The one secret to happiness most of us forget…Posted: March 21, 2012
Below is chapter 1 of my new book that will be free on Amazon.com for the next 5 days. Hope you enjoy it!
Secret #1: Be Thankful for What You Have
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
Before I got sick, I was a different person. I didn’t value my relationships growing up. And I regret it to this day.
I grew up in a divorced family, with a distant father. It wasn’t his fault – I could only see him every other weekend after all – but because he wasn’t around as much as my mom, I felt like he didn’t know who I was.
So at the age of 16 until the day I got sick a year later, I lost contact with my dad on purpose. My dad would show on Christmas to make amends and I wouldn’t answer the door. I did that because I resented him for leaving.
I also felt like he wasn’t supporting me because he wanted me to go to a community college instead of DePaul University for the 4 full years. I wanted the glamorous Chicago lifestyle of living in the downtown area and wanted to go to DePaul right away. We had an argument over the tuition costs of going to DePaul vs. a community college.
Because my dad disagreed with me, I felt like it was an easy way out for me to write him off. I didn’t talk to him for years.
I regret doing that. To think that I let go of our relationship because of an issue of money is so incredibly ridiculous.
Looking back now, I wish I had those years with my Dad back.
I wish I spent time to get to know him better.
I wish I stopped thinking about what he could do for me and started thinking about how I could get to know him better.
I wish I could have spent more dinners together with him.
I wish I was a better son.
I wish I gave him the chance to be a great father.
It’s so simple. I wish I was more thankful for what I had.
I learned this lesson later on in my life when I almost died.
We live in an incredibly fast paced world that constantly revolves around our “on demand” lifestyle.
From fast food restaurants (McDonald’s, Chipotle, Subway) where we can get a delicious meal in less than 5 minutes to media like movies and music (Netflix, iTunes, Spotify), we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on demand.
Factor in the social networking revolution and suddenly we’re in a world of information overload. We now receive information faster than ever before. Interactions with our friends, families and peers have become easier than ever.
So what’s the challenge with all of this?
All too often we get caught up in the journey. The chase. The work. The tweets. The endless pile of emails.
After all, many of us are chasing the American dream of success.
It could be the white picket fenced house. It could be a new car. It could be fame. It could be your dream job.
And in this process, we become so mired in our aspirations that we forget one key principle to being happy: being grateful.
Do you find yourself constantly thinking about what you want versus appreciating what you already have? Have you ever told yourself that if you were to attain that oh-so-elusive prize, you would finally be happy?
Many people get stuck in this mindset and thus never give themselves permission to be happy.
The irony is that happiness can be attained at any moment that you desire.
Being grateful is a step towards achieving that.
Studies have shown that people who routinely express their gratitude over a given period of time are actually happier (when surveyed) compared to people who express the negative aspects of their life over that same period of time.
An example of the types of things people could express their gratitude about include:
- The warmth of the sun on their skin
- Good health
- Having friends that were incredibly giving
An example of the type of things people could express negativity about include:
- Work stress and deadlines
- Bad drivers on the road
- Complaining about a meal that wasn’t cooked that well
Typically the first group of people who expressed their gratitude would be much happier when surveyed.
These type of studies clearly show that by being grateful on a consistent basis, you can condition yourself to appreciate what you have and in turn, increase your happiness.
The question is why?
Well, it’s quite simple really – our thoughts have the power to shape our emotions. If we’re constantly thinking of negative things in our lives, we’ll suddenly feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. On the flip side, if we’re focused on the positive aspects of our lives, we can suddenly fill ourselves with optimism.
So the question we should all ask ourselves is, when was the last time you reminded yourself of what you should be grateful for? This could be your family, your friends, your career, your opportunities, your spouse, your favorite office chair or your hilarious conversations with your best friend.
Or it could be something as simple as the seeing the sunshine.
Each and every one of us can easily come up with a list immediately on what we’re grateful for. There are moments, memories, experiences and relationships that can bring smiles to our faces.
So take a moment to reflect on what you’ve been blessed with in your life.
You’ll be happier for it.