The Single Secret to Making 2009 Your Best Year Ever

By Leo Babauta

I was sitting here at my computer, pondering whether I wanted to write a post with tips about “making 2009 your best year ever”. It’s been done, and most of my tips you’ve already read before on Zen Habits.

I made a small list of things I’d recommend to anyone wanting to make 2009 their best year ever … coming up with a single life-changing goal, creating a mantra for that goal to keep them on track, simplifying their lives, making time for loved ones and themselves, learning to be in the moment … all of these are great tips, and I could come up with a dozen more that would really help people if they wanted to make positive changes.

But then I realized that there’s just one tip that’s needed. And it’s not a tip you’ll read in most personal development, productivity or self-help blogs or books.

That’s because if you implemented this one tip, you wouldn’t really need any others. It would put all of us out of business.

So, because I enjoy writing personal development posts and books for you guys, I’m counting on you to NOT actually implement this, and to keep needing other tips I give you in the future.

Kidding of course! Go ahead, put me and all the rest of ’em out of business. I’d rather have you happy and successful, and look for another job, knowing that I did something good.

So what’s that single secret, the one thing that will not only make 2009 your best year ever, but put personal development and self-help bloggers and authors out of business?

Are you sure you’re ready to hear it?

OK, you’re ready. :) Here goes:

Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.

Sounds too simple, but if you haven’t realized this, and put it into action, it can have an amazing effect on your life. Today. Right now.

My Life of Waiting

When I was young, I couldn’t wait to become an adult. Oh, the freedom! Becoming an adult would bring me happiness. I couldn’t wait.

When I became an adult, I couldn’t wait to get a good job. That would surely bring happiness. I couldn’t wait. When I got a good job, I couldn’t wait to get a raise. When I got a raise, I couldn’t wait to get married. When I got married, I couldn’t wait to buy a nicer car. Got the car, then I couldn’t wait to buy a house.

When I bought the house, I couldn’t wait to … get out of debt.

I could go on for quite awhile, but you get the point. None of my desires ever produced happiness, because I was stuck in the mindset of wanting more. When I got what I wanted, I wanted something else. My happiness was always on hold, because I was waiting to reach a goal.

Waiting for happiness.

On Goals and Desires

It’s good to have goals. I have them — it’s a part of living and working. But how much are you investing in your goals? How much of your happiness is based on your goals?

It’s also natural to have desires, but if your life is a series of desires, one after the other, and everything in you is in pursuit of those desires, you will always be striving for happiness, waiting for it.

Instead, remember: Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.

Feel free to pursue goals, and desires … but don’t make your happiness dependent on them. Don’t think of happiness as something you’ll have once X happens (whatever X is right now for you).

Life is a Journey – Enjoy It!

So how do you go for goals and still have happiness right here, right now? By remembering that the important thing isn’t the destination … it’s the journey!

Remember that, always: the journey is the most important thing. Not the goal. Not the ending point.

Think about it: if you are only happy once you reach a goal, what about all the time you spend getting to the goal? That’s much more of your life than actually being at the goal. If you’re only happy when you’re at the destination, you’ll be unhappy most of the time.

What’s more, if you are stuck in that mindset, when you reach your destination, you won’t actually be happy — you’ll be looking toward your next destination.

Instead, remember: Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.

How do you enjoy the journey? By appreciating life in its fullness, its wonderfulness. By not looking so much toward the future, but focusing on the present moment, right here, right now. By looking around you, and realizing that everything you need for happiness is already here!

Everything You Need for Happiness

What do you need to be happy? Do you need a fancy car and a mansion and millions of dollars? If you could have every single desire granted to you right now, would you be happy then?

Or can you be happy now, with what you have?

Can you look at the gorgeous sky, and realize what a miracle it is? Can you look at a sunset, a forest, a flower, a child, and realize the miracle of each of these things? You probably can, if you take the time to look at them fully.

And then you might realize that your eyes are a miracle, and that they allow you to see each of these other miracles. If you have your eyes, you have all you need for happiness.

What if you are blind? Can you taste chocolate, or strawberries, or cinnamon, or tears, and realize what a miracle those things are? Can you hear Mozart, or John Lennon, or Jack Johnson, and have your soul fill up with happiness? Then you already have all you need for happiness.

All you need is the present moment: spend time with a loved one, talk with a friend, watch a funny movie, go swimming in refreshing water, smell fresh baked bread, go for a walk or a run, curl up with a good book, cuddle on a rainy day, give and receive a hug.

It’s true — this is the only thing you need to know: Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.

But … What About My Goals?

Should you give up your goals for 2009, now that you’ve decided to be happy now? Nah. Go ahead and pursue those goals, but remember to enjoy the journey. Consider:

What are you waiting for before you become happy? Can you find happiness right now, in this moment?