over a dozen years as a stress consultant, one of the most
pervasive and destructive mental tendencies I've seen is
that of focusing on what we want instead of what we have.
It doesn't seem to make any difference how much we have; we
just keep expanding our list of desires, which guarantees we
will remain dissatisfied. The mind-set that says
"I'll be happy when this desire is fulfilled" is
the same mind-set that will repeat itself once that desire
friend of ours closed escrow on his new home on a
Sunday. The very next time we saw him he was talking
about his next house that was going to be even bigger!
He isn't alone. Most of us do the very same
thing. We want this or that. If we don't get
what we want we keep thinking about all that we don't
have--and we remain dissatisfied. If we do get what we
want, we simply re-create the same thinking in our new
circumstances. So, despite getting what we want, we
still remain unhappy. Happiness can't be found when we
are yearning for new desires.
there is a way to be happy. It involves changing the
emphasis of our thinking from what we want to what we
have. Rather than wishing your spouse were different,
try thinking about her wonderful qualities. Instead of
complaining about your salary, be grateful that you have a
job. Rather than wishing you were able to take a
vacation to Hawaii, think of how much fun you have had close
to home. The list of possibilities is endless!
time you notice yourself falling into the "I wish life
were different" trap, back off and start over.
Take a breath and remember all that you have to be grateful
for. When you focus not on what you want, but on what
you have, you end up getting more of what you want
anyway. If you focus on the good qualities of your
spouse, she'll be more loving. If you are grateful for
your job rather than complaining about it, you'll do a
better job, be more productive, and probably end up getting
a raise anyway. If you focus on ways to enjoy yourself
around home rather than than waiting to enjoy yourself in
Hawaii, you'll end up having more fun. If you ever do
get to Hawaii, you'll be in the habit of enjoying
yourself. And, if by some chance you don't, you'll
have a great life anyway.
a note to yourself to start thinking more about what you
have than what you want. If you do, your life will
start appearing much better than before. For perhaps
the first time in your life, you'll know what it means to
Carlson's cheerful book aims
to make us stop and smell--if not roses--whatever is sitting in
front of our noses. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... offers 100
meditations designed to make you appreciate being alive, keep your
emotions (especially anger and dissatisfaction) in proper
perspective, and cherish other people as the unique miracles they
are. It's an owner's manual of the heart, and if you follow the
directions, you will be a happier, more harmonious person.