I recently caught myself experiencing an interesting phenomenon. But first, some background information. For the last two years, I have been pushing myself to work harder and more efficiently than I have in the 23 years before that. Things started to finally fall into place so I thought there is no better time to push than when I already have some momentum going. To be honest, I am impressed with what I have been able to accomplish in the past two years — not necessarily because I’ve accomplished feats that others before me have been unable to accomplish, but because of the progress and growth that I have made personally.
Nevertheless, most recently I have been unappreciative of my accomplishments. I have crossed off many smaller goals along the way, but the largest goals have yet to be reached. The interesting thing is that although I have managed to accomplish a great deal, I don’t feel as if I have accomplished something. I know that I’ve done so much, yet I don’t appreciate the accomplishments that I’ve made and instead focus on the fact that I have not yet reached my ultimate goal — and it’s depressing.
Not appreciating what you’ve accomplished or what you have is commonplace among our generation. Generally speaking, it’s a phenomenon that all human beings experience from time to time, if not regularly. I mean hell, we had to create a holiday in order to remind ourselves to be thankful for what we have. Not appreciating or underappreciating what we have is just as much of a poor habit as it is a curse.
Think about it this way: what other way is there to be happy other than to appreciate the experiences that you have, the people in your life and the memories? Simply experiencing, doing, buying, consuming, sharing, talking, living isn’t enough to be happy. It’s not the sensations themselves that bring us prolonged happiness — it’s the way that we think about and view these things, the way that we appreciate them that brings us joy.
This is why the fast-paced lifestyles that most of our generation leads is going to be a passing fad. Likely a fad that will be re-instilled in coming generations, but I do believe that as we grow older and wiser, we will inevitably slow down of our own will. There’s only so many things that you can do and buy before you realize that such things in themselves won’t make you happy.
We can’t go on doing our best to overload our senses indefinitely — we will either slow down and learn to appreciate the things that matter, the things that we already have and have accomplished, or we will be miserable for all eternity. Focusing your thoughts on nothing other than future endeavors and future experiences, goals and dreams, will lead to you working towards a new goal until the day you die. And then on your deathbed, you will look back and regret not taking the time to enjoy any of it.
You can’t take your life experiences, memories or material possessions with you to your grave. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s it. Lights out. Curtain drops. It’s actually quite frightening if you think about it. It’s possible — and there surely have been people in such a situation — to live an entire lifetime without appreciating anything along the way; it’s possible never to take the time to appreciate your significant other, to appreciate the things that you have accomplished, to appreciate your friends and family, to appreciate all the good times that you had.
To smell the roses, sort of speak. What makes good times good times is going back and revisiting those memories. Thinking about the experiences that you have had, the people you know and love, even the things you own, in a positive light. Generation-Y’s whole fascination with YOLO and living in the moment has a huge flaw: human beings aren’t meant to live solely in the moment. Nor solely focused on the future. What makes our lives worthwhile is looking back and appreciating our past.
This, however, is easier said than done. There is just so much that we want out of life that we don’t think that we have the time to bother with anything that isn’t in the present or future. We want progress. We want change, growth. There’s almost a fear that if we were to stop moving, we’d stop living. It’s actually the contrary; not until we learn to stop moving can we start living. So how do we learn to slow down and appreciate what we already have? You’d think that we’d be naturally inclined to such a way of thinking, but for the majority of people — especially amongst our generation — it isn’t so.
As the saying goes, you won’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. As human beings, we respond to changes in our environment, not the environment itself. Our brains have been programmed over millennia to pick up on and process things that move and change and to ignore the things that are stagnant or part of our background.
This helps us focus on the things that are most important to our safety and our needs. Although we notice when something first appears, we quickly forget about it after it has been part of our environment for a longer period of time unchangingly. Also, just as we notice when something enters our lives, we also notice when something is removed from our lives, our environment.
And this is the key. If you want to learn to appreciate what you already have then you must use your imagination and ponder upon your life without it. How would your life be if the things you don’t appreciate, don’t pay attention to, were taken away from you forever? How about one step further: how would your life be if those things, experiences, people never became a part of your life, your history.
What kind of person would you be? How would you feel? Would not having it make you want it? Make you appreciate it? Take some time not only to think, but to write down how you imagine your life to be if some of the things you know you underappreciate disappeared from your life. Really consider the emotions that you would experience, your day-to-day living, your overall happiness or lack of, and your life as a whole.
Do these things make your life better? Do they add to your life and serve a purpose? Should you appreciate them more and pay them more mind? Do yourself a favor and give this a try. It won’t take long and it won’t hurt. If anything, you will be left with a better, clearer perspective on life and what is important.