We can have all the things in the world we want but we still won't be happy. Things don't define us.
My clients come seeking happiness and prosperity. They think they have a block to abundance that can be quantified, like lack of time, or money. They must lose so many pounds, they need to meet x-number of deadlines by COB, they must achieve y-number of specific goals in just so much time.
Yet, they soon realize what they are truly missing: Quality, not time or money. Quality, not quantity, is what makes us happy and fulfilled.
We've always been inspired by The American Dream, but now it's led us to bounced checks, and even bankruptcy. We live in a consumer-driven society and find it more difficult than our parents did to achieve a balanced life.
Why? We've adopted a quantitative perspective:
1. It's what we're taught.
We are taught to need the newest electronic device and the season's most up-to-date fashions to fit in. In the past 25 years, we've given up keeping up with the Joneses and driven ourselves mad keeping up with the Kardashians.
In Julie Schor's book, The New Politics Of Consumption, she writes, "Within the middle class, and even the upper middle class, many families experience an almost threatening pressure to keep up, both for themselves and their children."
2. We block out our fears with doing.
Does a sponge soak up more water after it's saturated? We feel that if we pour more into our containers, we'll eventually reach our happiness quota, even though we can't absorb anything else.
If we slow down the pour to a trickle, we might realize we're already happy sometimes; we're not meant to be happy all the time. But, we are capable of being happy frequently, but we have to notice to slow down.
3. The illusion of scarcity.
If I were placed on an isolated island with enough water, food, lots of bug repellent, and a few good books, I could be entirely happy ... because happiness isn't bought. The more we have, the more we want, and the more time we work to get it is okay up to a point, but are we really depressed because we don't have the latest smart TV?
Or, is it because we haven't stopped to smell a flower? I used to work with people in underdeveloped countries and most were happy. War breaks out, not because people lack smart TVs, but because people lack basics.
4. We get overwhelmed measuring everything.
We even use phrases such as "glass half empty," and "don't count your chickens before they hatch." We are given messages that somehow we are supposed to support our aging parents, send our children to the top-100 schools, and wait in anticipation for our annual raise and our annual bonus. It's not ALL possible.
A New Qualitative Perspective
When we look at our lives from a broader perspective, we probably remember the moments we loved much more vividly than the days we spent balancing our budgets. The American socioeconomic environment, even today, allows us to have more time. It's up to decide how to use it.
Today, will you spend more time worrying about the deadline you might not meet, or would it be more beneficial to take a walk and enjoy the weather? The choice is yours.
Always remember to:
- Give yourself, not an object. I try to spend time with my family and friends instead of giving them a souvenir of me. Our good deeds and daily love will be remembered more, and love is the only thing we can take with us.
- Say thank you. You can say it to your partner, your boss, your pet, a garden, or the universe; and, you can say it to the person holding the door for you that you didn't even notice. Just say it often. Don't forget to thank the TV, film, and tech industry for giving you all these cool things to do.
- Count your blessings. What if we gave ourselves a breather and focused on what's around us? What if we got higher and saw the big picture, or lower, honing in on the minute detail of a dust particle? Called a friend? On this side of 50, I find the worst I anticipated never materialized, and things I never dreamed of did. It's not what happens to us, it's our perspective once it does.
- Make time yours. Happiness is not counted in minutes, but measured in treasured moments. What if we did what we could AND what we wanted? What if we made our lives memorable and precious? What would you do first? How would that change your life?
When googling "quality of life," most of the hits come up as health references. It's ironic that we may not consider our quality of life until we're facing a health threat. All our stuff will not keep our loved ones from leaving or our world from changing.
Yet, on the path to chronic activity, hoarding, or spending, we surround ourselves with new things to distract us from what we were sent here to do: Live. That the secret to a quality life is to live it.
Let me know how you plan to live.