THE BLOG
01/22/2014 10:58 am ET Updated Mar 24, 2014

Earning vs. Happiness: The Mutually Exclusive Myth

At what age did you go from being loved unconditionally to feeling that you have to earn someone's love? Conversely, how old do you have to become to automatically earn respect? I believe the whole earning concept is at the bottom of many of our self-worth issues. Think about it.

I understand the notion of earning an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, but where did that translate into earning a living? The thought that we are not good enough to enjoy the good life until we have accomplished a goal (a number on the scale; the honor roll; acceptance into a particular college; a sales target or a salary; a square footage in our home) sets us up to feel inadequate from the start. Even if we persevere long enough to reach our chosen goal, more often than not, we are still unhappy. Perhaps our goal wasn't high enough, and we then feel inadequate for setting such a feeble goal. If your inner critic is half as mean as mine, you don't need to feel any more inadequate.

I am not, by any means, saying that we should not leap out of our comfort zones, aspire for great things, hold ourselves to a higher standard and strive for excellence. After all, I'm a coach and I help people do this on a daily basis. But what happened to enjoying your life while pursuing your goals? Why have we self-imposed this weighty condition that we will never be good enough until we have earned our happiness, our partner's love or our coworker's respect?

Some things are a birthright.
Like human rights. You do not have to earn the freedom from slavery or torture and you don't have to earn the right to own property or obtain an education. These rights were all established by the United Nations in 1948. While some governments and some societies haven't fully adopted or upheld these rights, for the most part, in North America we are free from birth and do not have to perform any special feats to earn these rights. The right to rest and leisure is a birth right -- look it up. You are allowed to have fun while pursuing your goals.

Some things are a gift.
A gift is defined as a thing given willingly to someone without payment. And here I want to elaborate that a gift does not require payment of money, a favor, or reciprocation of any kind. I like the definition of grace even more: a free and unmerited favor -- unmerited being the important part. When a puppy greets you for the first time and he licks your hand, it is a gift. You didn't earn his loyalty because he just met you! You don't have to make a promise of dried liver in the near future to earn his love because he gives it freely. A sunset is a gift. A child's giggle is a gift. Happiness is a gift that you are allowed to indulge in as much as you like without having to prove anything to anyone.

Some things don't matter.
The opinion of others -- your in-laws, your neighbors, or anyone who doesn't share your values or the vision for your life's purpose, these opinions do not matter. Yes, we are social animals, and most of us would prefer to belong to some sort of tribe or social circle, so I am not advocating that you tell everybody to take a hike. But, within your own inner conversations and your thoughts, don't give weight to the unreasonable expectations of the heights you must climb to earn the approval from the toxic people in your life.

Happiness is not earned, it's a choice every step of the way towards whatever life goals you have set. Delight in your journey.

What do you think? Do we have to earn our happiness? Comment bellow or contact me through my website.