The trick is (ask any lottery winner) you never stop wanting things to be different. You never have everything you want and ours is a society that makes you believe you should have everything you want.
This is not news; we've all heard it before. But changing our attitude into gratitude is extremely challenging. Learning to be happy with the blessings you have is much, much easier said than done. Plus there is the fact that to a certain degree, it is human nature to want things we do not have. So how do you make yourself be satisfied with a limited amount of wishes coming true? You prioritize.
Clear your mind as much as possible. Imagine yourself surrounded by feelings of happiness, love, peace, and contentment. The possibilities are endless, but what truly makes you feel fulfilled, sheltered, and loved? You will be writing your dream life, but rather than thinking of it as a magazine where you can flip the pages and circle everything you've ever wanted, really focus on the ways and things that bring you joy and peace.
Start with a place. Is it in the hustle and bustle of the city, the community of the suburbs, the calm of the country, the drama of the seaside? What country are you even in? Be open to what you truly want, not what you think you can realistically get. This is the time for dreams.
Add a place to live. Do you truly want the big mansion or the penthouse? Do you want a sprawling estate? A cottage? A house like the one you grew up in? Imagine it in the place you want to be.
Who is there with you? Maybe you crave the solitude and freedom of the single life. Maybe you want to be married or maybe you do not want to be married even though you are now. Are there kids there? Do there have to be? Are there other people close by that you want, even though they may not live there with you? Who, if anyone, makes you feel loved and safe?
Imagine your work. What do you spend the majority of your time doing? Is work a means to an end for you or do you want a job you feel passionately about? Do you want the top corner office in a skyscraper? The freedom to travel around the world as a photographer? A steady, secure position in accounting or IT where you can tune out the rest of the world? Do you want to work from home, own your own business, or work in a non-profit organization? What is your dream job?
What else do you do with your time at home? Hobbies are an important outlet and stress reduction tool. Do you paint or sculpt? Do you like to balance your checkbook and read the newspaper? Do you play an instrument, are you in local theatre, do you volunteer? Do you just like long, hot baths? Do you entertain and have lots of friends? What other activities fit in line with the happy, contented future you are designing?
Picture the inside of your home. Do you use bright, happy colors of soft, neutral ones? Do you focus your décor on family photos or pieces of art? Is the kitchen the heart of the home or is your front porch where you spend most of your at-home time? What brings you pleasure and makes you happy in this home of dreams?
Imagine yourself looking in a mirror. What do you look like? Is it close to how you are now or very different? Have you lost weight or had eye surgery or simply look like the most attractive version of yourself? Do you want to look different or are you comfortable with how you are?
What is your relationship with what we will call a Higher Being? Do you spend much time in prayer or contemplation? Do you have a stronger faith life or do you imagine being secured in the belief that there is no Higher Being? What matters to you in this regard and how does it show itself in your dream life?
Life: Plans, Practicality, and Possibility
So we start by taking that dream life you've imagined, the complex world you think would bring you the most happiness, and stripping it down. Eliminate the parts that may make you happy, but are not a priority. Try to pick 1-2 pieces of each step that are truly important to you or simply identify the 12-15 most important aspects of the life. If you'd like to lose 20 pounds, but know that it is really not that important, take it off the list. If you think others find it silly that you want to volunteer as a clown but it brings you strong feelings of happiness, keep it! This is all about finding what truly matters to you in the long run. If you have repetitious themes or statements that are obvious because of the exercise, eliminate the extra fluff.
Some choices may be difficult to face – if you are in an unhealthy relationship and love that person but cannot imagine a happy place where they're with you, it can be scary. If you really want children but cannot conceive, it may hurt. Just stick to what would make you happiest in your future and we will tackle the logistics later in the section. The most important thing to remember is that you cannot control the desires and actions of others. When you picture your happy life but it is contingent upon someone else changing, you cannot keep that in your imagined future. But you do not have to make any big decisions right now, just determine the truth of what makes you happy and what doesn't and what you have control over and what you do not.
An example of this exercise might be as follows:
When I imagine what my life could be someday, there is a lot of peace in it. I imagine a small house, owned by us, filled with unique pieces and a warm, fun feeling. I want the feelings of coziness and home along with a sense of whimsy and interest. I want a place my husband looks forward to coming home to where we both keep it clean and orderly. I want a place nearby to go swimming; preferably a backyard pool or something semi-private, but a gym or similar would be fine. Ideally, we'd live on the coast. I am okay with there being kids in the home, and I am okay if there are not. Perhaps nieces and nephews can visit and we can play a role in their lives without having children of our own, if that is what we determine we want to do.
I work or volunteer part-time outside of the home for something I feel passionate about.
It will preferably be largely unsupervised or with limited contact with overseers. I supplement my earnings, unless I can sustain us alone on doing this, with working from the home, doing writing or working online. My schedule is fairly relaxed, with the flexibility to respond well to illness or creative flow. I also craft, spending a lot of time painting. We have friends and family we see, though we operate at a different pace than the outside world, and with oftentimes different priorities. We handle things as they come, with purposeful decisions and plenty of time in quiet. We add to this atmosphere the fun of having those family and friends over for dinners or game nights. We have our own game nights and our own dinners and dates too, of course. We spend time alone and together and we focus on each other as individuals as well as on our marriage. Financially, we're strong. No long-term credit card debt, no or little car payments. Student loans of course and a house payment, but hopefully not a big one. We are careful with money, but have it to spend as we need and for special occasions. We have solid credit ratings, reasonable debt, and will have money for retirement.
I am about 40 pounds under my current weight. I exercise regularly, mostly swimming,
but with some Pilates or tai chi added in. My mental well-being is good and restful. I no longer have diabetes or fibromyalgia. I look good and I feel good.
I feel a strong connection to God.
I have a strong church community where we are welcomed and a part of things. I feel guided by what I believe my life should be to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
What was a wide and varied dream life is broken down into what matters the most. In this example, the author owning their own home was a dream, but was determined to not be necessary for the author to truly be happy.
Now, take your prioritized dreams and make a list of what you want. For the example above, the list would be as follows:
I want a small house that is warm and inviting that reflects who I am.
I want our home to be neat and orderly so that it is a peaceful place for my husband and me.
I want a place where I can go swimming for exercise.
I want to work or volunteer for something I feel passionate about.
I want a flexible schedule.
I want to entertain and enjoy family and friends in our home.
I want my husband and I to spend quality time together and make our marriage a priority.
I want to have enough money to meet our needs.
I want to have limited debt, good credit, and savings.
I want to lose 40 pounds.
I want to be mentally healthy.
I want to engage in a relationship with God.
I want to live my life in accordance with what I believe is God's mission for me.
All of the sudden, you will begin to realize how close you already are to the life you want to live. More importantly, you have identified precisely what you need to be happy. These desires can now be put into goals. You are likely familiar with the concept of SMART goals. As you evaluate yourself and then set goals to take your life the direction you want it, you must use (whenever possible), SMART goals. For those unfamiliar with SMART goals, the idea is to create goals that are:
Specific – Rather than a large-concept goal, break what you want down into a specific objective.
Measurable – The goal must be concrete and measurable rather than a general concept.
Attainable – Your goals must be realistic. As you break your "I want" statements down, think of the possibilities. Think outside the box to find a way that your desire can be attainable.
Relevant – There must be a direct connection between your "I want" statement and the goal you decide to achieve it.
Time-Bound – Make sure that your goals have a deadline! If you have to change it, that's okay, but it is important to start with a deadline so that you are accountable.
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