Loving The Life You Have, Not The One You Think You Want

Loving The Life You Have, Not The One You Think You Want

grass-is-greener
Photo by Andréia

By Ali Hale

Do you love your life? Or do you sometimes feel dissatisfied, certain that you’d be a lot happier if you had a bigger home, better relationships, more money, exciting leisure activities, the respect of your peers…

So many of us keep striving for happiness, convincing ourselves that a new computer game or outfit, a pay rise or a vacation, will somehow bring us closer. Many of us equate happiness with success – and success with money. But plenty of rich people aren’t happy.

On the other hand, you’ll often find people who seem to remain happy, cheerful and positive against all the odds. Perhaps they suffer long-term health problems, or they have little cash to spare for non-essentials, or life has dealt them some nasty blows … but they’re always smiling, and they’re uplifting to be around.

So how can you start loving the life you have, rather than making yourself miserable striving for one that you don’t?

Ditch “Grass is Greener” Thinking

“While the grass may be greener, often it’s AstroTurf®, and all you get is rug burn.” – Ed Weller, Is The Grass Greener On The Other Side Of The Fence?, StickyMinds.com

Many of us have a tendency to think that other people have it better – or that our current circumstances aren’t as good as they were in the past. I’ll confess to this myself: far too many times over the past couple of years, I’ve wished that I could be an undergraduate student again! I had a lot of friends around me, I had lots of free time, and although I didn’t have much cash, most of it was fairly “disposable” – I didn’t have any financial worries.

Of course, I know that I’m forgetting the downsides of being an undergraduate student: like very basic accommodation (having a freezer and an oven makes cooking much more fun now!) And I’m ignoring the internals, like my much greater self-discipline and focus now.

Do you find yourself thinking anything like this?

  • I wish I had my old job, where my work was easier (even though the pay was low)
  • I wish I was an employee still, not a freelancer; I miss a salary (even though I don’t miss commuting and boring meetings)
  • I wish I had a partner, I’m lonely (even though I have more time to myself)

Recognize that the grass will often seem greener on the other side. Rather than concentrating on what you miss from a previous situation, or on what your friends or colleagues have that you don’t, think about what you do have…

Making A List

One great way to focus on all the good things in your life is to simply list them. Grab a piece of paper (or write it in an email to yourself if you don’t have pen and paper handy), and jot down five things that you love about your life. These could be big or small. If you’re really stuck getting started, try checking some of the boxes on this ready-made gratitude list.

Another way to do this is to write down good things that have happened during the past day or week. Perhaps you had a great conversation with a friend, or you saw a wonderful film at the cinema. Maybe you had some time to read a novel for once. Perhaps you got praised at work for a project you’d successfully completed.

Once you’ve figured out some of the great things that are present in your life, make a conscious effort to include these more often.

Stop Buying More Stuff

Most of us have a lot of physical stuff – from furniture to DVDs to clothes. Big companies (who make stuff) and the media (who make money through companies advertising stuff) have a very strong interest in convincing us to buy, buy, buy.

Please give this some serious thought: how often does buying something make you happier? It might give you a brief boost of pleasure – but does it make any real difference to your contentedness with your life? Is a new dress, computer game, kettle or sofa really going to improve your life?

If – like most of us – you have a lot of stuff that’s just sitting in cupboards and closets, start clearing some of it out. If you don’t use it, get rid of it: donate it to charity if you can, or recycle it. Living in a cluttered environment, especially one which induces guilt because you’re surrounded by things you’re not making good use of,  will drag your mood down.

And rather than buying more, make the most of some old favourites that have been forgotten. Here’s just a few ideas that work for me:

  • Dust off your recipe books and find some new dishes to try
  • Dig to the back of your closet and wear something you’ve not worn in a while
  • Play old computer games and revel in nostalgia, rather than spending $40 on a new game
  • Scour your bookshelves for those books you bought and never got round to reading, and finish them before buying any new books

So, let me ask you again: do you love your life? Why not use the comments section to tell us some of the best things in your life? And if you’ve got any tips on making the most of what you have and being happy with it, let us know those too!

Ali Luke

Ali writes about personal growth and development on her blog, Aliventures. As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.

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29 Comments

  1. After reading ‘The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari’ I’ve started beginning my days for saying the things I’m grateful for and the position that I’m in. I know it’s a fable but that book holds some great lessons for each of us.

    Can’t disagree with a word you’ve said Ali, great post!

    Stumbled!

