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I think most people have the idea that if the way to be happy was simple and easily accessible, then everyone would be happy. There wouldn't be so many unhappy people in the world. And we certainly wouldn't be unhappy. And so we have this idea that whatever that is, that method, that philosophy, that skill, or whatever it might be, must be a secret. Because otherwise everyone would be applying it in their lives.
But the reality is that there really is no secret to happiness. And it is actually very simple. And perhaps the problem is that it's so simple that we tend to overlook it or even disregard or reject it.
I think that we are so complicated in our way of thinking that we can't accept the simplicity of it. We tend to over-complicate everything, and we do the same thing when it comes to happiness. But the thing is, it's really just very simple.
When we talk about happiness, what we're really talking about is contentment. And contentment means to be satisfied. And not that you have to do anything to be satisfied other than to accept and appreciate where you are and what you already have. And that's it. It's that simple. That's really what satisfaction is.
But it's our unwillingness to do that that makes it so complicated. It's our initial dissatisfaction which causes our unhappiness in the first place. So if you want to be happy, simply appreciate what you already have.
But people say, “I don't wanna do that because what I have is imperfect or flawed,” or “I don't have enough,” or “there's something missing.” Or, “I'm not gonna be happy until I have this thing or that thing, or until my circumstances change in this particular way.” That's the way we think. And that's why we're not happy. We want to be happy, but we keep postponing it for when the circumstances are just right. And in the meantime we can't just appreciate where we are and what we have.
We think we'll happy when all of that changes. And unfortunately for most of us, our circumstances don't change much. It's just wishful thinking. But there are people who do change their circumstances, who achieve and acquire things, thinking that it's going to make them happy. There are people who are very ambitious, who take initiative to engage in all kinds of pleasurable experiences or accumulate riches, or become famous and so on.
And initially those kinds of things bring some enjoyment, but that enjoyment is temporary. And most of those people find themselves in a situation where, having acquired all the things they had wanted, they don't find it fulfilling after some time. It's no longer satisfying. Or it's still not enough, and so you have to keep acquiring more.
But really it's not about the circumstances. It's about our mindset, our attitude. And if our attitude is one of dissatisfaction and depreciation, the inability to appreciate our circumstances as they are, then even when our circumstances change we take that mindset with us into that situation, and we'll find things about those new circumstances to be dissatisfied about.
It's really that mindset which is the reason why we're so unhappy in the first place. So it's not a secret at all. It's really very simple. It's just that we don't want to accept that. We're so stuck on the idea that happiness depends on circumstance, on external factors, what we have or don't have.
But the reality is this; if you can't be satisfied right now with what you currently have, you won't be satisfied in any situation. Because satisfaction has nothing to do with the situation. It has to do with our own perception, with how we perceive the situation.
Currently most of us operate from a perspective of looking for flaws, looking for problems, looking for what's missing and so on. And it's a deeply conditioned habit of thinking. And we imagine that if we could adjust our circumstances in such a way as to resolve those flaws and to acquire what seems to be missing and so on, then that wouldn't be an issue. But if we have that habit of looking for flaws and imperfections and so on, then we'll always be looking for flaws and imperfections, and we will always find them, no matter what the circumstances. Because there's always going to be something we can find to complain about.
So really, what is needed is a shift in perspective, right here, right now, from trying to find everything that's flawed, everything that's missing, all the things we can be dissatisfied with, and instead looking for all the things we can appreciate about the situation, everything we can be grateful for. And there is plenty that we can be grateful for. We're just not acknowledging it.
And I know there are some of you out there, reading this right now, and you're thinking, “Yeah, but you don't know how bad I have it. You don't know how terrible my situation is. I've got all these problems. I don't have this or that.”
But see, that's exactly the attitude I'm talking about. If you're focusing all of your attention on what's missing or what's difficult or what's flawed and so on then you're not going to see what's positive about the situation. You're not going to see the opportunities. You're not going to take advantage of what's available to you. And I'm not saying that you ignore all of the negative aspects or pretend that everything is perfect, but we can be so focused on the negatives that we're blinded to the positives.
The reality is that no situation is perfect. There's always some positive and some negative. But the question is where do you put most of your attention? Because that's what's going to determine your over all emotional state; not the circumstances themselves, but whether we're focused primarily on the positive or the negative.
And initially it can be challenging to shift perspective because it's so habitual to focus primarily on the negative. We tend to imagine how much better our situation could be, which causes us to feel deeply dissatisfied. So one thing we can do to adjust our perspective is to imagine how much worse our situation could be. And this is something you want to get into a habit of doing when you catch yourself complaining about life. Just stop for a moment and consider how much worse it could be. And simply be grateful that it isn't.
Oftentimes it's the simplest things we take for granted, having a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in, eyes to see and legs to walk on. Things like that we take for granted every day.
So be grateful for what you have, because there are people out there who don't have what you have. And I guarantee that no matter how horrible you think your life is, there's somebody out there who wishes they had it as good as you do. And if they came into the same circumstances as you they would be so grateful. They would be so appreciative. And they would be so happy to be in your position.
So this is the so-called secret of happiness; appreciate what you already have and be grateful.