"The Opposite Of Unhappiness Is Gratitude. Unhappiness is about 'what is missing'. Ironically, we are stuck in grandiose expectations, when the truth is that we have so much. We occasionally give back some of our gains, but those are not losses - they are lessened gains. 'Get' the difference, and you'll have a whole new world of perception - and happiness, no matter what."
We set artificial standards and then we fall short of them and the illusion of “loss” is created. But if you have more, net, than you had much earlier, are you really experiencing a loss or just less of a net gain? It all depends on your perspective. (See the discussion following the charts.)
Happy people are grateful. Therefore, if I want to be happier, I might just do some gratitude work - no, not just do "some", for I've done that before, and it was not sufficient, though "nice". This time I needed to complete the process, so it is installed and a part of me, where I master it and "get it" at the level of "grokking" it. I might actually “look” and see what I can be grateful for. (Read and learn all about Gratitude.)
"There's already enough, right here and right now, for you to be happy."
Thomas Bien, The Buddha's Way Of Happiness
To help myself see that, I looked at and adjusted my baseline above which to be happy: My Adjusted Baseline.
Review these charts, and then see the followup discussion for more comments.
CHART I. THE ACCUMULATION PROCESS AND “LOSSES”
Life in this chart goes from left to right. There is of course many more items to be added and a few that diminish, but the net gain is as high as a good sized office building! Once in a while we lose an antennae on top or even an air conditioning unit, but we still have the major gains and need not obsess over the seemingly big loss - which truly is trivial, relative to all that is. We may even lose a floor, which is not good! But we still have so much by comparison!
↗ ↘ Loss? (or simply less of a gain) - A "so what"?
/ Relative size of what is added: A "floor" or two
/ (All good, but what we are given is uncomparable.)
CHART II. LISTING WHAT I WAS GIVEN (BY BIRTH) AND WHAT I CREATED THAT IS NOT LOSABLE
Take a few sheets and head them up with these titles and then fill them out as fast as you can, coming back later to add to them. Keep them for reference for your gratitude exercises and a part of your Positives Portfolio.
The perfect combination of chemicals (carbons, hydrogen, etc.) and the perfect conditions had to come together even to create life.
And then over time evolution created a magnificent automatic body that does an incredible number of things, with incredible defense systems, with the ability to take a lot of abuse – and the greatest computer in the universe.
The chances that we would even be born were miniscule. We have given to us, and largely unlosable, 1,000’s of gifts. Those are in the huge box (above) that is many stories high.
On the top of the huge box, running from left to right and representing time, we add very little, in proportion - almost everything is already there - and is more than enough!
But much of what we add is also 'permanent' and not subject to loss, so that our accumulation of gains gets even greater.
We don’t lose our knowledge, what we learn, certain adaptive functions that we programmed in.
We do, however, have some things we can gain and then lose – money, a loved one, etc. But we don’t lose all we gain, so we get to keep much of it as permanent - and then we are even further ahead as we add much more than we lose. In perspective, even what seems like a big loss is very small by comparison. Yes, our "losses" [or problems], as Richard Carlson writes in his famous book, are all "small stuff" - and we needn't waste our energy or our lives in suffering about it - just "don't sweat the small stuff - and it's all small stuff."
Yes, we lose a little bit of some of our gains, but the net (gains minus losses) is still a gain. We are never at a deficit - and always way, way, way ahead - invulnerable all our lives.
I didn't know that we dramatically underestimate how well we adjust and/or how soon the "bad" effects wear off and even disappear from our minds.
I didn't have the perspective gained from knowing that lottery winners and recent paraplegics came back within a year to their original happiness level. I just didn't know that. I didn't see it.
So I "made up" lots of "big" consequences that turned out to be "small stuff" - and I wasted my fear signals and activated my stress system for no benefit and some harm - certainly harmed my enjoyment of the moment...and of a large part of my life.
I didn't know that I could be Fearless - and be happy no matter what.
W. Mitchell, burnt badly (face, etc.) in a motorcycle accident, and then crippled in an airplane crash, but now he is a motivational speaker (and he ran for mayor on the basis of "not just another pretty face".)
His most famous quote: "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left."
That is worth remembering - indelibly.