The Big Fat Happiness Scam

Butterfly at Fairchild Tropical Gardens

One of my favorite places to take a nature break is Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. And when I really want a jolt of joy, I visit the 3,000 butterflies in the new Wings of the Tropics area. Enter this magical place, and it’s like walking through a living rainbow of brightly colored fluttering angels in a tropical paradise setting.

The butterflies are a delight to watch, and so are the faces in the crowd when one of these delicate creatures lands on a child’s outstretched hand or the shoulder of an unsuspecting visitor.

butterfly landing at Fairchild Tropical Gardens Wings of the Tropics

If you observe a butterfly, you’ll find it has much to teach you about life. Here is one my favorite lessons, inspired by the scene above and articulated beautifully by Henry David Thoreau:

“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. “

How true! Are you a victim of the conditional “If only….then” happiness trap? It goes like this: “If only…” (fill in the blank), “…then I’d be happy.” If only I made more money/lived in a nicer place/drove a new car/had a better job/met my soul mate/was prettier/smarter/younger…and the list goes on ad naseam.

Trust me, I’ve indulged in that seductive mind game myself, and guess what?

It’s a big fat lie!

Actually, it’s a scam, perpetuated by the biggest scam artist ever – your little ego self . There is no “then” way to happiness. It’s right here, right now, in the breath you’re taking at this very moment

Don’t believe me? Think about something you really, really wanted – craved even. You finally got it…and then what? Once that new car smell faded, the relationship went south, your boss started acting like a jerk, you can’t remember how you spent the money. Where did the happiness go?

Now think about the last time you felt connected, fully alive and at peace.

Eddie the cat with laptop

My boy Eddie, handing out it my workspace.

You didn’t have to chase it – this feeling found you.

For example, today I feel happy. No, I didn’t get a raise, I’m still driving my old Saturn, and the soul mate isn’t knocking on my door. But I’m listening to some of my favorite music, doing some spring cleaning, watching my cats (or rather, they’re watching me!), and writing this post. When I wasn’t even looking, that sneaky happiness just came right in and sat softly on my shoulder.

butterfly, Fairchild Tropical Garden

So the next time you’re tempted to fall into the “If only…then” trap, remember the butterfly!

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