It’s very easy in our society to think about everything we don’t have. I don’t drive a ferrari. I don’t have a swimming pool. I’m not a millionaire. Heck – I don’t even have a full head of hair – thanks male pattern baldness. If you look on social media or at the advertisements in a magazine, there will usually be things sold to you – from exotic destinations, fast cars, expensive watches, beauty products, celebrity lifestyles, clothes, big TVs – the list is endless. For the most part we acknowledge that we don’t need a Lamborghini and a Rolex to be happy but this endless barrage of “how good some people have it” takes our focus away from what we already have. Whether it’s for our own sense of self-satisfaction or “keeping up with the Joneses” we’re always somehow aware of what others have and what we don’t. It also can lead to a “when I get this then” mentality. When I get the big house then I can be happy. When I become a millionaire then life will be great. When I get that big promotion at work then I’ll be content professionally. We’re convinced our happiness or satisfaction can be based on set criteria or conditions. Always looking off at the distance – setting our own sense of well being on something not yet there.
The problem is that this “someday” “when” thinking doesn’t stop. It’s a treadmill. We keep going on and it’s out of our control when we think like this because guess what – there’s always a new shiny object or something we don’t have. Because no matter how rich or famous you are – you can’t have everything. BUT you can always be content with everything you already have. As Robert Pirsig wrote – “the only zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there.” Or as I like to think – if you can’t be content and happy with what you have, you’ll never be happy if you have everything. We’re all having a tough time at the moment with this global pandemic, some more so than others with serious health and economic worries. But if we look back on the often violent and unpredictable history of our planet and species -we can see that for the most part, many of us live improved lives over those of past generations. It was only in the last century close to, if not more than 100 million people died in combat or as a result of two global conflicts. Prior to the 20th century we also had many diseases and illnesses that we had no cure or adequate medical response to. Healthcare, travel, entertainment, communications, hygiene – all of these things have improved drastically, even in the last 20 years or so. If you were to transport your great, great grandparents to the modern day and invite them into your home for a cup of coffee and a chat – they’d probably be wowed by everything from TVs, fridges, mobile phones to flushing toilets. We forget that it wasn’t all that long ago we didn’t have many of these things we take for granted. I’m not saying we even have to go that deep and global. Sometimes it’s the very smallest of things we can reflect on how fortunate we are to have – a sunny day, a hug with a pet, the enjoyment of a good book or movie, a tasty meal, a scenic view. There’s so much for us to be thankful for and we don’t realise that because we’re often focused on everything we don’t have. The next time you feel that your life is “really shit” just stop and think objectively. Chances are you’re a really fortunate and lucky person compared to many others in the world right now and certainly over past generations.
Try writing a list of 3 things every morning you’re grateful for and start your morning thinking just how good you have it. It can be big things like your wife/husband/partner/children/life itself or it can be something like “nice cup of tea/coffee this morning” – “enjoyed tv series A” – “a good laugh” etc etc. If you start your day thinking about what you’re grateful for – you’re likely to start to notice other things over the course of the day too. Life isn’t perfect and it isn’t always fair either. But there’s a very good chance you’re missing out on just how great your own is because you weren’t paying attention.