Are you feeling angry? Tired? Frustrated? Envious? Do you think you are working harder than ever, yet not making much progress?
If your answer is yes, you are not alone.
Millions of people feel that life is passing them by. No matter what they do, it is always the other guy who gets the promotion, buys fancy cars, and sends his kids to Harvard, while they are barely treading water.
Are they right? And if so, what is the solution?
Facebook version of reality
You “friend” people on Facebook. Or other “social media” sites. Then they send you pictures of their beach vacations, their happy and smart kids, their new cars. And here you are, struggling with the daily grind of your mundane life.
Anger often arises if you want something badly, and your desires are thwarted. Or you think you deserve something, and yet you end up not getting it.
Frustration commonly has similar roots.
The real world exists.
We want it to be a certain way, but it is a stubborn beast. It goes along its merry way, impervious to our desires. It defies our efforts to control it.
Sooner or later, reality clashes with our expectations. The results, if not put into perspective, can be disastrous.
And then we grow up.
Control and compare
The first clash with reality in an adult world comes through comparisons.
We look at our colleagues and our neighbors. And we feel envious if they are better off than we are. Because we feel that we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter.
Envy, if not dealt with firmly and rationally, leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger.
From here, where?
So you are upset. You are better (you think), but your colleagues get all the riches. You hate that.
Where is this going to lead you? Anger, hatred, resentment … this is a recipe for sleepless nights and an acid feeling in your gut. Will this make you any richer? Will that Lamborghini parked next door find its way into your garage?
No, and no.
You will be no richer, and your outlook towards life is likely to get clouded. Your enjoyment of life will diminish.
So what is the answer?
We need less envy, and more clarity of thought, more empathy, more gratitude.
Think about it.
You envy your neighbor’s mansion, his big car, his fancy vacations. But they do not exist in a vacuum. They are often the end result of a number of decisions he made along the way. Decisions which you do not know about. Decisions that you might not have made if you had that choice.
Perhaps he studied hard while his college classmates were out partying.
Perhaps he toiled at part-time jobs while others were slumped in front of their TVs, sipping beer and devouring potato chips.
Do you want his whole life?
This is the real clincher.
Your neighbor’s life is a package deal.
You drool over his car. But with it might come his son’s drug addiction, his wife’s loneliness and depression, the alimony he pays to ex-wives, and the grief he gets from them. If you want his car, you will have to accept his problems, too. Ready for the deal?
Pick and choose
That is what we want to do. We want the “Facebook” elements of others’ lives, but we want to steer clear of their problems, many of which we do not even know about. Life does not work like that.
Live happily ever after?
And even if you got your neighbor’s life, and his riches, then what? You will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? Hardly. Life is not a Hollywood movie.
You need a strategy to deal with life. Bitterness, envy, resentment, anger, and frustration are not strategies. They are symptoms. Symptoms that you are not happy in your own skin.
You are what you are. Sit down. Take a deep breath in. Look deep inside you. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be grateful for what you have. You probably have more than a lot of the 7 billion or so people on this planet, especially if you live in the Western world.
Then take a cold, hard look at your problems. Is the lack of a Mercedes a real problem? Do you really need a beach house and several million dollars to be happy in this world? If so, mankind is really doomed.
What matters in life
Sooner or later, you will have to decide what it is that you really want. What will make you happy? What will give your life meaning? What will give you satisfaction?
If your answers deal with material things, you will always be disappointed. Kids will move out, and the large house will be mostly empty, except for stuff. Stuff that nobody uses anymore.
Stuff is temporary. Life is temporary.
The neighbor’s Lamborghini? It will end up as scrap metal one day.
So what should you do?
- Remember all the good things that have happened to you.
Be grateful for all of them.
- Live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest. This is the only moment you have. The past is gone. The future is not guaranteed. So enjoy all aspects of the present moment. This is when you are alive. This is your life.
- Focus on friends, family, love.
- You have one life. It might not be perfect. But it is yours. Live it, instead of grumbling about it.