Life in this modern age is generally fast-paced, especially if you live in the heart of a city or on the outskirts, the suburbs. With technology penetrating our everyday lives, we have the power to easily access almost any content we like. It can either be news, movies and TV shows, blogs and videos about the things that interest us, and plenty more. One astounding thing about all this is the way we can easily look at someone’s life through social media. Almost every person has their digital profile on the web, displaying their unique self through their posts. This kind of culture has become the norm in social media, and with it, brings the inevitable possibility of viewing others’ lives, sometimes rendering us to look into ourselves and compare our lives to others.
Another kind of comparison we tend to make is with people who are already living the best years of their career. Those kinds of people who are already living the life they want and earning a considerable amount of financial benefits from it. We tend to see these people through feature articles, blogs, and YouTube videos.
When we see these kinds of content on the people we admire, we are inclined to be jealous, anxious, or just downright sad because our lives are not as awesome or as fast-paced as theirs. View enough and you will probably succumb to the dangerous thought that we want that kind of life; that a fast-paced, always posting, always influencing kind life is the only life that will bring us happiness.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing bad about admiring those kinds of people. The problem here is consuming too much of those kinds of content. It leads us to stubbornly thinking that that kind of life is what we want and is what’s best for us. We have failed or ignored, looking within ourselves and discovering what we want to do in life, on what makes us happy and contented.
Now, how do we do that? How do we eliminate this toxic mindset of comparison? How can we discover our true passions in life?
My dear reader, it’s by appreciating the little things.
How the Things We Appreciate Reveals Our Character
We discover our true nature by noticing the things that make us happy. A person who loves reading books probably has a huge collection of them at home and enjoys the smell of new ones. We can certainly tell that the nature of this person is a bookworm, or a scholar, or simply a person who loves learning. An individual who is fascinated at the designs of buildings, or any kind of establishment, would most likely possess a nature of an art connoisseur or maybe even an architect. People who like looking at plants or possessing a gentle love on all things that grow, maybe even have a garden or is thinking of making one, is undoubtedly a lover of nature, an environmentalist.
When an individual expresses genuine happiness on something, that something forms their character. You might argue that the things you watch or read on the web genuinely interests you, and that, in turn, is your true nature or a part of it. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t compare yourself to those people. Once you start comparing your journey to somebody who is already successful, you have already lost.
There is no definite series of steps on how to pursue this kind of mindset because it is self-explanatory. Appreciate-the-little-things.
However, unsurprisingly, many people struggle on how to do this, or rather, how to regularly practice this. Why is that?
We Are Too Anxious
Throughout our life, we have been programmed to plan on what we want to do or to be in the future. Since our early years, our focus was to finish our education, then after we graduate, find a job, then get married or have a very successful career, then save for your children’s college fees, or any other goal each of us has in life.
The point is, what we desire to have, what we want to achieve, is endless.
There is a huge possibility that, like so many others, we become so focused but blinded on what we have to achieve in life that we tend to forget or ignore, the blessings that we already possess right now. The thought that one day, we will wake up and realize that time flies so fast and we didn’t get the chance to enjoy what life has to offer at every waking moment is depressing indeed. There is nothing wrong with planning in life because it is only natural to do so. But you owe it on yourself to enjoy life in all its infinite beauty.
Once you start to become mindful of all the blessings that you have, life is so much more interesting. Getting up in the morning and drinking your cup of coffee, making and eating breakfast with your loved ones, leaving your home and feeling that fresh, chilly, morning air, that in itself is something to live for. If you’re not convinced, then look at the sky, feel the sun on your skin, listen to the singing of the birds in the trees, then at night, witness the majestic beauty of the moon, the cheery blinking of the stars. Enjoy the beautiful world that the creator made for us. We are born to live, nothing more, nothing less.
Once you start to appreciate all the beautiful little things in your life, you would be much more fulfilled. So what if some people are ahead of you? So what if some people have what you don’t have? The entirety of human civilization is a social construct. As long as you appreciate what you have, as long as you are at peace with yourself, and as long as you are living in the present, then you are leagues beyond others.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.”Marcus Aurelius
Stoicism and Living in the Present
The ancient philosophy of Stoicism has endured its school of thought for hundreds of years. Even at this modern age, the principles it promotes are still relevant and highly applicable in our everyday lives.
Marcus Aurelius, a philosopher and an emperor of Rome, practiced Stoicism throughout his life. His famous book called Meditations is full of timeless wisdom that can be applied to every person who doesn’t have serenity and tranquility in their minds. Two of the main themes of his book is directly relevant in this essay: appreciating what you have and living in the present.