    Cheers,
    Glen

    Reply
    • That’s a good tip Glen! I often do the opposite; I think about the things I am grateful for just as I am falling asleep. I find it helps me sleep better :)

      Reply
  2. Nice post Ali. Gratitude is one of the most powerful things in life! Do you want to lead a happy life? Be grateful. Do you want to experience little miracles every day? Be grateful and look around you. Express more gratitude to others and you will experience deeper relationships.

    I feel like I can do ANYTHING in my life and I am grateful that I am in a position to feel this way…thanks to my health, parents, democracy I live in, possibilities we have in 21st century.

    Reply
    • Thanks Rudolf! I know exactly what you mean with the “I can do ANYTHING” feeling … I too feel very fortunate to have so many opportunities in life. I’ve always felt that if I really put my mind to something and worked hard at it, I can do it.

      The tricky thing is settling on the things I do want to do (and not trying to cram in everything at once!)

      Reply
  3. Love what you have to say. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for about 7 years. I appreciate each day and all moments in it. My life wasn’t easy when I was young and raising my family, but it was sweet and filled with joy.

    My husband and I have been married 37 years and are great friends. I’m training for a half marathon and learning to golf as well. Life is what you make it and we’ve made ours very good!

    Reply
  4. Ali, you write really well! Like Glen, I’ve read the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and was deeply touched. Like Tess, I have a gratitude journal where I write 5 things I’m grateful for every day. These little daily habits help me love my life.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for this post. One thing I’ve noticed is that my favorite moments in life come when my thoughts and the space I’m in are completely quiet, and I can achieve that regardless of what material things are or aren’t in my life. One irony is that I think many of us are trying to achieve that through acquiring material things — thinking “if I have all the money in the world, I’ll be able to relax and be quiet.”

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  6. I often wish I was still travelling in america, especially when its the middle of the work week and life is feeling mundane. But then I force myself to take off the rose-tinted glasses and remember what life travelling is really like – basic, tiring and no money! I had a blast but I have to rmeind myself, I was also living in a basement with 13 people, sharing a tiny room with 2 other girls (one who was a serious nut job) and worked 13 hours a day thru camp america. Its often not as good as our memories tell us! So, I sometimes am guilty of thinking the grass is greener in other walks of life, but all I really need I have!

    Reply
  7. This is such basic, simple and obvious common sense Ali, how come more people don’t follow it?

    It’s a rhetorical question because I’m not even sure there is an answer.

    @curiousjessica _ LOL. When people tell me they like traveling I always say “Do you mean you like going on vacation? Because 95% of the time the actual traveling bit sucks!”

    Reply
  8. Thank you, Ali….contentment is a wondrous blessing.
    I heard it heard about a study that showed that within a year or two most people return to their ‘set point’ (most common level of) happiness after either a severe misfortune or considerable good fortune. We can, however, alter that set point (for the long term) via centering (eg meditation) or adjusting our thinking–with just the kind or perspective you are offering.
    blessings and continued inspiration,
    CG

    Reply
  9. What a fantastic article. When we start to love the things we want, we set ourselves up for a life of working towards achieving materials, rather than working towards achieving a life of experience and substance. Sometimes we all need a reminder to slow down and smell the roses. Great stuff!

    Reply
  10. Hi Ali,

    Those who are not satisfied are always thinking about what they can at the other side of the fence but the truth is no matter which side they are, the grass is always greener on the other side. The only way to conquer this is to change our attitude and be grateful of what we have at the present. I had written an article, why the grass is always greener on the other side and I hope to share it with other readers.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

    Reply
  11. Just wanted to thank everyone for the comments – it’s great to know I’ve struck a chord!

    @Tim – If everyone followed basic, simple, good advice … we’d all be a heck of a lot happier!

    @curiousjessica – It’s interesting how we remember the good bits, isn’t it? I often forget how much more money I have now than I did as an undergraduate student…

    @CG Walters – Yes, I’ve heard that about the “set point” – I think perhaps it explains why some people seem to rise above awful circumstances, whereas others are constantly seeking the next thrill (and then ending up feeling empty).

    Reply
  12. Hi Ali, My favorite is the first point : Ditch “Grass is Greener” Thinking. I absolutely agree with your idea.
    If we always compare what we have with what others have, we will never be satisfied, then we will never be happy.
    Thanks for sharing, Ali. :)

    Reply
  13. Nice post :)
    i think this happens because people have their Ego’s connected with success or money, i don’t think they care about success or money as much as they care about proving that they can get both

    Reply
  14. Hi Ali,

    I do agree that plenty of rich people aren’t happy. But think about it this way:

    You can be poor and happy. And you can also be rich and happy. Which would you choose?

