How to Stop Chasing What Won’t Make Us Happy

He’s growling and twitching and aging way too quickly.

I’m sitting in my reading chair, trying to enjoy On the Road by Jack Kerouac. (For some reason, I’m convinced the title of my next book will be found within it.) But I can’t concentrate, because our dog Cole—a miniature schnoodle who is all shnauzer—is standing on red alert at the window and salivating at every creature of the land and air that passes by.

Mostly birds. An occasional squirrel.

loveable study experience

Photo Credit: Yastremska (Bigstock)

A yellow finch lands in the fountain outside the window. Now Cole is silently apoplectic. Shivering and shuddering with desire and frustration. I watch him and I laugh to myself, thinking how silly he is, how silly dogs are. He’s made this bird the center of his universe. At this moment, he believes catching it is the only thing that really matters. His instinct tells him it will satisfy him. Will it? Probably, for a minute or two. Then there will be another bird to bark at, another squirrel to chase up a tree. I think again about how silly it all is, and I return my attention to the book. But my eyes won’t focus because my stomach has just sunk.

My whole life I’ve created birds to chase.

For a while—a long while—my birds were grades. Also, I chased friends. And girls. My birds were gadgets to save for and restaurants I couldn’t afford. I chased attention. Approval. Love. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I look around, and I see bird chasing happening everywhere. We chase youth and immortality. We chase image and Instagram. We chase righteousness and victory.

I sit there and watch Cole shake as he watches the finch splash, and I know that I’ve chased a lot of birds in my life, but the yellow finch in my life has always been success. I’ve twitched and trembled and shuddered and salivated at the window of my life, growling at success out there just beyond my reach, splashing around in the fountains of the world. Once I catch my yellow finch, I tell myself, I’ll be able to finally relax, settle in, enjoy this ordinary life. It’s silly, of course. The way to live the simple bliss of an ordinary life is not to chase an extraordinary one; it’s to quit chasing an extraordinary one.

Because in order to truly enjoy what you have, you have to release what you don’t.

I sit, Cole spasms, and some tumblers fall into place within me. You see, I have chased and captured and swallowed some very pretty birds over the last few years. I started a blog and grew it very quickly. I wrote a book I believe in and published it and I sold it. Since then, I’ve created hours upon hours of helpful content to help supplement the book, including an individual and group study guide and an additional year-long companion guide.

And I’ve been looking for my next bird to chase.

For a while, I considered monetizing all this extra content by creating a mobile app and charging people for access to it. Then, for a while, everywhere I looked, someone was offering a “masterclass” in their area of expertise, so I thought I should monetize all my work in that way. Build it, and they will come, I’ve been told. Chase this bird. Chase that one.

Watching Cole though, I realize, I’m tired of chasing birds. I don’t really enjoy it. The catch is fun. For a moment. But then, once again, the chasing. What I really want to do—what I’ve always wanted to do, the reason for starting this blog in 2012, in fact—is help people. Six years of blogging. That’s a long time and a lot has changed in that time, but one thing that has not changed is this:

I’ve been on the receiving end of grace, and I simply want to pass it on.

Right then and there, watching Cole nearly implode with frustration, I decided what to do with all this helpful content I’ve created over the last two years. I decided to give it all away, for free. Because I want the graceful experience that has been this blog to culminate in grace not chase.

You can have all that free content right now by clicking here.

As I write this, that morning with Cole is a couple of months in the rearview mirror. This morning, the late summer sun is slanting through that same window and the birds are chirping and splashing outside, but for some reason, Cole is having none of it today. Instead, he is splayed out on his side, warming himself by the rays of the sun. Relaxed and at peace. No chasing. Rather, he only seems to care about staying in the center of the light. That’s what I want to do, too. It’s what I want all of us to do.

Let’s focus on staying in the center of the Light.

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Loveable is available in paperback, digital, and audio and can be purchased wherever books are sold, so you can also purchase it at your favorite bookseller.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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