“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”Marcus Aurelius
This quote takes our age-old adage of appreciating what we have and refines it. We tend to always look towards the future, always in pursuit of things we don’t possess. But take a moment to pause and look at all the things we already have. Try to remember the time when you worked hard to earn the money to buy that thing you have now. It can be anything that interests you and makes you happy. An instrument, a smartphone or laptop, a game console, sports equipment, and others. And now, you’re setting your sights upon another, almost the same kind of item that you already have. The only difference is it’s either an upgraded version, or maybe you saw a person you look up to, use that particular item, or that it’s the new trend and plenty of people you see on social media are buying that item as well; or, the worst one, you just want to buy something without putting much deliberate thought into it.
Nothing wrong with trying something new, but this kind of consumerism tends to turn into an endless cycle of buying that will leave you superficially happy and introspectively empty. So, before you look at that item and add it in your wishlist, contemplate and ask yourself, “do I really want this? Is what I have not enough?” Most of the time, it is enough, and if you learn and practice to appreciate the things that you already have, your life would be more fulfilling.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”Marcus Aurelius
A liberating thought. One of the Meditations’ major themes is that there is no sense worrying about something that happens outside ourselves. When something happens to you, we have no power to change that event; like the death of a loved one, being late for work because of traffic, or any other thing that doesn’t directly involve you. What we do have power over is our mind, and the judgment that we make of that current event will dictate how we feel about it. This is one of the many things Stoicism provides that can help you to live in the present. I am certain many things happened in everyone’s lives which they were not entirely ready for. So, why be anxious about the future, which hasn’t even happened yet? We will never be fully prepared. Instead, we should live in the present, do good to ourselves, and appreciate all the little things that make us happy. By practicing these things every day, we will get to know ourselves better and reveal our true character, which will pave the way to knowing what we truly want to be, to do, to help, in life.
Existentialism and Appreciation
The meaning of life is to give life meaning. This is more or less one of the main points of the philosophy of Existentialism.
According to Jean-Paul Sartre, “existence precedes essence.” The meaning of our lives is not fixed; it is determined by us, through existing, and by finding our purpose ourselves. This movement of thought opposes the idea that we, human beings, possess a predetermined “essence” dictated by our nature and culture. If we were born into a family of farmers, then it suffices to say that we are, and will be, farmers ourselves because that is our family’s nature and culture; and they determined that you would be like them as well. Existentialism transcends that norm.
How is Existentialism relevant in appreciation? It helps us to deeply reflect on what our true being is. Think of it this way. Without the guidance of your family and the culture that surrounds you, imagine the things that would authentically pique your interest and bring you joy. If what you found within yourself were still the same things that make you happy now, including the influence of your family and your entire culture, then good for you. You belong where you are right now. If the things that interest you and make you happy were different, then good for you as well. It means you are aware of what you want. Go ahead and pursue it. We can never truly appreciate anything authentic if we are unsure of our very being.
Aristotle and Happiness
To encapsulate the thoughts written in this essay, let us promptly discuss Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers of all time.
Happiness, for Aristotle, is the end goal of human existence.
The pursuit of happiness is for its own sake, nothing else. Every person has their way of living, all because of achieving happiness, whether they realize it or not. Some people pursue fame, power, money, respect, position, stability, etc. They think that those things are the end goal of what they want to achieve in life. But is that truly so? When you think about it, Aristotle was right, happiness is the ultimate end of all human endeavor. We seek fame because we want to be known everywhere. When a person calls our name and asks for a picture or autograph, or simply knows us even though we don’t know them, it feels good. It makes us smile, makes us happy. Same thing with power, respect, and position. After achieving the status that comes with those three things, it makes us happy, makes us feel powerful, when people treat us with such esteem. The pursuit of money emanates the most possibilities of all when achieved. We can do so much with great wealth, and no matter what we do with it, it all boils down to one thing, happiness.
My dear reader, I implore you to find your true happiness. Not the superficial kind, like drinking beer with your friends, or playing video games at the end of the day. It’s okay to do those kinds of things, but don’t seek it and deem it as your final happiness. Instead, find the thing that will make you happy as a human being. It may take days, months, years, even decades. Nevertheless, keep pursuing it. Once we are set on this path, this endeavor of our life, it will bring forth many things: our character, the very being that makes us who we are, and our purpose, the meaning of our existence in this world. It will help us appreciate the things that are truly authentic for our souls.