The “Won’t it be great when…” delusion.

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“Won’t it be great when… when I get married, I get divorced, the kids are grown, I get that new job, I get that new house, I go on vacation, I lose those last 5 pounds, I move to wherever…” I’m sure you’ve made a few statements like this, I know I have. Then, when I got there, it wasn’t what I thought it would be like (or wanted it to be like), and then I found that I wanted something else instead.

The feelings we get when we imagine “what it will be like” are often better than the experience itself. I’m not trying to be a depressing pessimist here, but there is a lot of truth behind this delusion. We imagine things (events, situations, relationships, vacations, jobs, etc.) will be better than how they actually pan out. However, this is a good delusion because it gives us hope and motivates us to make attempts at progress. Sometimes the situation does pan out better than imagined. My own sobriety for instance. I can honestly say that my life and my existence are in many ways better than I imagined, but it’s also different than I imagined. Many of the outcomes I had imagined and hoped for never came to be and along with my sobriety has come some sadness.

There are many delusions surrounding sobriety—one is that it is guaranteed to be the best thing ever. For you it may turn out great, or it may turn out awful, it may turn out uneventful, but it will most likely be a combination of all those things because your enjoyment of and your impression of sobriety will change and evolve over time. Another part of this delusion is that some people will tell you that you’ll be happy and free if you just quit drinking or follow their program, or give yourself up to a higher power (preferably THEIR version of a higher power). But will YOU be happier doing that or are you just making them happy? Will sobriety be the answer to and solve all of your problems? Probably not—but it honestly is a good place to start from.

Don’t worry, I’m going to get to all the good, uplifting stuff later in this article, but first I would like to give some examples of this “won’t it be great when…” delusion.

Winning the lottery is an example. Let’s say that you dream about winning the lottery and as luck has it you win! You now have a million dollars. Will it change your life and be as great as you imagined or might it cause problems? Of course it would be wonderful and exciting to win a million dollars, but consider your reference point. If you were already a millionaire, another million would be nice, but not as life changing as if you were poor and won a million dollars. Then, as time passes, you become accustom to being a millionaire and you might start demanding more and spending more than you have. You might not feel as good or excited as you did when you first found out you won or were just dreaming about winning. It’s not that the event itself is a letdown, it’s more that we become accustom to our conditions.

The subject of money is a great illustration of the “won’t it be great when…” delusion. Many people believe that obtaining a lot of money will solve all of their problems. As a self-proclaimed “unapologetic capitalist” I see nothing wrong with earning a good income and admit that money does help improve your standard of living and money is nice to have, but I have also seen some people become extremely wealthy and NOT become any happier. In fact I have seen some people become more miserable and miserly and some have even gone further into debt as a result of coming into money. Acquiring money has brought on big problems for some people. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Just watch one of those reality TV shows about lottery winners. (Better yet, do some research and read articles or studies on lottery winners.) And it’s not just lottery winners, plenty of Rock Stars, Movie Stars and Sports Celebrities have come to ruin due to suddenly coming into money. Even Mark Twain went bankrupt because he pissed his money away on get-rich-quick schemes.

Here’s another example. Imagine that you’re in prison (some of you are and some of you have been). Naturally it will be great when you’re released from prison, but you’ll be faced with all sorts of problems, temptations and difficulties that you may have never imagined. Your friends and family may not trust you, employers may not want to hire you, you’ll be faced with all sorts of struggles. You might start thinking that it’s easier to go back to a life of crime or drinking and drugs. You might become disenchanted with your family and society because of all the prejudicial “ex-con” shit being thrown at you. So yes, it’ll be great to be free but it’ll also be different than you may have imagined.

Or how about a relationship or marriage that you “thought” would be wonderful but turned out poorly. No, strike that, things like that never happen. We imagine that “it’ll be great with this new person” and things usually work out just as marvelously as we imagined, right?

