The Myth of the ‘Happy Ending’

In Disney movies, you’ll often see the final scene where everything is picture perfect.

The fair maiden and the handsome dude kiss, and everyone waves them goodbye as they fade off into the sunset. It’s that moment just before the credits roll, when you hear ‘and they lived happily ever after.’

Have you ever really thought about the concept of the ‘Happy Ending’?

In theory it is supposed to be when everything works out just as you hoped, when you’ve overcome the challenges and risen above. Now, finally you can take hold of your reward.

Sounds great, right?

At the risk of sounding like a cynic, I believe that the idea of the ‘Happy Ending’ is a faulty way of thinking. And having an ideal as your end-game will cause you great frustration.

Let me explain…

Very often when we visualize our goals, we see them as an end point. A finish line. We tend to think of them like a snapshot: a frozen image of the ideal life we envision.

Let me be clear: I think it’s a good thing to visualize your goal. Having a horizon help you stay on course. The more clear you are about what you want, the easier it is to steer yourself towards it.

Yet the reality is that life isn’t a frozen image. Life isn’t a happy ending. It is a moving, living, breathing, evolving set of events.

In the ‘Disney’ version of life, we’d complete a goal and then stay frozen in a state of eternal bliss. Nothing would ever go wrong again.

In the real world, when we complete our goal, it is just the start of the next phase. 

After we achieve the goal we set out for, that is when we realize that life isn’t a freeze frame. It’s more like a movie marathon that continues to play, whether we want it to or not.

The reality is, even if we get to our goal, we never reach the true ideal ‘snapshot’ version of the future. Because life is a moving picture. It’s dynamic and evolving. It is changing us as much as we are changing it.

What this has made me realize is that when I envision a goal I want, instead of setting a frozen picture in my mind, I need to start thinking about how my life will be moving and functioning as a result of achieving my goal.

If you think in terms of having the goal integrate into your life, and how things will function as a result, this is a more valuable way to move towards it.

Goals and plans are what we use to change. As we achieve them, they transcend reality and become a part of our lives. Our lives change as we change; we change as our lives change.

The next time you find yourself fantasizing about a ‘Happy Ending’ realize this is a fallacy. Perhaps instead you should consider what will happen to you once the dreams you have start to come true.

The morning after the Happy Ending is where you’ll someday be living.


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