You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Oddly enough, it appears I’ve now turned into one of those "old people" and I realise I’ve likely lived more than half of my life. That can be a sobering thought, but it’s also a great opportunity to take some time to reflect on what’s been, what I’ve I achieved and ask, "do I have everything I want in life?"
That last question leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Do I have everything I want in life? Probably not and asking if you have everything you want only sets you up to focus on the things you don’t have. For some reason those things are often material goods.
As Stephen Guise, author, blogger and entrepreneur, says: "When you ask someone if they have everything they want, you ask them to search for and focus on incomplete areas in their lives. It’s like asking someone what’s wrong with their thighs. Before you asked that question, they weren’t thinking about their thighs. They had no problem with their thighs. But now they are scrutinising their thighs and are sure to find something they dislike!"
If we focus on what’s missing or wrong, it’s a short step on to the "hedonic treadmill", a dastardly device that ultimately goes nowhere. You get on and you run as fast as you can to get the things that you want. You get some, but you risk seeing more on the horizon, bigger, shinier, better, more interesting. And so on it goes.
The hedonic treadmill has had you running, but you’ve not actually moved forward. Sure there are pleasurable events along the way but the short, addictive dopamine hit that comes from attaining new stuff needs to be constantly topped up. That’s not sustainable emotionally, physically or environmentally. Not only are we wearing ourselves out, we are wearing our planet out as well.
Perhaps it’s time to re-frame our thinking. Turn the question around, ask "Do I want what I have?"
This changes the focus from a view of what’s missing to view of what you already have, a subtle but powerful shift. This gives you the opportunity to acknowledge what you have and to express gratitude and satisfaction, a long-term emotional reward system.
Of course, our lives are made up of many parts, and we may be really satisfied with some aspects and not others.
Guise states it well: "Let’s start with your life. You are unhappy with [complaints go here]. We have this long list of negatives now, but like a good photographer, we are going to use new angles and a zoom lens to see something different. By zooming in on your situation and zooming out on the world’s situation, you can find some hidden blessings that your brain has dismissed as normal."
He gives the example of safe drinking water. The World Health Organisation says that one in three people don’t have access to safe drinking water. Many people die from drinking unsafe water and every minute of every day a newborn dies because of contaminated water. He points out that many people want exactly what you already have.
Of course, take what action you can to change the things you want to change, nothing will change unless you do something differently. Regardless of where you find yourself now, there are still good things to acknowledge and embrace. Forget the hedonic treadmill, you can want what you have now. It doesn’t prevent you from getting even more things you want, it simply allows you to enjoy what you already have.
Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.
For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.