“So many of us grown-ups suffer because we are trying to live the life we once had or the life we wish for.”
~ Daniel Gottlieb
It is true that we often hear ourselves or others lament the passing of what used to be. We wish we were younger, or at least looked or felt younger. We wish our investments were worth what they used to be. It was so much easier when the kids were small and they just did what we told them.
We may wish we still had that job, partner or the one who passed away. We may have liked it better where we used to live, or wish we lived somewhere else. Perhaps we want more money, or not to have to work so hard.
These yearnings for something other that what we have can create suffering because often, for one reason or another, we cannot change our circumstances. We can honor the gifts we have had. If we have wonderful memories of sweet times in our lives, that is something to be celebrated. If someone we love is no longer with us, we can cherish the experience with them, and feel blessed that we had that at all.
Sometimes the yearning is not for the past, but for what others have. We can feel that others are so lucky because they have more than we do. These feelings are also driven by our focus on what we think is lacking in our lives. We must remember that no one has a perfect life!
Focusing on and wishing for what is not there, blinds us to all that is there. Perhaps twenty years from now we will feel a longing for the way it is right now. I once had a poster on my office wall that said, “It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that creates happiness.” There is a lot of wisdom in those words.
Rather than focusing on what is not there, we need to learn to savor and appreciate what we do have. We can take pleasure in a sunny day or the sound of birds singing. We can have gratitude for the fact that we are even able to see and hear.
It has been said that happiness is a choice. I believe that to be true. Even if we have struggles, we can still find things to be happy about, and focus on those. We cannot change the past or even sometimes present circumstances. What we can change is how we think.
Change negative thinking by stopping it as soon as you are aware of it, and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. Taking our attention away from what was or what we wish would be, and bringing it right into the present can have a major impact on our happiness. As Daniel Gottlieb says, “Life is much sweeter when we live the live we have.”