How many times a week do you find yourself saying, “I want this”, “I need that”? How frequently do you compare your life to someone else’s – what they have and what you don’t? How often do you think, ‘If only this would happen, I‘d be happy’?
In a world where we can purchase anything in an instant, we don’t even have to ponder our wants like we used to. The other night I decided on a whim that I’d quite like a blackboard calendar for my kitchen wall, and within 30 minutes one was heading my way.
The convenience of ‘getting’ makes me wonder: is the frightening ease of wanting and then having stopping us from striving and appreciating the now? And do we really need everything we think we do? Are we failing to appreciate what’s around us because we’re always looking to the next big thing? There must be a way to be content with what we have.
A few years ago, I spent some time living in Brazil. It surprised me just how fulfilled the people in the city I was living in seemed to be. Despite the huge unemployment rate, I couldn’t help but notice that even the poorest of people seemed to be genuinely happy – even the guys washing windscreens at the traffic lights smiled, sang and danced as they swiped the glass.
How has it become so different in New Zealand?
The truth is that real, 110% contentment comes from being in and enjoying the moment – and our moment, not someone else’s. It comes from stopping to appreciate the fact that we have food, shelter and love, and live in a country with all sorts of opportunities. Contentment is now, not when we have xyz. And if we do really want or need something, we can still choose to be satisfied while we wait. Believe it or not, more happiness can be found in the journey, not the destination.
Think back five or 10 years ago – what did you think would make you happy back then: a qualification, a job, a partner, children, a house? Which of these things do you have now? If you’ve ticked some or all of those boxes, shouldn’t you be content?
Many of us fall into the trap of believing that success/getting stuff comes before happiness, which effectively means we have to put it off until we’ve achieved all our goals and have everything we want in life. The problem is that ‘success’ is a moving target. When we get what we want, the contentment that results tends to be short-lived. It doesn’t take long to move on to the next thing, which means we never give ourselves the chance to be truly content with what we actually have.
So what’s the solution? It starts with becoming aware, checking into your thoughts throughout the day. What are you saying to yourself; what’s the internal ‘I wish’ dialogue you’re so used to hearing that you barely notice it anymore?
Consider committing to one weekend a month in which you don’t buy into the material world and instead make a conscious effort to be grateful for what you’ve got. Have a good old-fashioned picnic in the park, go for a walk along the beach, hang out with the people you love. There are numerous studies that show that having more money doesn’t make people living above the poverty line any happier, and that means most New Zealanders.
Experiment feeling rich just being here – after all, none of us are guaranteed those 80 years. Break the habit of always wanting more and you might find contentment was right there all along.