    I’d choose the latter rather than the former.

    Cheers~

    Mark

    Reply
  15. Lovely article!

    It’s very interesting how our mind works. Because it’s not just that we think another job, or another partner, or another city would be better. If we investigate our every-day thoughts, we rarely rest in the moment we are in. For example, we’re in the shower and imagine what we’re going to have for breakfast. Then we’re eating breakfast, and we’re thinking about what our work day will hold. We’re hardly ever present.

    So, my sense is that in order to overcome ‘grass-is-greener’ thoughts, it’s not enough to cultivate gratitude – we also need to practice being in the moment. Meditation is a great way to practice that!

    Reply
  16. I wake up and fall asleep with thoughts of gratitude. I agree with finding happiness in where you are, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting more. Life is about growing and changing. I think it’s the reason behind the wanting that can be the problem. Most people want things out of a lack of something but they never really look into it . What would that new car bring you? Confidence? Validation? A sense of accomplishment? Then there’s the flip side where you want money so all your needs are met so you can help other people in need. I don’t think it’s healthy to feed the hungry on an empty stomach. You may don’t need much to help others but you can give more of yourself if you’re not lacking or in need.

    However if can appreciate a penny, a you’ll never take a dollar for granted. Just my two cents.

    Reply
  17. I forgot to mention this was a great article. You can’t be reminded enough to be grateful for what you have and for life itself. :) Peace

    Reply
  18. Lovely, lovely…as always….
    cheers!
    Good day!

    Reply
  19. Every person is exactly where he or she is meant to be. Choosing to love the life you have is a step toward realizing it is the life you want but temporarily forgot the “why.”

    Reply
  20. I know plenty of rich people that are a heck of a lot happier than many poor people who struggle just to keep food on the table or the lights on or the car running. The wealthy people I know are the kindest of all the people I know. They have the ability to focus on helping others because they are not bogged down by the day to day grind of making a living. And what exactly is wrong with “taking care of your kids and exercising”. Do you think sitting around reading a book and being broke is what happiness is all about? Money is neutral. It’s like a brick. I can build a building with it, or break someones window with it. It’s not the bricks fault what gets done with it. Money is no different. If a person is of poor character they will use their money in selfish and irresponsible ways and be unhappy as a result. If a person is of good character they will use their money for good. It has nothing to do with being wealthy making you unhappy. Everything is a “crisis” when you lack money. However, much of life’s problems will leave you alone when you have money.
    Yes, we should be grateful for all and whatever we have, but to say being wealthy makes you unhappy makes no sense. The best things in life are free but they just don’t seem to understand that at the grocery store or gas station.

    Reply
    • i agree – money is like time and it’s value depends on how you use it, and when at a minimum it can cause stress

      Reply
  21. Great article Ali! I noticed the Vancouver Sun quote, and started to wonder if your a Vancouverite like me? Because if you a Canucks fan, well then I like the article even more.
    Cheers
    Jonathan

    Reply
    • Hey Jonathan,

      Ali lives in London, but I live in Vancouver (although I’m originally from Australia). Looking forward to the game tonight – Go Canucks! :)

      Reply
  22. Hi Ali
    I love your post,it’s not only really well written,but also, as you said , you struck a chord.Being grateful gives us peace and joy .It’s true that when you don’t have enough money, you live in crisis, but I think that we don’t have to put value outside (money), and find the real power inside us and within the people we love.It’s about us, not about the situation we are in.Our grass would be greener if we compare it with others in a worse situation, so it’s how we see it.

    Reply
  23. Usually, I do love my life and can recognize all the wonderful things I have going for me…. Just need to find a way to keep those thoughts at the forefront of my mind, since I am also susceptible to having an all-consuming jealousy and overprotectiveness in my relationship…. even though the relationship itself would be great if it were’t for my jealousy, let alone the fact that my entire life is a blessing, or that I would also be really happy as a single person. I baffle myself!

    Reply
  24. It’s often too easy to forget how great your life is and what makes it so great. Thank you for the uplifting post.

    Reply
  25. Nothing wise to say except, Thank You. Everything you suggested, I have wanted to do. Read a good book, spend time with my kids and husband, cook really yummy food, do a wonderful job at work. I love my life. Hard to remember sometimes when you think it could be better in another space. I truly am thankful for all of my blessings.

    Reply

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