We humans are hardwired to be in a constant state of dissatisfaction. What we have is never enough. Once we attain something, we want something else. This design of constant craving clearly had evolutionary advantages. Imagine being a long-past hunter-gatherer who was truly present in the moment and grateful for her current state of abundance one summer. Come winter, her peers who felt they never had enough would have socked in loads of extras, while she would have missed the opportunity to stock up during the time of plentitude.
This trait of always wanting is connected to how our bodies are wired to not feel full until 20 minutes after we are sated. Why in the world would we have evolved to overeat if not to take advantage of food while it was available even if it was more than we needed at that moment in time?
These days, we experience this aspect of evolution as dissatisfaction, which doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. It can give us the drive or motivation to make positive changes. Even if things in our lives are going pretty well, we're always wanting something to be different. Whether it is food or material positions or work or family, it is very hard for us to be content with what we've got.
I gave some tips for creating successful New Year’s resolutions in my December newsletter. (Check it out here, and be sure to sign up for my mailing list so that you won’t miss a single issue of future editions!) For today’s post, I want to offer a few other thoughts about living the life you deserve. We all just want to be happy. All of our striving for whatever it is that we think we want is because we think it will take us one step closer to being happy. Consider the following as stepping stones on your journey to the life you want to be living.
Have and hold the vision. What do you want your future life to look and feel like? What will you be doing? With whom? How will it make you feel? You need to know where you are headed before you can set out on the road to get there.
Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, for your future self say “I am fit and healthy,” and not “I’m not sick and tired anymore.” We get what we focus on, so keep it positive.
Money won’t make you happy. Research shows that lottery winners revert to their former level of happiness within a year’s time. Focus on a vision of your future self that is about how you feel, not about what you have.
It’s about flow and meaning too. Research also shows that in addition to having a pleasant and fun life, you also need to have activities that challenge and absorb you (called flow), and you need to feel like you are making a difference in the world. Figure out what gives you flow and where you feel you can contribute to the greater good, and make time for these activities on a regular basis.
Take inspired action. Now that you have the vision of your future self, set out on the path of making the vision a reality. Keep your eyes open for possibilities. You never know when you might meet your next collaborator or find your next source of inspiration.
Make time for gratitude. This one is surprisingly hard for me to remember. Take time to appreciate all of the good things in your life right now. Happiness happens in the present, and being grateful for what you’ve got right now can buoy you and carry you along on your journey.
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