Looking into this equation a little deeper though to see it’s application in our culture however, seems necessary. Western culture seems to have us striving to increase the numerator in an effort to increase our happiness. The trouble with this is that human nature gets in the way. It is in our nature that the more we have, the more we want. As per the equation, this will do nothing to increase our happiness.
Example: In an effort to live the good life we move out of the apartment, and purchase a beautiful home on a full acre of property. Our “What we have” value goes from 5 to 10. Now that we have the home however, we desire a nice fancy sports car to compliment the new life and fill the new garage. Our “What we want” value goes from 4 to 8. (10/8)=1.25=(5/4). Happiness has not changed one bit. And if we think now getting the car will settle our desire, …… c’mon …… do we really want to go down that rabbit hole?
(Note: The example above is a generous one)
Many eastern philosophies instead focus on the denominator of the equation. They make real mental efforts to decrease the want. How do they do this? They do this through Mindfulness, and Gratitude.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
I do not believe gratitude needs to be defined, but from what I have seen in our western culture it DOES need to be cultivated. I am sure there are many ways to cultivate gratitude, but the technique I have found to be most effective is culture shock. A change of perspective.
You see ….. most people only understand life though the narrow lens of the only lifestyle they have ever lived. And lets face it, if we are reading this post, we live a life of abundance. We have:
- Internet access
(And more than enough of the above to survive)
The good news is, our “what we have” value is already great. HUGE actually considering 90% of the planet hasn’t as much as we do. And a large portion of that 90% is perfectly happy with their life. How’s that for perspective?
If we want to cultivate gratitude, I suggest we step outside our small box of abundance from time to time. See how other cultures, other demographics live. It is equally as helpful to see how those of greater abundance than ourselves live, as they no doubt have their own gilded cage (mental and otherwise).
In the end, becoming a more cultured person will cultivate gratitude.
I am not going to go into a description on how to become more Mindful (It’s easy enough to look up on your own). But I do want to mention that being mindful permits us the ability to enjoy what we already have. Brings clarity so we are aware of how great our “What we have” value is, and forces us to self analyze to determine what we REALLY want. Once we determine that, we will find that the “what we want” value is much smaller than we instinctually thought.