Do You Need a Particular Outcome to Be Happy?

Your new house

Although I rarely practice law anymore, these past months I’ve been trying to help my cousin purchase his family’s dream home in New York.  My cousin and his wife have one child and another on the way.  Because of my emotional attachment, it has been difficult dealing with the many bumps and challenges of this transaction.  Yet I believed that I could get this deal done for them.  It became so important to me in part because my cousin had been very sick at one time and the opportunity to buy this home seemed like a new beginning for him.  In my mind, I actually started to believe that my cousin needed this particular deal to happen for his happiness and well-being.  My cousin does not have a lot of money and this house would be stretching it but affordable.  It was located near his job and in a good school district.  Yesterday we got word that the bank wouldn’t lend them enough money to get the deal done.  I was so upset and feeling very down last night about the news and I was only able to sleep a few hours.  As I woke up this morning, I realized that I was feeling down not because they didn’t get the house; I was down because I had slipped out of Maybe.

The minute I started to believe my cousin needed this particular home for his happiness and well being, I had doomed myself to stress, fear and disappointment.  No matter what had happened, the house did not hold his happiness.  I fell out of Maybe because the bank’s rejection destroyed my high hopes and I interpreted that to mean my cousin’s dream of owning a nice home was no longer possible and what I wanted for him and his family could no longer be attained.  In reality, however, all that really happened is that life was not fitting into my plan, or my story for my cousin’s life. Once I opened my heart to Maybe again, I realized that there are always many more possibilities than the one we envision.

Just like I did with my cousin’s scenario, it is easy to slip out of Maybe on a daily basis.  How often, for instance, do we believe that we need to get a particular job or promotion for our lives to be going in the right direction? Or that a particular stock must go up for us to be financially secure, or that we need to land a particular client to further our careers?  How often have we yearned for a certain person to like us so we can be happy?  Story after story we tell ourselves, reinforcing the belief that life must unfold in certain ways to guarantee our well-being and success.  Logically, most of us would agree that there are many ways to achieve a particular goal, but emotionally we fail to live with this knowledge in our daily lives. When the emotional attachment to our stories defies logic, we fall into a trap. And stay there, and stay there.

For me, when I returned to Maybe, I realized that Maybe there are other homes to buy and other choices my cousin can make for him and his family.  As my cousin and I sat with all these possibilities today, our inner wisdom began to guide us to other ideas to qualify for the mortgage or to find another home.  In fact, there is a cheaper home down the same block that he had not considered because he thought it was too small.  We figured out today that Maybe it’s not too small after all.  We know we don’t have all the answers to help his situation, but we are open and hopeful that we will find his family an affordable home, good schools for his children and ways to reduce my cousin’s stress. In the land of Maybe, his options have no limits.

So today, try to list all the inner stories that you keep thinking what must occur in the future for your happiness and well being.  Do these stories about what needs to happen next in your life make you stressed or unhappy and are you losing sleep?  Now think to yourself: Maybe. Maybe this event will happen, or Maybe there is another way to achieve your goals or Maybe there is something else out there for you that you can’t see right now.  Let Maybe allow you the room to breathe and stretch and open up to all that is possible.

Let Maybe give you ground to stay hopeful until you find your way!


What Happens When We Are Willing To Wait For An Answer?


It can feel good to be able to answer “yes” or “no” to the questions about what we should do in life. It can feel good to be decisive and know exactly how we intend to resolve a problem or situation we are facing. Sometimes, however, the impulse to immediately decide “yes” or “no” to the everyday problems and situations that we face is more about playing it safe and clinging to certainty than it is about living life to the fullest.

This is why I love the idea of Maybe. Maybe allows us to contemplate the possibilities of life unfolding in many different ways without feeling the need for action the very minute a problem confronts us.  It allows us to pause and wonder if there is something else beyond what we are seeing in the moment. Maybe we have not explored how we can be more creative or more adventurous and maybe a problem can become the chance for a new direction. Maybe it is best to wait and let the situation unfold a bit more before acting in our accustomed ways.

After our pause we may come to the same “yes” and/or “no” conclusion or maybe we will try something new and it won’t work as well as we had hoped.  But MAYBE we will expand our lives and create new opportunities, meet someone new or just have an experience unlike any we have had before.

Maybe allows us to engage life full on because instead of looking only for what we “know” we expand our boundaries to an infinite playing field of all that can be. After all, are we really looking for certainty in our lives or are we looking to live a life of fulfillment, joy and abundance?

Just Maybe.

Image from:

Living Before You Die

My client Caroline retired a few years ago and since then she has been very worried about her money and whether it will last for the rest of her life.  Her money is placed in what she believes to be conservative investments and she sticks to a budget the best that she can. However, her stress about not having enough money for the future persists and keeps her up at night.  She told me that she wants to enjoy her life but the fear of what may happen frightens her and keeps her from it.

During a recent meeting, I handed her the quote above from an interview with the Dalai Lama.  After reading it, tears began to roll down Caroline’s cheeks.  I asked her why she was crying and she told me, “I feel so relieved.  On some level I’ve been feeling that I have no right to be happy because my finances are not what they should be.  I should have saved more money and invested better and now I have less than all of my friends.  I am always afraid that one day I may have trouble paying my bills.  The stress and worry is also making me feel sick. But this quote jolted a realization in me that I am just wasting time.  I am wasting time worrying when I could be laughing with my grandchildren or playing cards with my friends.  I am acting like I am never going to die and I have been careless with the time I have left.   My circumstances are what they are and I don’t want to give up another day or my health worrying about a future that may never arrive.  There is so much I want to do and my fears of the future are holding me back.  I am still going to keep my investments and stay on my budget.  The difference now is that I am going to start living!”

I should have paid her for the session!

Are You Waiting For One Thing To Happen In Your Life So You Can Be Happy and Stress-Free?

So many clients tell me that if one particular thing would happen in their lives, they would be happy and stress-free. The attorney tells me he just needs to win this one big case, the advertising executive tells me she just needs this one account and the retailer tells me he just needs to increase his sales. They all believe that if this one thing happens it will be the key that will open the door on their peace and happiness. Yet when the attorney wins his case, his secretary quits and he is aggravated and again waiting for his day of peace in the future. The advertising executive lands the client, but loses another.  And the retailer increases his sales but his rent goes up significantly.

Just like my clients, I think many of us walk around with a concrete image of what must happen for us to be content. Yet this way of thinking only serves to keep us in the illusion of the future and disappointment in the present. On some level we believe that if we can just solve a few of our problems, then we will be happy and free of stress forever. But we forget that life keeps changing and offering us new opportunities and new challenges.  What if we are putting off the enjoyment of our lives for a day that never arrives?

So how can we find some peace today wherever we stand? It can change with a fundamental understanding that life is not about arriving somewhere but instead it is about being here right now (wherever here might be). When we give up this belief that one day it will all work out, we allow ourselves to appreciate what we have.  Does it mean we won’t still strive to make it better? Of course not. But we can give up the resistance to “things are not right” and the illusion of “if I could just get this one thing then I would be happy.” If we start to accept life as it is, then maybe we can start to make peace with our circumstances and can find joy with life in each moment.

And DON’T WORRY – with that newfound peace and joy, you will work even more effectively towards the future that you would like to create for yourself. Let’s not forget – MAYBE is always at play!