecs and improved abs. I'd constantly think about when my shared flat would be my own apartment, and when my own apartment would be my own house. See the theme? I was always focussing on more, more, more.
It took moving to all those cities, getting the body, buying the house to realise that I was happy all along. In actual fact, sometimes in pursuit of happiness often we chase progress only to not be as happy with the results. I've certainly had jobs I strove for that I didn't like once I had them, and spent years dreaming about life in another place only to realise I had happiness where I was.
One of the main reasons why I stopped chasing this "more happy" life is because there is no end goal. There is no perfect. We will always want more, but then that "more" will never be enough.
So why not change the way we look at perfection in the pursuit of happiness? Rather than reaching a permanent place of ultimate happiness, maybe the greatest happiness is achieved by lowering expectations: focussing on the things we already have that make us happy regularly. The house you have, and loved when you moved in. The car that does the job. The occupation that already gives you a good work-life balance and decent pay.
The concept of "living in the now" is a hackneyed way of looking at life. It's something you expect to hear on old self-help tapes and saccharine Instagram posts. But, all cheesiness aside, is living in a place of relative self-satisfaction the key to being – and remaining – happy? I think it might be.
Having dreams is not a bad thing. Working towards heightened success isn't either. It's what makes the world go round, and not something we should stop doing.
However, for those of us who struggle with achieving that state of happiness because all we do is move the goalposts on ourselves, there might just be a life hack to solve this problem.
Appreciate what you have, and be happy in that. You've put so much time and effort into where you are, today, that it's a disservice to your past self not to be content with it.