I’m often surprised by how brilliantly The Onion delivers the one-two punch with humor to soften defenses and reality as the immediate and unwelcome follow up.
I read this post the other day and thought it was hysterical and simultaneously unnerving because the satirized message rings true. (Article)
In summary, the press release announces that Bank of America’s newest credit card reward system operates on the existential fulfillment that comes from each purchase: the more you spend, the better you feel.
Without belaboring the fact that truth often underlies humor, the article hits on an important phenomena ubiquitous to the human experience.
It comes in the form of the if/then internal persuasion. “If I just do this, then I’ll be happy/fulfilled/content.” Specific examples? “If I just get that job, then I’ll be happy.” “If I just lose ten pounds, then I’ll be content.” “If I just get that girl to like me, then I’ll feel fulfilled.”
It’s so seductive because of its subtle and pervasive grip on our thoughts. We’re typically unaware of how much this phenomena is impacting our daily decision-making process. If I’m honest, I get swept up in it far more quickly than I’d like.
Why get so hung up? Avoidance. Focusing on the next big thing that will herald in happiness keeps us from doing the tough but important work required to change. It also links our potential happiness with external sources, which means we don’t have to take the road less travelled.
It’s far easier for me to anticipate the external experience that’s just around the bend, ripe with possibility, than to consider being honest with myself about what I need to change.
The problem is the “If I just” phenomena, while it may contain initial promise, leaves us depressed upon attaining the dream job, anticipated relationship, financial security, etc. and realizing we’re unfulfilled. OR we continuously strive towards unattainable goals, wasting precious time and energy on the elusive dream.
Embracing the internal work has far more promise than chasing the dream.
What’s your current “If I just…” statement? What’s the real path to change that you’re avoiding?
We can opt for the reward card system, but there’s that nagging, little, internal voice that reminds us: if reward cards bought existential fulfillment, the rich among us would be a lot happier.