Live for what you have, not what you want
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.
We live in a world where people can more openly and unapologetically voice caring only for wanting more. More money to buy nice things. More access to the world’s luxuries. More achievements to tell everyone about. More status to protect their feelings. We are indirectly made to think more money, fame, or success equates to more happiness. And that we are not enough as we are, that we are missing something, that we are incomplete.
Our body and mind need to be maintained similarly to a garden. Without effort, weeds will pop up and overcrowd everything. You can’t always control what happens but you can contribute to what to do with it. So, what if we stopped chasing after what we wanted and started appreciating what’s already within reach? What if we realised we already have everything we need to live a healthy and meaningful life?
Living for what you have isn’t about settling for less or giving up on your dreams. It’s about being realistic and mindful of making the best of your current situation, finding joy and meaning in the simple, everyday moments while striving for the things that add to your happiness. There’s no harm in buying nice things or treating yourself, it’s just important that it’s not what you believe to be the source of your happiness.
Reading Casey Rosengren's essay on The Status Trap brought a lot of understanding to this. “When our status is challenged, our body reacts like it’s in physical danger. If you don’t learn how to manage that reaction, you may find yourself in the status trap—endlessly chasing status as a way to try to feel safe and whole”.
Insecurities creep out in public more easily in today’s world. We focus less on craftsmanship and doing work that gives us energy and more on trying to expense our values and vision for external recognition. Stuck in a race we never entered and falling into the status spiral.
“Status is a poor salve for feelings of ‘not enoughness’. Even when we achieve status, it doesn’t necessarily translate into self-acceptance. In fact, striving for status can actually make us feel even more like something is missing or wrong in our lives.”, said Rosengren.
Listen. Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job, throughout your entire life, is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.
— Glennon Doyle, Untamed
We’re naturally aware of status, what we have or lack, our position in a group as well as its position relative to society. It can create a false sense of deficiency or belonging—where we fear rejection or intimate connections with others.
It feels like quicksand: you thrash and shout and try to escape in a panic, but you just get more stuck. You fall into the trap of trying to optimise your desire to perform for others, even if you’re thinking about yourself for the most part. That’s the problem with status and this idea of living for what you have—people often don’t know who they are doing it for.
When I write is when I feel happiest. Not because I’m doing it for any particular reason or ride a dream, but because it helps me feel alive. It doesn’t matter if one or one hundred people read my work. It’s right there in front of you, and to write, you need to go to your mind and know what’s up there. I can’t find a better way to appreciate my life than that.
Said best by Ava “there are some ways you can show up that just feel better. And when you show up for the truest and most beautiful version of your life that you can imagine, you feel excited and alive.” Living for what you have likens to a homemade recipe for gratitude. One of the most powerful emotions you can have. It also creates generosity, contentment (but not too much), and qualities that improve the quality of your state of mind when things don’t go your way.
If you want to have more fun and enjoy life better, then it’s maybe it’s time to sit and think about the things that contribute to a good day—not what you find conceptually exciting or that gets you thinking, “how good will I look if I did this?” Find the few things in the world that you could go and do for eight hours a day and enjoy.
We are constantly influenced by the people around us. Our families, companies and industries, cultures—and society more broadly. The more deeply immersed in a culture, the easier it is to lose sight of the people living in ways that inspire us outside the norms of our current worldview. People who enjoy what they do and are fiercely ambitious but kind and caring for what they already have.
So, the next time you feel tempted to want more, be thankful for what you have first because, naturally, you’ll end up having more anyway.