I'll be happy when

Destination happiness in a pandemic age

We’ve all found ourselves thinking “I'll be happy when…”

I’ve bought a house

I’ve bought a second home

I’ve started my own business

I hit the VAT threshold

I hire my first member of staff

Whatever finishes that sentence for you is, in your mind, what’s standing between you and true happiness.

I used to work a corporate job and live in a rental flat with Craig. We’d often dream of travelling - “I’ll be happy when I quit my job to travel” or “I’ll be happy when I no longer have to pay rent” or “I’ll be happy when I don’t sit in traffic for two hours each day.”

And we did quit our jobs and travel the world, and it was great, but my depression and anxiety came with me along for the ride.

Destination happiness is the idea that your contentment is reliant on you reaching a certain milestone. This isn’t the same as setting goals. Of course, I know how much I want my business to make in 20/21, I know I want to get married this year (🤞) and I’d love to work a four-day week.

I know I’d be happier with those boxes ticked.

The hard part is determining those goals, and working towards them, but not hinging your entire existence (and thus happiness) on them.

Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

I definitely fell victim to ‘destination happiness’ in my early twenties and even at the start of my self-employment journey. I would strive towards that next promotion or, eventually, new client win, with such determinism and focus like it was the only thing that stood between me and peace.

But the problem with destination happiness is that there is always the next big hurdle to jump. Whether that’s another client win, a better car, a higher salary… there is no end to arbitrary goals we can place between ourselves and happiness.

Taking the above into account, what happens when you add a pandemic into the mix?

In one way, the pandemic has stripped away the superfluous (and the ridiculous commutes) to show us what really matters. Health, family, time with friends - these are all the things we used to take for granted.

But equally, staying at home all day is a breeding group for discontentment. Idle hands, and all that.

One thing’s for sure now, we’ve got to find a way to be happy now - and not rely on the next big life event. Treat the wedding, the pay rise, the new car as bonus points, not the crux of your existence.

And how do you do that? I have no idea, but as any good therapist will say, awareness is the first stage.

Oh, and I want to mention here that I am in no way saying that you can’t work towards those goals, or even feel like you won’t be happy until you earn a living wage, or until your close relative has recovered from COVID. These are things that really impact our happiness and it’s completely fine to be unhappy whether your cup is empty, half full, overflowing or has spilt down your trousers.

Once again, no solution or defined conclusion from me. Just some things to ponder on as you pass another day in lockdown.

Find me on Twitter @ContentByThe Sea or join my Discord server for freelancers.


Here are some things that are making me happy this week...

📚 Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson

📺 Back to Life on Netflix

🎥 Mogul Mowgli

🎵 Explosions in the Sky (instrumental post-rock, great for working!)

🎂 We celebrated one year with Harmony this week!


That's all from me this week! See you next Wednesday, until then come and chat on Twitter or join our Discord.


Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:

13 January: Why you’re tired all the time

6 January: Just keep going

23 December: A book recommendation for every mood

16 December: Burnout might not be what you think it is

9 December: Whatever happened to ‘be kind?’

2 December: The best briefs are anything but

25 November: Welcome to the busy-ness Olympics

18 November: Too many cooks spoil the brother (and the marketing campaign)

11 November: Everything is different now, so why are you trying to live like before?

4 November: Lockdown Part II: Here's my manifesto 📜

28 October: Why business owners don't talk about depression

21 October: How to actually stick to something (and why it’s okay if you don’t)

14 October: Meet the bosses who shaped me

6 October: Running a business when you're sensitive AF

30 September - Let them eat lockdown layer cake 🍰