I believe that the key to finding happiness is to find a way to be happy with what you have. For the first fourteen years of my life I was never satisfied with what I had. In August, I was reflecting on my life so far, and realized that I was never happy. Sure, there were moments of joy here and there, but overall I was a miserable child. After this startling realization I tried to figure out why my life thus far had been so unsatisfying. From an outsiders point of view, I had the perfect childhood. I grew up in a big house on the beach, with a large yard and a tennis court. I had two loving parents and an older brother who I considered my best friend. I was terribly spoiled, and traveled a great deal. All that happiness was just on the surface though, because I never learned to appreciate what I had.
When I was in kindergarten, having learned to read and do basic math several years earlier, I spent those boring hours in school daydreaming. I had elaborate plans for my future. By age 9 I was going to be a movie star, by age 12 a princess. I was going to write bestselling books and ride horses in the Olympics. I was beyond disappointed when these dreams didn’t come true. I began to pine for things I couldn’t have to an extent where it was interfering with my normal life. As I moved through elementary school and up through middle school my wants only intensified, I wanted everything, and I wanted it then. Not having the ridiculous things that I wanted made me feel empty and sad.
All of that changed the beginning of freshman year, when I started looking at the world around me, instead of being encased in my own bubble. I realized, for the first time, that not everyone lives in big house by the ocean with loving parents. Driving through a less privileged area in a city nearby I felt grateful for what I had for the first time in my life. I realized that my life was not actually as bad as I had thought those last 14 years. Many people don’t have a house to live in, or food to eat. I had both of those things and more. Now, since that fateful drive, I have begun to look at what I do have instead of what I lack in life. And when I started to have that outlook, a magical thing happened- I was happy. I am in no way discouraging having hopes and dreams, but I think having realistic and sensible dreams is important. Ever since I have stopped hoping for the absurd things I used to hope for, and appreciating what I have in life, it has improved my quality of life tremendously. I truly believe that being grateful and happy for what you have in life is the true key to happiness.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.