Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”― Epicurus
Autumn is winding down and we are moving into the holiday season. It’s a time of year for focusing on what is essential in our lives and what should already be making us happy. This time of year is designed to be spent with family, friends, and focusing on what we should be grateful for. Many of us get all stressed out over the holiday season, missing the point of it entirely. We approach the holiday trifecta-Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Year’s with feelings of dread and anxiety. We grumble about the cold of the season, having to figure out what to buy for whom, which parties we will attend, and complain about the traffic, stress, and commercialization of the whole thing. As a result our stress and anxiety goes through the roof, diet and exercise programs get put on hold, and we feel lousy. As Vince Lombardi would say, “What in the hell is going on out there?!”
A big part of all of this is losing the focus on what holiday seasons are supposed to be all about. It’s not meant to be a time of goal seeking, go out and get something, behavior. It’s supposed to be a season where we take notice of the good things we already have and express gratitude for them. We really shouldn’t have to go out and get anything for anybody, or receive anything special from anyone else. It’s a time to notice the good things that are right in front of our noses every moment of every day.
If you follow this blog regularly, then you know that I write a lot about human motivation, lifestyle improvement, goal setting and achievement. A person doesn’t have to be miserable or ungrateful in order to pursue these things, they merely need a desire to change. Seeking to improve things does not mean that we should ignore the simple gifts that life grants us every day. One can strive for improvement while living their life in an attitude of gratitude. By all means, we should always be striving for personal development and self improvement. We just need to notice what we already have.
Perhaps the best story I have ever heard that illustrates the spirit of this thought is this one:
One summer, many years ago, a banker was vacationing in a small village on the coast. He saw a fisherman in a small boat by the pier with a handful of fish that he just caught. The businessman asked him how long it took him to catch the fish, and the man said he was fishing for only a couple of hours.
“So why didn’t you stay out there longer to catch more fish?”
The fisherman said he catches just enough to feed his family every day, and then comes back.
“But it’s only 2pm!” said the banker, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman smiled and said, “Well, I sleep late everyday, then fish a little, go home, play with my children, take a nap in the afternoon, then stroll into the village each evening with my wife, relax, play the guitar with our friends, laugh and sing late into the night. I have a full and wonderful life.”
The banker scoffed at the young man, “Well, I’m a businessman from New York! Let me tell you what you should do instead of wasting your life like this! You should catch more fish to sell to others, and then buy a bigger boat with the money you make so you can catch even more fish!”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman. The banker’s eyes got all big as he enthusiastically explained, “You can then buy a whole fleet of fishing boats, run a business, and make a ton of money!”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman again, and the banker threw his hands in the air and said, “You’d be worth a million! You can then leave this small town, move to the city, and manage your enterprise from there!”
“How long would all this take?” asked the fisherman. “15 to 20 years!” replied the banker.
“And then what?”
The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. You can then sell your business, move to a small village, sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take afternoon naps, go for an evening stroll with your wife after dinner, relax, sing, and play the guitar with your friends. You would have a full and wonderful life!”
The fisherman smiled at the banker, quietly gathered his catch, and walked away.
As you race around this week getting ready for Thanksgiving, think about this story. Do you really need all the build up, stress, and anxiety in order to be grateful? You can travel miles by plane, bus, or automobile to be with family and friends. The stress and anxiety you take on this holiday season is your choice. Most of the negative associations that people have with holidays are self-inflicted. They are thoughts that arise because we’ve lost focus on what this season is all about. Change the focus of your thoughts this holiday season and focus on the gifts in your life that are always there. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
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