richard carlson on being content

Think of What You Have Instead of What You Want 
In 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 is met.
A 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 recreate 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.

Luckily, 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!
Each 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 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.
Make 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 feel satisfied.

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