Appreciate even the unpleasant moments

Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness.

The Lojong text

As long as you’re focusing on fulfilling your desires, you’re going to end up being miserable. Obsessing over getting what you want and complaining when things don’t go your way is a little absurd after all. So, why do we do this to ourselves?

Your happiness is not limited to what chance happens to send your way. You can reframe your perception at any time and focus on what you can control. Try to create internal strengths like establishing positive thoughts, sound reason and look for wisdom rather than knowledge. It’s one thing to know that you have a problem. It’s an entirely different reality to understand how that problem came to be and what you can do to resolve it.

At any given moment, your actions and choices will be limited by a thousand obstacles beyond your control—wealth, law, strength, time, location, genetics. These are just a few of the obstacles you will face. Your thoughts, however, can be limitless if you train your mind to accept what cannot be changed and to overcome what is possible.

We don’t do that though. We tend to practice escapism rather than mindfulness in our culture. We just can’t seem to enjoy living in the unpleasant moments. We’re strangely more motivated to snap the perfect selfie–to share with strangers on the internet–than we are to risk experiencing the uncomfortableness of reflecting on the quality of our lives.

I think therein lies the crux of the problem. Living in the moment requires you to experience and accept the disappointments and unpleasantness that surround you within any given breath. You experience the passing of time and the consequences of the choices you make. You must experience something in order to appreciate it. So, if we fail to reflect on our decisions and disappointments, is it really a surprise we fail to appreciate life? If we lack the capacity to appreciate living, then where do we expect to find happiness? In death?

Some things are simply outside of your control

There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. – Epictetus, Enchiridion

When we think about Nature, we tend to immediately recognize that some things are simply outside of our control. The weather can change unexpectedly and an earthquake can strike without warning. We may be upset at the outcome of such events, but we would never be upset with ourselves for failing to prevent Nature from disrupting our lives. Nature is just being Nature.

How strange it is that we are not nearly as kind with chance in our daily lives. I think that’s unfortunate. There are many things in our lives that we cannot control, and it would do us well to remember to treat ourselves and others kindly when we experience these setbacks.

Traffic, power blackouts and internet outages are just a few examples of modern inconveniences which remain outside of our control, and still we often allow these interruptions to our convenience disrupt our peace of mind.

What good does it do to stress and complain about the things you cannot change? Just as you cannot change the flow of traffic, you also can’t change the mindset of others. So, why bother being upset about these things?

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the best plans possible in our lives, but it does mean we shouldn’t be upset when things don’t go according to our plans. Nature is unpredictable, and our lives are clearly subject to change without notice.

So, try and remind yourself to be kind and patient. Make it a goal to endure wisely the situations you cannot change. Don’t become another angry voice. What can you do to be the voice of Reason instead?

What Should We Value?

How many things are superfluous we fail to realize until they begin to be wanting; we merely used them not because we needed them but because we had them. And how much do we acquire simply because our neighbours have acquired such things, or because most men possess them!

Seneca

I think we fail to realize how many of our possessions are really pretty extraneous. Our parents and grandparents enjoyed their youth and middle years without many of the conveniences we enjoy today—cellphones, the internet, on demand streaming services, endless varieties of food, Amazon, Google, and now everything is available for delivery straight to your home—the list goes on for quite some time. The point is if we were born in a different era all of these things obviously wouldn’t have mattered. None of them were necessary for our parents to enjoy life and find their place in the world. So, why do you allow them to matter to you?

Have you ever noticed how at one moment we can be enjoying our latest purchase and telling our friends all about some new feature and two minutes later we can suddenly be overwhelmed when we discover something doesn’t go as we planned. Maybe our credit card won’t scan correctly at the checkout line or perhaps we find a ding in our new car’s door. The truth is that many of the things we let exasperate us don’t really matter on their own when we separate what happened from how it impacted our plans.

We’ve given these objects the power to upset us because we lost track of what’s really valuable. We stopped looking for value in ourselves and now we’re left with an unsatisfiable desire for something “more” that can’t be fulfilled by the material world. So, we ignore our feelings and go on buying “more stuff” and being disappointed when everything doesn’t turn out the way we wanted.

The truth is that there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the conveniences and luxuries of the modern world. I mean we all understand that an object can’t be good or bad. An object is just an object after all. It’s a collection of molecules arranged by nature and tempered by men to serve a purpose—nothing more. So we have to look at how we value and use those objects that determines if our decisions add value or inhibit our personal growth and development.

Is our sense of purpose and fulfillment really something we can measure and buy? Why do you work all day—every week—for decades? Is it to afford the latest fashions and gadgets or are you searching for your place in this world? We all have bills to pay, but are we working just to pay those bills or do we use our careers and salaries to help us fulfill a deeper human purpose? I think that’s the unspoken struggle we face. Objects and possessions are tools. How are you using yours? Are you using your resources to improve your mind or to distract it?