This year, at Thanksgiving, a very good family friend who is just now in remission from cancer gave a speech that is hard to forget. We all had gone around the table saying what we’re grateful for—friends, family, jobs, homes, pets, good food—and then I think we all felt quite humbled when it came time for this friend to speak up. We all knew that nothing we’d been through really compared to what he’d recently been through. I thought that perhaps his speech would be all about his health—about being grateful for modern medicine and things like that. But instead, he took a different turn with it.
I won’t go into all of the details, but one thing he said really stuck with me: “I’ve decided to make a strong effort to resist the common and mundane human habit of focusing on what we don’t have. Doing so only robs us of the joy that’s available to us, all around us, every day.” He is so right. It is this sad and petty thing we do: we wake up, ask ourselves what we don’t yet have, and then set into action a plan to get the things we don’t have.
I understand that that must be a part of life. But for many, it’s all of life, and it’s a damn shame. At one point, we did that same thing—the planning and plotting and working—for the things we do now have. And so quickly, we’ve stopped appreciating them. So quickly we’ve turned our attention anew to the things we don’t yet have. What was all of that work for, then? We’re only as happy as we are grateful for the things we have and that’s a fact. So, do you focus too much on what you don’t have?
You end sentences with “But…”
When catching up with friends and telling them what’s been going on in your life, you structure sentences this way: this thing is going well, but this is a problem. You end on a low note. Typically, the note we end on is indicative of our overall mindset. People who look for the silver lining end their story on a high note. They may say, “The construction on our building is very loud, but at least it’ll improve the value.” But you say, “Yeah, the construction might boost the value, but it’s so loud it’s driving me insane.”