More, more, more.
More money. A better job title. A bigger house. A nicer wardrobe. We all want more. It’s human nature, really. Even if you aren’t a restless perfectionist who’s constantly trying to push herself to the next level (I’m blushing and putting my face down on my desk over here), most of us usually aren’t willing to completely stagnate. We all have at least some desire to keep moving forward.
But, let’s face it—living our lives with a ceaseless yearning to constantly get our greedy little paws on more (whether that’s money, fame, or success) can be downright draining. And, if you want to feel even the least bit content on a daily basis, you need to learn to go against the grain and be happy with—gasp!—less.
No, I’m not saying that you need to sell your home, keep only one pair of shoes, and live an extreme minimalist life in a 20-foot trailer (although, more power to you if that sounds like your jam!). However, there’s a lot to be said for finding happiness right where you are—rather than being so obsessed with where you’re going.
Easier said than done, right? Believe me, I’m right there with you. But, learning to feel satisfied with what you already have is definitely doable—it just takes a little conscious thought.
1. Stop Falling Into the Comparison Trap
All too often, I find myself chasing after something not because I actually want it, but because I feel like I should have it. Why? Well, because other people have it.
Comparison has become all too easy today. Like everybody else, I’ll blame that on social media. One minute, I’ll feel accomplished and successful in my career—until I log into LinkedIn and see that a colleague was recently published by The New York Times. I have zero complaints about my cute little house—until I see that one of my Facebook friends has just purchased this ridiculously gorgeous home on a giant wooded lot.
See how easy that trap is to fall into? I won’t even bother getting up on my high horse and preaching to you about this one, because I compare myself to others more frequently than I’d even care to admit—it’s natural.
But, it’s important to remember that someone else’s success isn’t your failure. And, beyond that, you don’t have to have (or even want) everything that other person already has within her grasp. You’re different people with different lives. So, do your best to stay focused on your own path, and forget the rest. In the end, what everyone else is doing has little to no impact on your own success and happiness.
2. Think About Your Reasoning
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with seeking improvement—as long as you have legitimate reasons for doing so. Maybe you want a better job because your current one makes you absolutely miserable. Perhaps you’re chasing after more money, because you find that your family is strapped for cash month after month. Those desires to be better can actually be motivating, and that’s a good thing!
But, if the only reasoning behind your longings are, “I just want it,” you’ve got a little more thinking to do. So, take a magnifying glass to your yearnings to amass more, and determine what exactly is feeding those desires.
If you find that you actually have solid justifications for why you simply can’t feel content and settled with your current circumstances? Well, you’ve lust landed on some awesome inspiration to keep moving forward. However, in contrast, if you discover that you’re only chasing your tail and driving yourself crazy for the sake of bragging rights or keeping up with the Joneses? You know you need to reevaluate and focus your attention on being happy with what you already have.
3. End Each Day Feeling Grateful
“Be happy with what I have?” you’re likely thinking now, “OK, that sounds great, but how exactly do I do that? That’s the hard part!”
You’re right. That is the hard part. And, I’m going to resist the temptation to spout out a bunch of those cliché, “It’s about the journey, not the destination” lines at you. This isn’t a high school commencement speech, after all.
But, do you know why that advice is so popular? Because it’s true. Oftentimes, we can be so laser-focused on what we want, we totally neglect to appreciate what we have. Don’t feel guilty—we all fall victim to this ungrateful attitude.
So, what do I do to try to combat that? Every night, I think of five things from that day that I’m grateful for. Whether it’s my family (my husband and my dog usually end up somewhere close to the top of that list) or a great accomplishment from that workday, I spend some time reflecting on all of the things that made me crack a smile.
It might all sound a little to mushy to you—and I can’t blame you there. But, I promise, it works. This technique pulls your attention off of all of those things that you don’t have and those slipups that didn’t go quite right throughout the day, and instead makes you remember all of the things (both big and small!) that you should appreciate.
Instead of falling asleep obsessing over the career trajectory of my college roommate’s friend, I rest easy thinking about all of the positives in my life. Dozing off while remembering how adorable my dog is? Well, there’s no better way to end the day.
We all want more. And, to some extent, that’s a good thing. But, if you spend every spare moment only thinking about all of the things you don’t have yet, you’re setting yourself up for a life of stress and discontentment.
It’s important to learn to be happy with what you have right now. And, as you now realize, that’s totally possible. Use these tips to feel pleased with where you are at the moment, and you’re sure to feel more satisfied, more fulfilled, and more accomplished on a daily basis. That’s right, you can actually have more with less.
Photo of happy man courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author