Simple mathematics is the key to happiness. Who knew? *
Your child was killed in a freak accident today. It’s a shame you had to find out so coldly and matter-of-factly, but I had no other way of contacting you because your phone’s out of order from the storm damage and I couldn’t even drive over to your house because the roads are impassable as a result of the earthquake. I am so sorry to bring this bad news when you’re so gravely ill and not even able to get treatment because you have no health insurance since you lost your job.
Of course, none of this is true. But before you disregard my little fictitious scenario, take a minute to enter in and consider what might have been but wasn’t. Are your children healthy and safe today? Then imagine a scene where you’re sitting by your son’s hospital bed as the attending physician gravely apprises you of the dire prognosis. Feel, for just a moment, the agony and grief as you touch your daughter’s cold, lifeless body just before the casket is closed on all your hopes and dreams. See yourself curled up in the fetal position unable to pick your head up off your tear-stained pillow for days.
Now…..come back to reality and give thanks for the blessings of what you did not experience today. Like hours of frustration and anxiety when your computer crashes and you didn’t back up your work. Like a broken back from missing that step going out to the mailbox. Or like losing traction on a slippery roadway and slamming into an oncoming vehicle, killing one or more of its occupants.
If we, like George Bailey or Ebeneezer Scrooge, could see not what the future holds, but what the present is not but could be, we might find ourselves as deliriously happy as they eventually were, and that without any of their circumstances changing one bit.
Counting your blessings is the key to happiness, and it’s something our grandparents understood. But it seems to me that as the median income in the United States goes up, and as more and more new gadgets and comforts become available, and medical discoveries and technology promise increasingly longer lives and better health, we’ve shifted from counting the blessings we have to those we want but don’t have. Which leads to disappointment and depression. Because we think we have a right to them.
It’s said that we never really appreciate what we have until it’s gone. What if we could train ourselves to appreciate what we have while we still have it by not taking for granted the blessings that the things we hold dear are to us, and even by not considering them our rights? Perceived rights conceive clear expectations which when go unmet, as is often the case, give birth to unhappiness and discontent. And in a rights-oriented society like we have in the United States, this adds up to an explosion of dissatisfaction, grumbling, and bitterness.
A change in perspective would go a long way towards a change in attitude, leading to greater happiness and satisfaction.
Change. Old Scrooge loved to count his money before he saw the light. We need to learn to count our blessings like they’re gold, instead of just a pocketful of worthless change.
* This is a repost from September, 2012.