Wanting or having?
In his book, Don’t sweat the small stuff, Richard Carlson has a chapter entitled, “Think of what you have instead of what you want.” During a period of time when Carlson was working as a “stress consultant”, he observed that “...one of the most pervasive and destructive tendencies” he saw in clients was their desire to focus on things they wanted to have, instead of realizing things they already had.
He believed, as he writes: “It doesn’t seem to make any difference how much we have; we just keep expanding our list of desires, which guarantees we will remain dissatisfied. The mind-set that says ‘I’ll be happy when this desire is fulfilled is the same mindset that will repeat itself once that desire is met’.”
Carlson tells about a friend of his who had just purchased a new home. But the next time he met him, a short time later, the friend was talking about the next home he was going to buy that was going to be even bigger.
Says Carlson, “Most of us do the very same thing. We want this or that. If we don’t get what we want, we keep thinking about all that we don’t have - and we remain dissatisfied. If we do get what we want, we simply re-create the same thinking in our new circumstances. So, despite getting what we want, we still remain unhappy. Happiness can’t be found when we are yearning for new desires.”
Carlson believes that we need to change our thinking. He gives several examples. “Rather than wishing your spouse were different, try thinking about her wonderful qualities. Instead of complaining about your salary, be grateful that you have a job. Rather than wishing you were able to take a vacation to Hawaii, think of how much fun you have had close to home. The list of possibilities is endless!
“Each time you notice yourself falling into the ‘I wish life were different’ trap, back off and start over. Take a breath and remember all that you have to be grateful for.”
I have often thought of the number of people who buy lottery tickets. Maybe some people buy tickets in the hope that winning will get them out of poverty. But many people I talk to - who buy lottery tickets- are already living comfortably; but they want more comforts.
As Carlson closes his chapter, he writes: “Make a note to yourself to start thinking more about what you have than what you want. If you do, your life will start appearing much better than before. For perhaps the first time in your life, you’ll know what it means to feel satisfied.” May it be so for us! Harvie Barker is a Penticton resident and writer of inspirational messages.