A key to happiness: having something to look forward to.

A reader sent me an email that made a point that I hadn’t quite grasped before. She mentioned the importance of having something to look forward to. (There’s just no graceful way to avoid ending the sentence with a proposition, sorry.)

I hadn’t quite focused on this aspect of happiness, but now I see how important it is.

My First Splendid Truth is: to tackle happiness, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Having something to look forward to makes you “feel good” and may also give an “atmosphere of growth” to your life, because the future seems bright.

Also, my Third Splendid Truth is that… happiness is a four-fold path, or a house with four stories, or a four-petalled flower – any ideas for poetic yet appropriate imagery to use?

Well, for now, I’ll just say that the Third Splendid Truth is: there are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
— anticipation (looking forward to it)
— savoring (enjoying it in the moment – remember to turn off your cell phone!)
— expression (sharing your pleasure with others, to heighten your experience)
— reflection (looking back on happy times – so take pictures)

Anticipation is a key stage; by having something to look forward to, no matter what your circumstances, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place. In fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment – that’s known as “rosy prospection.”

Everyone should be able to pull out a calendar and see at least a few fun things scheduled in the future weeks.

If your life is a parade of obligations, dreaded tasks, horrible encounters, and mandatory appearances, take a minute to figure out something that YOU would find fun, and make time for it. And don’t forget — just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t make it fun for you.

Be honest about your likes and dislikes. Don’t pretend that you like going to museums if you don’t. Your “fun” may not look like other people’s fun.

For example, I’m really looking forward to the Little Girl’s first days in pre-school. Her school has a long process of getting the children accustomed to separation, which means that I will do a lot of hanging around in the hallway while she’s in the classroom. I can’t wait.

This post on the terrific site Unclutter had me laughing out loud. For a moment, I was even tempted to order one for the Big Man, but the impulse passed.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Quote:
    “She mentioned the importance of having something to look forward to.”
    Bad grammar is something up with which one should not put!

  • My boyfriend got one of those for Christmas four years ago. He has yet to use it. But I imagine it would be tough to re-sell. Good call on passing it up.

  • Today was one of those days in which everything went wrong and I was just along for the ride. As I get older, these days are much harder to recover from! But, I try to remember that this too will pass, and I look forward to better times.
    Your post lifted my spirits today, Gretchen. Thanks!!

  • “Something to look forward to” has been a phrase to live by around here ever since we heard the great Jon Dee Graham sing his song by that name. There’s a little clip on his web page http://jondeegraham.com/ under “sounds”. He introduced the song when we heard it by telling how sometimes the anticipation of his weekly gig at a bar in his home town is the only thing that gets him through the week.
    I know having a couple things out there on the calendar brightens my days. The other benefit to keeping fun stuff on the calendar is that it helps move things out of that vague category of “someday”.

  • Anticipation is a wonderful thing, so long as it doesn’t carry with it constantly-building, unattainable expectations. We tend to build things up so much in our minds that they inevitably lead to disappointment.

  • Melissa

    I totally agree. In fact, I think this is one of the biggest keys to my happiness. My boyfriend always says I’m “the most excited person on the face of the planet” because I’m just always looking forward to something in the near future. Right now? School is starting soon, and even though I’m not looking forward to classes, I’m so so so excited to move into an apartment with some of my good friends!
    I always ask people, as a conversation starter, “what are you most excited for in the next _____ (year, month, week, etc). I just think that being excited for something is almost as fun as that thing itself.
    Maybe its a form of escapism by living in the future… or maybe its just trying to live life joyfully. Either way… I love anticipation!

  • It’s absolutely true: having something eagerly anticipated makes the future bright and the present better. Even a daily treat helps. I have a friend who eats one chocolate truffle each day with her morning coffee. She looks forward to that. I really enjoy traditional shaving, so each day I have that to anticipate.

