November is here and with it an opportunity to once again reflect on what it is that makes us thankful. What comes to mind when you start your mental list? Is it your job, your health, your family, your friends, your accomplishments, your wealth, or your fame? For each of us the answers vary. For some, the lists are quite long, while others may have a hard time coming up with just one answer.
We live in a world that often uses “stuff” to measure our happiness and gratitude. We focus more on what we don’t have than what we do have. Those of us with an iPhone 4 are now several updates out of the loop and think, “How can I be grateful for my iPhone 4 when I should have the iPhone 6?” And just imagine how someone with flip phone—or no phone at all—must feel! Unfortunately, it is not the American way to celebrate what we have—a mindset that would work against the goals of the marketing campaigns constantly reminding us of what we need, must have, can’t live without!
Our approach to “stuff” can quickly be shifted to our feelings about our “self,” such as who we are and what we look like. We can’t celebrate our size 12 when the runway tells us we should be a size 4. We can’t celebrate the journey of life that’s left beautiful wrinkles in its wake; rather, we should consider Botox or Retin A. We can’t whistle a happy tune while buffing our bald heads, we should contact the specialists at Hairclub for Men and get our Rogaine. We can’t celebrate the natural ebb and flow of sexuality, we should install two bathtubs in our backyard and take the little blue pill. We can’t celebrate a feeling of contentment with life, we should continue to strive for more awards, more prestige, more money.
An “it’s not enough” way of thinking can also dramatically affect our relationships. Rather than celebrate a marriage that has navigated years together, we trade in contentment for someone new and exciting with a simple “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” Rather than enjoy moments with our children and celebrate each new phase of their development, we pray that each phase will be overand wish for the day when the kids will be gone. Rather than pursue moments with our elderly parents to hear the wisdom they might share, we are blinded by frustration each time they repeat the same story they told us the last time we talked. Instead of cultivating our friendships, we choose to guard ourselves and stay distant to avoid being hurt or ignored.
Being “in the moment” is a lost art. We are overwhelmed with emails, texts, tweets, and Facebook posts which leave us with a false sense of connection. Online gaming has replaced the joy of a neighborhood pick-up basketball game. Reality television has replaced the joy of sitting outside and watching the sunset. The more we have, the more we want, and the more we “need.” Take time this November to be focused on what is. Slow down and choose to connect with someone over coffee rather than through a five-second text conversation. Give yourself time and permission to celebrate what is and you may just be surprised with how fast your list of “thanks” fills up!