All to often we find ourselves not appreciating what we have. Its easy to recognize whats missing, but much harder to recognize all the things we take for granted. There is something about the human mind that instinctively prohibits us from being grateful. I have learned that gratitude for many, including myself is a learned behavior, and the people who seem to be the most grateful are those that have lost the most.
The stories I have remembered and the lessons I have personally learned all stem from this idea, that loss is our greatest teacher.
I have never met a person who was truly grateful and unhappy. Very few people ever experience tragedy, but we all have our trials. A grandparent dying after a long useful life, the loss of a pet or a freind that moves away, we often don't recognize how important these relationships are till they are no more.
I have found that in my life I have the same tendencies. I remember moving to the Middle East and not having my own car, it was something I had learned to not only depend on but take for granted as well. My car was nothing special, at least it seemed to be common, It was a 1986 Jeep Comanche with no paint, no air conditioning and it had a manual transmission. It was simplicity itself.
I had always compared it to other cars on the road, and in America it was a very modest vehicle. The mistake I had made was not comparing it to walking, or to a bike or a taxi or a bus. My misconception was obvious to me as I walked in the dust each day to go to the places I needed to be. How I would have loved to have any car at my disposal.
Looking back I have fond memories and the satisfaction of realizing that I could survive without my own car for the three years I lived abroad. Not having a car taught me more about gratitude than having a car ever could.
Here are a few things I do to learn from what I have as opposed to what I have lost.
1. Watch National Geographic. The perspective you have amy change when you take yourself out of your element even if you don't have the ability to travel to less developed areas.
2. Test yourself. Do something simple, pick something in your life that bugs you, your dress shoes, your car or maybe the couch in your living room. take it out of your routine for a week, use the next best thing that you already own in its place, you'll find that as much as you dislike your dress shoes, tennis shoes will look even worse with your suit and when a weeks gone by you will be grateful to put them back on again.
3. Help someone. Find someone in your office or in your neighborhood or in your town that needs your help, someone who doesn't have it as good as you might. Just the exercise of finding this person will help you, but when you make them your special project, you will grow in ways never thought possible.
I have a freind who shall remain unnamed with 20 million dollars that feels poor because he doesn't have as much as other wealthy people, he considers him self a poor millionaire by comparison. I have to laugh as I would like to be as rich as he is, but then I stop and remember what I already have and realize most people would kill to have my opportunities.
In the timeless words of Oscar Wilde, "The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast." We all have our trials, we struggle along side one another always on the quest to improve, but let us be mindful that we should recognize our strengths and be grateful for what we have. If we could love ourselves and each other enough, Love rather than loss could be our greatest teacher.