12/25/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2015

Why 2014 Was a Good Year

This year, Facebook has done something novel. It provides users with the ability to compile a quick collage of pictures and posts to celebrate the past year. Innocuous as the gimmick is, it is interesting to note how some people view its optimistic tone as objectionable, and what that says about our psyche today.

2014 was a good year.

Sure, plenty of terrible things happened, like the Gaza Conflict, the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, the violence in Ferguson, widening economic inequality, and the killing of schoolchildren in Pakistan. But these things are part of the struggle of being alive and will continue to happen in one form or another for a long time to come. That doesn't mean there is no good to be found.

In fact, a central purpose of life is to enjoy being alive despite the inequities and challenges around us. And the measure of whether a year was good is not really the scorecard of the last 12 months but the optimism with which you end the year to make the next year even better.

This may be a cliché but it is also a truism that is easily forgotten in the self-centered, impatient, and myopic thought patterns of today. We live in an age of constant dissatisfaction. Some of it is due to long-neglected issues that are now coming to the fore, but some of it is also due to an inability to see the bigger picture -- to be so lost in what we want that we forget about all the things that we should be grateful for.

So what are some things we could be grateful for?

There's friends; there's family; there's the fact that if you live in America, you probably have heat, electricity, running water, and don't live in constant fear of your life unlike in some other places. There's the economy, which is finally getting back on track; there's the cops, who despite the hatred being directed at them, still show up to protect us every day; and while there is injustice, there's also freedom of speech and assembly to address that.

Those are things that we take for granted, but without them, we would discover very quickly just how bad life could really be.

But even if none of this resonates with you, just consider these statistics: while 56 million people died around the world in 2014, 136 million people were born. That means life is winning, that more hope was born this year than died, and that is something to celebrate.

So let's enter 2015 looking forward to a better future. Let's not be a nation of complainers who find nothing good to smile about but plenty to be angry about. If we can't recognize the good in our lives, then we can never hope to find satisfaction. In that case, every year will be a bad one.

Thanks to Facebook for reminding us of this.

If you're grateful for 2014, share this article!