It is easy to get distracted by the many things in our lives. Our society tells us that we must be active and striving to gain and make progress at all times. Even our vacations can become a next best list of achievements. These messages penetrate all levels of our culture as we see children pressured to excel and adults struggle to sit idle for even a brief moment as their minds quickly identify the next thing they can accomplish in their day.
We tend to feel great when things are going well. To be sure, it is important to appreciate our efforts and connect with a sense of pride. We may also feel great when we achieve a raise, buy a new car, rent a new downtown apartment, or complete an addition on our home. Again, it is not wrong to appreciate what we gain.
The problem with this formula relates to the sources of our happiness and sense of worth. The items on this list are external sources of satisfaction. As such, they provide a temporary satisfaction and a fleeting contentment. There is always something else waiting outside of our grasp. Furthermore, an eternal list of achievements can leave us in a state of anxiety as we hold tight and fear losses or setbacks. When our minds and hearts are connected to these powerful external forces, it is difficult to find a stable and lasting sense of contentment or peace in our lives.
How do we achieve a stable and lasting sense of contentment? This is an important question to ask ourselves. One path toward contentment involves practicing simplicity. In doing so we practice letting go of our attachments to external sources of happiness. This can be incredibly difficult, but it presents an opportunity to begin to broaden our sense of freedom and begin to loosen our grasp on the many external things that can hold us hostage. Ask yourself:
Where might I find simplicity in my life?
What is truly most important?
What is truly lacking in this moment?
Our tendency to grasp external things and accomplishments is not a criticism, nor does this suggest a personal or moral failing. It is simply an invitation to consider the ways you are striving or grasping external things and how you might shift your perspective to gain a greater sense of inner peace and freedom. Throughout the coming days you might try taking a pause when you begin to feel distressed or anxious. Ask yourself what is needed in order to let go and find greater peace.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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