It’s easy to find the fault in things. All too often we dwell on the imperfections in others, in ourselves, and in our circumstances. This is especially true when things aren’t going our way. To “cure” the anger, sadness, or frustration we create theoretical scenarios that we believe will make us happy: “If only I had a better job I would be happy” or “if only I had more money I would be happy.” Maybe, but just as easily, maybe not. You’re guessing after all.
If I asked you to name just one thing that recently made you happy (doesn’t have to be Disney singing-birds, blooming flowers happy), you wouldn’t have to guess. Chances are you could name one moment that made you happy. Sadly, these moments come into focus for just an instant as we race by them doing 120 on the “if only” highway.
These moments are often eclipsed by the promise of some mythical mega-happiness, the one we’ve been promised by TV and movies that will allow us to live “happily ever after.” By preoccupying ourselves with theories of what might make us happy, we don’t value the things that do make us happy.
One simple way to avoid dwelling on the lousy things in life, is by cultivating a practice of gratitude. Gratitude training has been proven to have substantial benefits to our well being. Fortunately, it’s also very simple to get started. Every morning and evening, write down 1-3 things that you’re grateful for. No matter how long or painful your day may have been, take a few minutes to reflect. It could be a simple as: “I’m grateful that the 6 train’s a/c was working today.” It allows us spend just a little more time with the good things in our life.
Don’t get me wrong, setting goals is critical. The issue is we’re increasingly becoming a culture that values accomplishment over appreciation. If you can’t appreciate what you accomplish, then what’s the point in pursuing it? By being more in touch with what does make you happy, you’re much more likely to set more meaningful goals. You can also better enjoy the ride.
What are you grateful for?
Image by: Josh Felise