I regret now that it’s taken me a few days to get back to The Happiness Code. I’d already seen the title of the seventh key, Being Grateful, and felt a bit ‘meh’ about it all.
You know, ‘yes, yes, my life really doesn’t suck’ and so forth. ‘I have family and friends and my health. I’m actually rich.’ Yadda yadda yadda!
But, now that I’ve read it; some of the practical examples really resonated with me and I found myself nodding, earmarking pages and lost in my own thoughts.
The seventh principle in Domonique Bertolucci’s quest for happiness (underpinning the key of gratitude) is one of ‘abundance’. For me the word in itself puts a different spin on the ‘grateful’ concept. (Not that I’m choosing a word for 2013, as many have, but ‘abundance’ may well be up there as a contender if I was to do so!)
“Worrying about money is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness, but no amount of money can make you happy unless you change the way you feel about it.”
As someone who recently took a redundancy package from my workplace and am currently not-employed, I can seriously relate to this.
Bertolucci talks about a ‘poverty mentality’ which leaves us focussing on what we DON’T have; even though we may already have everything we need. She reminds us that WANTS are not NEEDS.
Bertolucci suggests that few of us – certainly not those reading her book I would think (and the hashtag #firstworldproblem comes to mind!) – have experienced true poverty. Even if we are struggling financially, we’re significantly better off than those in developing countries, or those who are homeless in our own countries.
Bertolucci also notes that the poverty mentality can be about more than money, it can be about thinking we don’t have ENOUGH of anything. (Hello, resonating much?! I constantly use the word ‘enough’ – though mostly when it comes to food!)
Fortunately for the materialistic types such as myself, Bertolucci isn’t suggesting we throw away our money and live off the earth. Or similar.
“There is nothing wrong with enjoying life’s luxuries as long as your happiness isn’t contingent on them.”
She gives a couple of examples, including her own life – quitting the well-paid corporate world to pursue other interests. She went into her new life, she says, well-aware of the consequences of her decision AND believes the trade-off to be worth it. THIS I could relate to.
I wasn’t in a highly-powered exorbitantly-paid job by any means, but lived quite comfortably off my salary and rarely (in recent years) had to go without anything I wanted (within means). I mean I didn’t choose overseas holidays, but was able to buy a new computer, TV, car and so forth when I needed it. I dined on the nicest cuts of fillet steak and chicken breast without blinking an eye and could dine out whenever I wanted.
However, when I accepted my redundancy I knew things would change. I did my sums and made the conscious decision to move and downsize. I looked longingly at places in my new hometown of a similar price to my last apartment but, decided that being debt-free and NOT having to work for a while was more important than a luxury apartment. I worked out how much money I ‘might’ need and decided I could live quite comfortably on my remaining savings for 6+mths before I needed to think about an additional income.
I also realised that this new lifestyle would come at a price, and that’s something I’m still grappling with. I didn’t skimp on my chosen abode. It’s gorgeous and by the ocean. Every time I look out of my window I’m beyond happy with the decision I made; but it’s hard to remember that I have to make decisions consistent with my new lifestyle (and lack of income).
Every so often I see something I want. A non-essential. The old me would have just bought it, but the new me has to ask if it’s something I really need. Unfortunately I’m still wantonly drinking $18 bottles of red wine (rather than $10 or even $5 bottles) but I’m slowly starting to accept this new life and money-isn’t-everything mentality. (Obviously changing to be a less-materialistic person might take some time!!!)
I must confess to being more worried about money than I expected to be. The moment I stopped earning a salary, the movement in my bank accounts became one-way. I’ve been paid for some writing / blogging, but with minimal impact on my haemorrhaging bank accounts.
However, my ‘I must earn as much as possible‘ mentality feels like a thing of the past. Now, I’m just focussing on the bills I need to pay and putting food (and nice wine) on the table. (Oh, and being able to dine out once a week is also a deal-breaker!)
Bertolucci suggests we base decisions about what we need on our values. To some, going to shows or travelling is a priority; for others it’s good food and wine; for others lovely clothes; and for others, the latest technology.
“Just because there are things you still want, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel gratitude for all of the wealth and abundance already in your life.”
This is consistent with the conversations I’ve been having with my life coach, Karen Anderson, about ‘acceptance’, particularly as it relates to me and my body. I’m coming to realise that ‘accepting’ myself as I am, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a better version of me; it just means that (even if there’s room for improvement), I’m okay as I am.
The quickest way to get an abundance mindset, says Bertolucci, is to express thanks or acknowledge all you have. I know a few people are doing the ‘grateful jar’ thing this year (putting a note in the jar acknowledging something they’re grateful for), while others pray and others might write it out in a journal.
I often say that I take what I have for granted. This may be true – to an extent. But in my new life I’m coming to appreciate everything I have and the opportunities I’ve been given (in fact, I’ve even wondered if I’m worthy of such abundance of good fortune!). Sure, there are a lot of things I want to change and I do stress about where the money will eventually come from, but compared to SO many others I have so much. And (wanky as it sounds!), even if I didn’t have money in the bank, I’d still be richer than many!
Do you suffer from the poverty mentality? Or celebrate abundance?
How do you acknowledge all you’re grateful for?