"We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our window today" - Dale Carnegie
Our wants and desires are like a bottomless pit. Have you ever heard about the hedonic treadmill? This concept states that we adapt very quickly to the good things in life (fortunately this works for the bad things as well). We adapt to our stuff - suddenly the new shiny iPad doesn't make us feel as happy as it did on the first week -, to our economic situation - suddenly the salary that we so craved for doesn't feel like a big deal anymore and now we're craving for a larger one! - and we even adapt to the people in our lives - suddenly we don't notice anymore how beautiful our partner is and forget how important he/she is in our lives. A part of this is related to the fact that we tend to take almost everything for granted. Being aware of this tendecy, we can consciously choose to begin noticing and appreciating all the great things we already have and that, at some point, we stopped noticing...
Here are some examples, starting with my personal experience:
- The house I live in (which is my parent's), according to my country's standards, is a modest medium class dwelling. That's how I used to see it. As nothing special. After watching numerous videos of tiny houses - my latest addiction -, suddenly my house feels like unnecessarily huge and even luxurious.
Do you think that you live in a modest house, nothing like your dream mansion? Look at it again - most likely you're already living in a mansion, bigger than what you truly need.
- My country is going through some serious economical struggle. Still, we have peace, wonderful weather, lands to cultivate, etc. Being aware of true misery and despair throughout the world, I can appreciate and be thankful for all the blessings my country provides me with.
Do you think everything is wrong with your country and society? Instead, try to be thankful for peace, freedom of speech, community, etc. And think of small ways in which you can contribute to your community.
- I used to think I never had enough clothes. That my clothes were never beautiful, stylish enough. Now I'm experimenting with Project 333, and I've realized that what I have is enough. I don't need more!
Do you feel like your wardrobe is always lacking? Look at it again. Don't you have enough clothes to keep you warm? I bet you do! Then smile and be thankful ;)
- As a PhD student I earned a good scholarship for 4 years. It was my salary. While I had it, I didn't value it much. I took it for granted and now I see I spent it a bit mindlessly. Meanwhile the scholarship ended and the PhD is yet to be finished. I teach Math part-time, and earn 1/5 of what I used to. Suddenly my old scholarship seems like a blessing that, at the time, I was unable to fully appreciate. In the last months I had to learn to relate differently with money and when, in the future, I earn full-time again I'll sure appreciate it far better!
Do you complain you don't earn enough money? Instead, try to be grateful that you have a job in the first place, and see if you can direct your money to what is truly important and trim the superfluous spending.
To help me appreciate what I already have in my life I do a simple thankfulness exercise every night. While in bed, and before sleep, I close my eyes and remember five things that I'm grateful for in my day. Five simple things that made me happy. Even on 'bad days', I can always identify five good things. This is a great way to end the day. Yep, who would guess: thinking about good things actually makes me feel good! ;)
And you, are you aware of the hedonic treadmill in your life? How do you keep things in perspective and how do you manage to be grateful for the good things you already have?
See you soon!