Big Picture

Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

nobody is happy

Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy.

Think about how lucky you are to even be reading this blog post, scientists estimate the odds of you being born are about 400 Trillion to 1. So many small events had to go in your favor just for you to be born. My mom was born in Alabama, and my dad in Delaware, how lucky am I that they somehow both ended up in the same small town in Virginia? If one of my grandparents decided to take a job in another state, or not move at all, I would have never existed. That’s just going back two generations, the farther up you go on your family tree the crazier it seems. The unlikelihood of our existence seems to slip our mind whenever we focus on our day to day issues.

Not only have we won the birth lottery, the chances are if you’re reading this you were born into a developed country. You have access to any education you desire, and the freedom to make whatever decisions you want. Coupled with this freedom we also have a longer life expectancy than any generation in the history of human life. You will live longer than your ancestors, have more freedom and equality, and technology has given you the tools to create the life you deserve. The American Dream was previously thought to be if you work hard, you’ll get a steady job and move up the socio-economic ladder. The real American Dream is having technology that allows you to be your own boss, connect with anyone in the world, and make money from your living room. Last week I sent an email with my blog post to one of my idols, Seth Godin. Within the hour he had read my article and sent me a note back, that’s the world we live in.

In the video above Louis C.K. hilariously talks about how people complain about their flights being delayed.

“New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 YEARS. And a bunch of you would die on the way there.”

It’s easy to complain, it’s easy to go through your day looking for things that don’t go according to plan. I fall into the same trap, I complain about my classes, job prospects, financial situation, and countless other things. However, I’ve recently tried to change my perspective on life. I believe the key to happiness is trading expectation for appreciation (Quote from Tony Robbins). We expect our waiter/waitress to behave a certain way, other people to treat us right, our technology to work all the time, this leads to entitlement. We spend our days expecting, not appreciating.

I have challenge to all of my readers, trade your expectations for appreciation. This process has improved my life and I’m confident it will improve yours too. I encourage you all to follow your own path to appreciation but here are the steps I’ve taken to appreciate more in my life.

Mindfulness

Last summer through a mentor I was introduced to the practice of meditation and mindfulness. While meditation has allowed me to calm my thoughts and not identify myself with them, mindfulness is a practice that is applicable to everyday moments. The practice is as simple as it sounds, being present and mindful of moments. The most common example given is when we see a man walking down the street talking to himself. We think he must be crazy for talking to himself when he’s all alone walking in public. But don’t we all do the same thing, just not out loud? We’re constantly talking to ourselves, lost in thought, never actually being present in the moment. Life only exist in the present, but we fall into the trap of thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

The first step is to notice you are lost in thought. Then once you realize it, be in the moment. Imagine it’s Monday and there’s an event on Friday that you are nervous for. Perhaps you have to give a big presentation, you have a big test, or you find out if you got the job or not. The untrained mind will worry about this event throughout the entire week, not being able to relax until it’s over. Your brain will constantly be worried about the future instead of appreciating the present. Instead of enjoying a meal with your friends on Wednesday night, you’ll spend the whole dinner thinking about this presentation on Friday. This happens to all of us, probably numerous times a month. The trained mind will let thoughts come and go, not judging them, instead focusing on what’s going on at the moment. Focusing on the conversation at the dinner, the sights and sounds of being with your friends, not the constant thoughts of nervousness.

Studying and practicing mindfulness will lead you to a fulfilled life. Books that have helped me include The Mindful Athlete, Wherever You Go There You Are, and Waking Up.

Know That Everything Must End

Thinking of death can be a somber thought, many people struggle with the topic (especially me). However, it can also be a wake-up call to all of our problems.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs

The above quote is what I live my life by. All the expectations we have fall away in the face of death, and we realize what is truly important. The problems we think about on a daily basis in the grand scheme don’t matter. The test you’re worried about, the presentation, the job, all mean nothing in the face of death. If you’re with your parents and you have a negative thought because of something they did or said, just realize that one day you’d give anything to go back in this moment when they were alive and healthy, don’t take it for granted.

We all know we’re going to die, but no one lives like it. The fact of that matter is that we have 100 years on this Earth, that’s it. Regardless of your religion, death is something that you and everyone you know will face. What you need to decide is how are you going to spend those 100 years. Are you going to live someone else’s life, getting a job that doesn’t satisfy you? Are you going to constantly complain and bring everyone around you down? Or, are you going to appreciate the miracle that is human life and raise everyone around you up? I certainly hope you choose the latter.

5 Minute Journal

On a smaller scale, the 5 Minute Journal is a quick and easy way to gain appreciation. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been using the journal for all of 2017. Every morning the app has me write down 3 things that I’m grateful for. It’s a powerful way to start your day, thinking of what your grateful for, instead of checking your social medias to see what other people are doing. At the end of the day the app reminds you to journal 3 amazing things that happened that day. This process will lead you to look for positives in your day, it seems like every day something great will happen and I’ll think to write it down at the end of the day. While spending $5 on an app doesn’t sound ideal to most people, it’s a worthwhile investment.

I wanted to switch it up this week and focus on the bigger picture, I hope you all enjoyed reading. Let me know how your journey with appreciation goes. As always, sign up for email alerts if you want to get posts and updates directly in your inbox.

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3 Comments

  1. Everything is epic, and I’m happy about it! Maybe it’s because of my beliefs, I’m a Christian and we’re always taught to be thankful, or maybe it’s just because I like epic tech.

  2. Hey Ben!
    I really love your take on why we should be happy and how lucky we truly are! I think it’s easy to forget that sometimes and focus on the negative. This is a great post for when we are feeling down and we need to remember the big picture! Keep up the good work!

  3. Sheila W. Kaylor

    Ben,
    I am impressed with your writings. I enjoy reading them and look forward
    to reading more.

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