Considering what I wrote about last night, I shouldn’t be surprised that a Facebook status update from a man in a far away land spoke to me this morning.
It’s been something stewing away in my mind for a long time anyway.
With all of the hate, violence, and anger in the world these days, the pursuit of happiness seems to be a game of impossibility for so many. Something that you just can’t catch. Something you must chase after. You need something to be happy. A flashy sports car. A big house. A designer purse. A little blue box. A lavish vacation. A big bank account. A something. Something external.
I disagree. His holiness the Dalai Lama’s status update reminds me that “something” is not the answer. Neither is the root of the something.
That’s right: money isn’t the answer.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t live a life of scarcity. I live an incredibly rich life. But my “richness” has less to do with my bank account and more with my spirit.
Here’s my secret: while I have to work at it, I am very happy. Even when I’m working. Even when things aren’t going exactly right.
Choosing happiness means that I often have to force myself to look at things differently. For example, rather than looking at the gym as torture, it’s a gift of time that I give myself. Instead of cursing at the a-hole who cut me off in traffic, it’s time for a deep breath and inquiring what the moment is supposed to teach me. A difficult person is my teacher. A project gone wrong is my inspiration. A sick dog during a busy day is my new productivity tool. I could go on, but I’m sure you get my pollyanna-esque message.
Reframing those stressful and angry moments isn’t easy. And I’m certainly no saint. I still cuss when things go amiss. I still find myself being critical of others. I get angry. Stressed. Frustrated. But now I stop and I think, “what is this moment teaching me?” and then I count my blessings.
I know a family that has had many serious challenges over the short time that I’ve known them. The father (and sole income earner) almost died last year. The children are chronically ill. The family’s bank account is not full of zeros. They don’t have a fancy car or a big house. They often depend on the kindness of strangers and friends. Yet, they are some of the most joyful and happy people that I know. And they face adversity every day. The difference is that they are much more grateful than most people. Every day and every moment counts for them.
Being grateful has made a big difference in my life. And while I can’t change anyone, I’d like to suggest to all of the people who find themselves in an angry, hateful place in their lives to take a step back, stop looking at what others have and really look at what they themselves have. Even though they might not have all the material riches that they feel entitled to or the right amount in their bank account, they may have a whole lot more wealth than they thought.