Now that I’ve presented myself as a depressing pessimist, how about I share the ways that I try to make this delusion benefit me? Without the delusion of “won’t it be great when…” I would never make proactive movements of my own, I would only respond to cover responsibilities and react to the situations or conditions I find myself in.

First off, I do dream and I do hold up hope before my mind and think, “Won’t it be great when…” If I didn’t dream, have hopes and desires then I wouldn’t do anything—at least nothing constructive—I would just react to whatever happens to me. This blog article for instance, I had to want to write it, I had to think about it and imagined “won’t it be great when I get another article done.” But I didn’t imagine that it’ll be the greatest thing I’ve ever written and my life will be filled with joy and complete once I’m done. It’s only part of more things to come.

I don’t imagine or expect MORE than I should. I simply want to enjoy the process, enjoy the accomplishment, reflect back on both the process and the accomplishment and then establish a new goal. I’m learning to catch myself before I get too fixated on a destination and then possibly be disappointed once I get there. (I’m using the term “destination” in the larger sense, not just a geographical point.) So what I do is I have to remind myself to STOP and savor the small accomplishments along the way. I have to STOP and savor the present point which I am at. I try to notice and enjoy the unfolding of the event as opposed to expecting the event and its conclusion to be the payoff.

I have also learned not to demand or expect more from an outcome than is possible. Quite often I am pleasantly surprised that the outcome is great and occasionally it is even better than I anticipated. I am not disappointed as often because of my realistic view of outcomes. I happen to be in possession of a mathematical mind, so I employ mathematics to evaluate feasibility and probabilities of outcomes. (You don’t have to be a genius or a mathematical savant to do this.)

Feasibility succeeds at a higher percentage rate than probability does. Feasibility is asking the question: “Can it happen?” Probability asks the question: “How likely is it that it will happen?” For instance, it’s feasible to win the lottery but not very probable. Eventually someone who holds a lottery ticket will win, so it is feasible that the person could be you, but don’t be so deluded that it will be you.

So I use feasibility as part of my “won’t it be great when…” delusion. If something is feasible then I believe it’s worth attempting and finding out if it will be great or not. I won’t know until I try. But I am not so deluded to think that only one single event will solve all of my problems and make my life complete. It is the joy of discovery and thinking about what I might experience along the way and then what happens next, after the destination has been reached. So for you, if something is feasible then it might be worth your attempt even if the outcome is not very probable. Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting too much or expecting a feasible outcome to happen.

What has helped me enjoy my sobriety is that I don’t expect too much from a final destination and I don’t view missing a final destination (or goal) as failure. Failure isn’t defined by not achieving an outcome that you desired, failure is not even trying.

There are certain mathematical and mechanical truths. I follow them and maybe you want to write them down or print them:

  • If I do nothing I will get no results.
  • If I sit still my muscles (and my life) will atrophy.
  • If I don’t take care of my body and my mind they will both eventually falter.
  • If I isolate myself in solitude I will never meet and engage with anyone.
  • If I am not proactive at attempting things I will only be in a position to be reactive towards whatever comes my way.

All I’m asking is that you think about my points and examples a bit. Don’t invest too much into the belief of, “won’t it be great when…” try to notice and enjoy the experiences you’re having NOW. That’s the real meaning behind the saying, “living in the moment.” Absolutely dream and dream big. Have hope for outcomes to happen as you desire and that your rewards are as wonderful as you imagine. But please don’t wait for it to be great when…  A friend gave me a gift that had a nice saying engraved on it: “When is NOW.”

Thank you for spending your time to read (or listen) to my blog. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can follow my daily lunacy on Facebook. Just search: Mark Tuschel or Living Sober Sucks. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this. I offer my site, blog and podcasts for free and without the control of annoying advertisers. If you are compelled to help cover my costs, please make a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site

Thanks again for spending some of your very valuable time with me. My name is Mark Tuschel.

One Response to “The “Won’t it be great when…” delusion.”

  1. Magoo says:

    This resonated deeply for me. I needed this. Thank you, Mark.

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