Why should I be happy if I haven’t reached my goal?

Sally is impatient with herself.  When she talks about her financial situation, she invariably scowls, frowns, or cries.  Shifting in her chair, twisting her hair, crossing and uncrossing her legs: her body is in agitated, staccato motion when money is the topic.

To her credit, Sally is now addressing this situation strategically:  she is actively seeking out information she’s previously ignored or skimmed (what a difference actually reading one’s 401k statements can make!) and she is learning to weigh the credibility of various sources (what makes her Uncle Bob a reliable source of real estate information, anyway?).

Here is what Sally actively resists doing: she refuses to be happy until she reaches her current financial goals (paying off her mortgage and her car loan).  Unfortunately for Sally, her persistent unhappiness about her financial situation is taking a toll on her health, her relationship with her boyfriend, and her friendships.

Two years ago, Sally said she would be happy if she got the promotion. (She did, but she still wasn’t happy.)

One year ago, Sally said she would be happy if she started contributing regularly to her retirement plan.  (She does, but she still wasn’t happy.)

Six months ago, Sally said she’d be happy if she could just get a handle on her student loans. (She has, but she still wasn’t happy.)

I find no fault with Sally’s pattern of setting new goals and wanting to achieve them.  Sally’s blind spot is her persistent belief that goal achievement has the power to make her happy.  Her track record, of course, suggests otherwise.  Right now, in the middle of living many of her financial dreams, Sally’s unhappiness persists.

If you, like Sally, are anticipating happiness’ arrival and are disappointed it never shows up, I invite you to these questions:


In what ways are you already living your dream?

“I’ll be happy when/if…” puts your happiness in the future. Is that where you want it to be?