4 tips for learning to appreciate all the good in your life.
The day I graduated from university was one of the saddest days of my life. I’d achieved the title I had dreamed of for so long—for years before I entered university, and for years while I was studying and working to achieve it. I finally had it! I had passed all my courses. However, I didn’t know what to do next. I’d achieved my goal, but didn’t know how to enjoy it. I didn’t celebrate it; at that time, my university didn’t have a standardized graduation ceremony. Even today I ask myself, how was that feeling possible?
Many psychologists explain it as the dissatisfaction of reaching an objective: once you have it, it’s no longer interesting. We need the next challenge, because what we’ve achieved no longer makes us happy. It’s as if when we reach it, it no longer has any value. This is illogical.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “If you cry because you can’t see the sun, your tears won’t let you see the stars.”We’ve probably heard this message before, but we forget. We blind ourselves by looking at what we don’t have, and we don’t see what we do have. Now we want a better car, a job that pays more, more travel every year, a bigger house, a child who gets better grades, a younger appearance for ourselves…
Obsession with what we don’t have can keep us from recognizing what we do have. Not only does it keep us from seeing it, but it makes us underestimate it. Thiscauses us unhappiness, filling us with envy of people who have more.
Being constantly exposed to a flood of advertising and the fast world we live in pushes us in that direction. However, this is not just about material things. This dissatisfaction that leads us to want more, to consume more, is also projected onto our social relations: we want a better-looking partner, a more active social life, more followers on Instagram…
This perennial dissatisfaction, which puts the focus on what we don’t have, is so blinding that it only creates frustration. Have you stopped to think about what you do have? Your life, your family, your job, whatever the situation is has a lot of positives.
Of course, we should have a natural ambition to improve in all areas of our life, but we also have to improve our acceptance of things as they are. Being happy with what you have is a gift. That’s why celebrating is so important: graduation, because you got that degree (something I didn’t celebrate); a birthday, because you’re alive (and that of your parents, your children, and your friends); an anniversary of marriage or starting to date, an anniversary at work … There are many opportunities to celebrate.
Advertising aims to sell
Society leads us to focus strongly on what we don’t have. If we focused on the fact that we have a fabulous car, we wouldn’t aspire to buy a new one. If we were to look at our full wardrobe, we wouldn’t want to buy more clothes. If we thought our skin was hydrated and fabulous, we wouldn’t look for new creams, new treatments … It’s the basis of consumerism: you still don’t have everything you want.
In psychology, this is known as negative bias, and it leads us to become obsessed with what we don’t have. There’s always something newer and better. Analyze it every time you want to buy something: do I really need this, or is what I already have actually sufficient?
Complain less (and value more)
Yes, this is related: think about your daily conversations. Many times we focus more on complaining than on gratitude or appreciation. Somehow, it seems that talking about the good things means being ostentatious, showing off too much.
We should talk about the good aspects of the people in our lives. We can apply it to the whole family: our partner, our co-workers, our children … Instead of criticizing them, remember something good. Don’t focus on complaining about the things they may have done wrong (or that you simply don’t like).
We should apply something similar to material goods: think about the positive aspects of your job, your house, your favorite jeans.
Don’t be such a perfectionist
Oh, perfectionism! If a perfect world existed, we wouldn’t have any more goals, would we? Advertisements constantly promise us perfection, but it’s never delivered. The same happens with influencers on social networks, who project the image of a perfect vacation, family, home, car, life, etc. It’s an impossible ideal, artificially created using filters and tricks of photography and editing.
Perfectionism taken to the extreme is absolute dissatisfaction. There’s no such thing as the perfect spouse, the perfect child, the perfect house, the perfect job.
That’s not to say we can’t strive for better in our lives, but we need to have a realistic outlook, and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We will be happier and more at peace if we combine a desire to improve with awareness of and gratitude for all the good things we already have.