When you look back at your life someday, what do you want to see? You can probably already answer this question by simply observing what you’re currently obsessing over: Success in the workplace; a fat bank account; a big wedding; a dream home. But are the big dreams you’re chasing so ferociously today the things that will really matter most throughout your life?
It matters that when life doesn’t go your way, you can be grateful and content instead of always running faster or chasing harder.
We all have things we give power to that, in reality, have very little ability to help us live a happy and fulfilled life. “If only ______ were different,” we tell ourselves, and “Once I achieve _____ I’ll be satisfied.” The problem is, we often rob ourselves of the ability to be happy, that is until we think we achieve X, Y, or Z.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be so money, status, or power hungry that I miss out on the things that really matter. Yes, I want success in the workplace—to feel I contributed value to the world. (Of course, I’d love a bod like Gisele and a brain like Marissa Mayer, too.) But what I really want is deep—and I don’t want to become so obsessed with perfecting my resume or my abs that I lose sight of what matters, of who matters.
Do you even realize that your life is happening right now? Beautiful moments are unfolding right in front of you every single day. But we’re often so busy trying to chase some unattainable perception of perfection that we miss all the good stuff.
I’ve been guilty of obsessing with a number on the scale or how I think I look in a bathing suit. And it pains me to think of how many amazing memories I would have missed (like learning to waterski or going skinny-dipping with my friends) if I had given into the fear that someone would notice my cellulite.
And you know all the times I answered work emails on vacation? I wonder how often I could have been laughing by the beach with my friends, drinking beer and eating fresh salty shrimp instead. Or how many times a bad day at work made me walk right past a gorgeous sunset or a smiling, drooling dog without notice.
When hard times hit, I don’t want to be so consumed by my own difficulties that I can’t stop and smile.
I think it is high time we stop letting the the hard moments rob us of the incredible ones.
After I went through a breakup last year, I was exhausted by my own misery. And then I decided I was ready for something besides my own sadness so I went to a girlfriend’s house where we drank wine, had a handstand contest, and laughed until we cried. And it was wonderful—but I almost missed it because I was wallowing.
I’m not saying that we can’t care about things that are important—certain areas in our lives are going to hold more significance than others. But when life doesn’t go your way (and it won’t always, because life is full of plot-twists and the unexpected), be grateful and content instead of always running faster or chasing harder. Life is full of disappointing moments: Your career may let you down, someone you love and trust may let you down. But there is always good to be found.
So how can you stop and smell the roses along the way as you work toward putting together, well, your life?
For you, that might mean stopping to appreciate the endorphin rush you feel after a run (even if you still have a ways to go before you’re ready to run a marathon). Or maybe you start celebrating the successful completion of each project at work instead of waiting for that promotion to pop some bubbly. Or maybe you just unplug from technology on the reg so you can make a conscious effort to recognize all the blessings in your life without any distractions.
Contentment looks different to everyone, but there is always good to be found. And if we’re always chasing what is next, we’re going to lose the chance to see so much beauty along the way. So whatever this looks like for you, pause and look around—I hope you don’t miss it.