I am one of those people who has the tendency to never be satisfied. It is like a disease. When I was in college, I wanted a communications job in New York City. Once I had that job, I wanted to get ahead quickly. A couple of promotions later, I decided I didn't like working in Corporate America and started my own marketing business. I got that business going fairly easily, but found I was spending too much time attracting and servicing clients and wanted more time to write. Now I write full time, and I miss the daily people interaction!
I inherited this trait from my dad and it's reinforced by my equally unsatisfied husband. But no matter. The way I'm headed, this will go on and on until I'm dead. And in heaven, no one gives you a gold star because you were successful in a variety of endeavors. I think that in the end, what really matters is if you were happy or not. And if you're never satisfied with your lot, it sure is hard to be happy. I've asked some people for advice on how to become more satisfied, and here are some of the gems I've heard and tried myself:
* Don't always "one-up": It's annoying when an acquaintance does it to you in a bar, so don't do it to yourself. When you meet a goal you worked hard for, take a moment to celebrate the achievement instead of immediately focusing on what you can or should do next.
* Live in the moment: As Ferris famously said, "life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." People who get bogged down in the past or are always looking ahead to the future miss the small joys of life - like eating a perfectly well-done burger or seeing their baby smile - that are right in front of them today.
* Find a positive angle: Everyone experiences setbacks, but be careful not to allow a negative turn of events to color your view of the world. Look for something in the scenario that will help you learn and grow, and focus on that as you weather through.
* Look for the good in people: It's easy to ruminate on your friends' and family members' flaws, as I'm sure there are many of them. But by having unrealistic expectations of what people should do or how they should act, you're setting yourself for disappointment. The truth is that most people mean well, even if they screw up every now and then.
* Be thankful for the big things: In my house, we have a tendency to "sweat the small stuff." But come on. I have a great career, a stable family, a roof over my head, and a healthy body. Do I really need to fret over the fact that Bass didn't take my expired coupons?
* Beware of the "grass is always greener": You don't know the intimate details of other people's situations, so it's irrational to be jealous of them. And remember that you can be satisfied without being perfect. Even if you have your dream job or your dream family, you're bound to have bad days. That doesn't mean you should overhaul everything because you think you can do better someplace else.
Alexandra Levit is the author of How"d You Score That Gig? - A Guide to the Coolest Careers and How to Get Them. She speaks frequently at corporations, universities, and conferences on workplace issues facing young employees.