the elusive search for happiness and the rise of indefinite deference

 

In this high stress, super hurried, and overly political world, it seems everyone is suffering from “indefinite deference”.

You have probably never heard of that before….mostly because I just made it up.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a real thing. In fact, it is the MOST real thing in millions of people’s lives right now. So what is indefinite deference?

It means putting things off forever. That sounds a little extreme since “forever” is a mighty powerful word, but that is where the meaning lies.

Still confused? Allow me to explain.

How Indefinite Deference Is Ruining Our World

Everyday millions of people get out of bed with the best of intentions. Today I will lose weight. Today I will ask for that promotion. Today I will spend more quality time with my children. 

But how many people actually take action and follow through on those intentions? Okay, so some people actually do, but what about the HUGE percentage of people who don’t? How does that affect those lives today, next week, even twenty years from now?

According to Psychological Science, “…people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and lower well-being”, “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination by Eric Jaffe. I bet that is not news to you, right? Everyone knows that putting things off usually leads to bad consequences somewhere down the line. We also know those who appear to “have it together” look happier than those who don’t.

But indefinite deference has brought about a whole new realm of unhappiness. We could argue the many reasons individuals and families are stressed and tired and ultimately unhappy, but that is for another article.

We have become a society of putter offers. We put things off because we don’t have time, or we are tired, or because we have to rest our brain for at least five minutes before our brain blows out the top of our head. (Oh, is that just me?) Rules and regulations at most jobs have become overwhelming and the rules and regulations for our personal lives seems to have ramped up as well. This leads to brains that never get to shut down and as we leave a few things done each day, the stack of things left to do grows exponentially.

I am as guilty as anyone else. I often have a to do list that has only a fraction of the items marked off at the end of the day. But things get in the way such as unexpected events at work, soccer practice, dinner, homework, leaky faucets, errands, etc. The list could go on for days and still not cover everything that comes up.

This leads to what I call future thinking. Some time in the future I will be happy.

  • When I get that raise I will be happy.
  • When I have a baby I will be happy.
  • When I buy a house I will be happy.
  • When I get to travel I will be happy.
  • When I get to retire I will be happy.
  • When I die I will be happy.  YIKES!!!
  • When I _________ I will be happy.

(You can fill in the blank.)

You see where this is going? Indefinite deference. Always pushing our happiness to some distance time in the future. Why is it that total, true happiness never seems to arrive with said event?

Instead, we always seem to set a new date for our future happiness.

As long as we think that way, allowing our emotions to be controlled by outside sources and events, then we will never be happy. This is because happiness comes from the inside, not out.

Now, you may be sitting there right now feeling self righteous because you think this does not apply to you. Neither did I – until my father pointed it out one day. I was going on about some insignificant thing that was in the way of my life being desirable and he said, “Angela, you are going to wish your life away.” I argued with him at the time and vehemently denied that I was doing such a thing. But later I reflected on our conversation and realize that was EXACTLY what I was doing.

In this day of rising minimalism, I totally agree that we should all learn how to say “no” and have fewer commitments on our plates. We should definitely scale back our possessions, our responsibilities (if possible), and our stress. But there are a few things we should never neglect and sometime it helps to prioritize these things to help us get a better perspective in life.

In fact, I think indefinite deference is a great thing for most of the busyness in our lives. The key, I believe, is picking the things that should never be deferred and then not worrying about the rest.

For instance, some people turn around one day and find it’s time to retire, but they have neglected to build a retirement fund. Even worse is when the children grow up and move away and you suddenly realize you never made that quality time for them. Indefinite deference can sneak up on you faster than you think.

Four Things You Should Never Defer (a.k.a. THE ANSWER TO HAPPINESS)

  1. Retirement & Savings
  2. Health & Well-Being
  3. Time With Loved Ones
  4. Permission To Be Happy Each Day

Deferring these four areas can all have grave consequences, especially down the road. In fact, if you take care of these four things, the rest of your life will more or less take care of itself. So it makes sense to put all of your energy here.

If an item on your to do list doesn’t tick one of these four boxes, then let it go. But NEVER defer these areas in your life and you will have the recipe for a happy, prosperous life. 

In the words of the simplistically wise Winnie the Pooh, “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”

We should all give ourselves permission to be happy. Right now. This very second. Go ahead. I give you permission too.