  • Gina

    I just came across your site and I just wanted to thank you. I just started college and you’re right my kind of fun is different from everyone else’s. I think I knew that but hearing someone say it/reading it is enlightening and I justed wanted let you know because I think feeling useful even to a stranger is a source of happiness too.

  • I’ve been thinking about this as well. I haven’t have any vacation for several years, it’s almost like time never passed. When I do get a long weekend off, I get sick (like now) or I have to catch up with chores and obligations.
    I was surprised that getting hair done with my friend was a lot of fun. We are now going to do our hair together every 6 weeks. This is something I’m looking forward to. I highly recommend scheduling recurring activities with friends.
    Thanks for revealing “the four stages”! 😀

  • I agree. Happiness isn’t something we can generate anytime we want. We need to have something that can help us, especially during those moments of sadness.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  • Mik

    Hello happy people!
    I stumbled uppon this website because I thought by my self, who would I be if there wasn’t something to look forward to 😉 it’s kind of a life phrase to me and I’m living by it… it brings lots of enthousiasm in my personal being, spiritual growth and thereby in my social environment 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your happiness, like i do now as well! I recognize the statement of anticipation, enjoying the moment and reflecting afterwards… expression (sharing happiness) is an indispensable element of life and makes me feel who I am!

  • Emily C.

    I was so relieved to find this article when Googling “quotes about nothing to look forward to” because it feels like FINALLY somebody knows what I’m feeling and have been trying to say.  I have been depressed, angry, lonely and all around miserable for a long time and I’ve been trying to explain to people who wonder why, as they flit back and forth from their vacations, dates, parties, etc. why its not really living for someone like me who has NONE of those.  Circumstances have landed in a place without a spouse/partner, without friends, without funds and I’ve had NOTHING AT ALL on my calendar, except doctor appointments and caring for others’ needs, in some 6 years.  Granted, none of that has changed from finding your article, but now I know somewhere in the world, somebody understands this, if not anyone I know.

    • Robyn

      How is life for you today?

      • kategordon

        I was going to ask the same thing….about how Emily’s life is today…I feel sad for her because I know how those circumstances feel. It’s hard to feel like you have a center when you have no partner, and children are grown or none existent….But I know I must get creative to pull out of this slump and soon!

    • John

      So great to read this and know I am not the only one seeking a future with something to look forward to, someone to enjoy adventures with. I am so lonely in my marriage it is killing me.

  • LC

    What happens if you have nothing to look forward too? Are you depressed?

  • LC

    I completely agree with the key to happiness is something to look forward too. But what happens if you have nothing to look forward too? Are you depressed?

    • LC

      Of course there are smallers things I look forward too like getting my Starbucks latte, seeing friends, etc…. But in a long term sense? What then?

    • sweetieprecious

      I prefer to think of it as in limbo, or in transition. Right now I am pondering on what to do to make sure I am not going to live in a rut.

  • ann jazz

    I heard this quote–on the radio–in the late 70’s. I wish I knew who stated it and who originated it. As time goes by, I understand it more. “Happiness is the anticipation of
    (the realization of) the fulfillment of a dream.” I’m thinking “the realization” I added and that it enforces “the fullfillment” aspect. So very true! The anticipate part of the “dream”.

    • Pete Menary

      Depressed people don’t dream. Maybe thats what makes us depressed. I have been advise to follow my dreams but I honestly don’t have any.

  • Paul

    This is spot on. I’ve been using this website ( http://www.lookforwd.com ) to track all the things I look forward to. I find I’m a lot happier even if it’s small things.

  • Lucy

    ” She mentioned the importance of having something to look forward to. (There’s just no graceful way to avoid ending the sentence with a proposition, sorry.)”
    How about “She mentioned the importance of having something to which she can look forward”?

  • baldee .

    I’ve always had this mindset ever since I was a child(I’m almost 25 now), I honestly couldn’t imagine going through life day to day not having a bunch of stuff to look forward to in the coming days, weeks or months, no matter how big or small they might be. It’s what makes me strive for the future and stops me from looking back.