What do you want? I mean really want?
My guess being miserable is not the answer to that question!
Years ago, I was talking with a friend and the conversation got somewhat heated as I exploded with: “I just want to be happy!” I remember at the time, feeling this was somehow unique. Other people had lofty goals and mine was humble and meager – All I want is to be happy. It’s such a small thing. Surely the universe can grant this one tiny wish …
Now, two decades later, I blush somewhat at my naiveté because the ‘one small little wish’ is all ANYONE and EVERYONE wants! If I could provide the solution to this connundrum, I would be a gazillionaire.
We are all pursuing happiness in some form, at least until we become wise enough to know that what we seek is rather elusive and difficult, perhaps even impossible to capture and hold.
However, recently I ran across someone who reminded me of the relationship between gratitude and happiness. David Steindl-Rast, in his TED talk speaks of the gentle power of gratefulness.
He advocates that each moment has a potential in it. And those who can see the possibility and act on it become thankful, which then, over time, brings happiness. Not every moment can engender appreciation. Violence, war, slavery, inequality, disease – these do not and should not be forced bedfellows with gratitude. But within those very negative things, there still are opportunities. And therein lies the capacity for thankfulness.
Steindl-Rast has a remarkably simple formula – Stop. Look. Go.
Find a way to hesitate long enough to actually see. Then do something about it.
While waiting at a stop light, look at the cars around you. How many have a single person in them? In many countries – most people ride public transportation, all jammed in together, none on their own time table, each having to hear the other’s conversations and smell the body odor of the other. In poorer countries, people walk everywhere. We can be upset that we are stuck at a long light or in traffic, or we can be grateful for the privilege of driving our own car. You can have the same internal conversation regarding car repairs. Or any other minor issue.
How about when you have a terrible cold and are inconvenienced (and are now going to become behind in everything). You can fret about it and gripe, or you can look at how this gives you an opportunity to rest and to clear your mind. You live in a country that has excellent medical care. You have good food to nourish you. Think about people in prisoner-of-war camps who have to keep working even when they are deathly ill or those who will lose their jobs if they don’t come in. Look at what your situation actually is. And then act on your reality. Since you are able to rest, do it, with grace.
Notice that you have clean running water and indoor plumbing that works. Not everyone does, you know.
Be aware that your dog doesn’t carry diseases and parasites and can share in your home with you. This is certainly not the case in every country.
Have you considered the miracle of electricity? That your water is warm when you take a shower? Or your lights allow you to continue your activity well after dark? Again, not all of the world shares in this luxury.
Some of you are bristling, because this sounds excessively positive, like a Pollyanna attitude. But I have to argue back – being grateful is a CHOICE. You choose to see and then choose to act based on what you become aware of.
I am so very appreciative for my computer and the internet. Some of you remember the days before e-mail and personal computers … I had to type college papers on a word processor. I used white-out to fix mistakes. No spell check – I looked up words in the dictionary (and I misspelled lots of them that I didn’t look up). I love that my little lap top can hold my writing tools, my banking information, my communications with hundreds of people, a doorway to the world via Twitter and Facebook, a movie theater and encyclopedia and more. It is the minimalist’s dream – all those things in one thing. : )
When I focus on the things I am thankful for my whole attitude changes: vacuums that do a good job getting up the voluminous dog hair that escapes from my beautiful German shepherd, daffodils that are just starting to bloom two months early because of an extremely warm February, a gas fireplace that lights instantly and does not create ash for me to cart out to the trash can – oh my, the trash guys. Can you imagine if we didn’t have trash pick-up? Ugh! It would be horrible. The stench alone makes me cringe. How about Amazon? I can find ANYTHING there and have it delivered to my door in two days. That is the coolest.
Our lives are good. I’m feeling happier already.
What are you grateful for? We will all join with you and say, “Oh yea! Me too!”
3 years ago I chose gratitude as my word for the year. I discovered many of the same thoughts you mentioned but my deepest insight was how it changed my perspective. I began to look for more opportunities to be grateful and in response I became happier. Looking for lack or plenty colors your attitude.