Imagine two scenarios, if you will. In both scenarios, the person is the same: a 40-year-old, middle-class American man with no particularly interesting personal details.
(A word to any 40-year-old, middle-class men who may be reading: since I’ll be joining you in September of 2030, I speak with compassion, so don’t take offense. I mean to illustrate a broader point and you’re an easy example to use.)
Also the same between the two men: overall health, intellectual capacity, education, upbringing, job, marital status, number of kids and so on.
In other words, same damn dude in both situations.
But one man is blissful, enjoying what he considers to be the prime of his life, while the other wallows in self-pity and misery at having a life that just doesn’t measure up to what he’d hoped for.
The difference between these two men? Their thinking.
Now, before you click off this article, expecting another boring piece about the power of positive thinking, please hear me out. While positivity is certainly a factor, it’s more subtle than that — and therefore something that isn’t often spoken about.
What we’re touching upon here is whether you set your thoughts on what you have, or what you don’t have.
The difference is significant.
The happy man experiences everything around him in each moment, and he’s grateful for it. He’s consumed with gratitude for the trees, flowers and animals when he’s out jogging in the morning. He’s grateful for the cars that drive by, which remind him his brothers and sisters are sharing the journey with him.
At work, he’s grateful he has tasks to do that have a meaningful place in the world. (They’re meaningful because somebody needs to do them, and that person happens to be him.)
At home, he has children who love him and a wife who has chosen to walk by his side through life. He has a house and a roof over his head.
More than all that, he knows he is important simply by the fact of his existence!
The other man, in exactly the same circumstances, is consumed by different thoughts.
He thinks about what is not there: the hot tub, the massive, curving flat-screen TV, the wife who jumps him every day when he comes home (they have sex, but not that often).
His house is only 10,000 square feet, when they could really use 20,000. They can’t afford it though, and that sucks. He feels cheated there are people who make more money than he does, people with better lives and better things.
The difference here is not just about gratitude. While that’s central to the first man’s happiness, there’s something more to it: focusing on what is present instead of what appears to be missing.
In other words, focusing on what is real versus how things ought to be.
The more we practice gratefulness for what’s present, the more we’ll have to be thankful for. The more we focus on what isn’t there, the more we’ll see what’s “missing.”
The truth is, nothing is missing. Everything is as it should be.
Arguing with The Way Things Are separates you from reality, which is the quickest way to misery. And in my mind, it’s also not far from a schizophrenic delusion!
If you’ve never understood meditation, just understand this: be here now, not with what could, should or would be.
This doesn’t mean you can’t want things you don’t have yet — otherwise, how would we ever grow and expand?
It just means your desires come from a place of contentment and fullness, of adding onto an already beautiful life, rather than filling a void that is seemingly bottomless.
So just between the two of us, let me tell you a secret: we can be either one of those men. It just depends on what you want.