The question is not “What is comfortable or tastes good or is convenient?” Rather, it concerns those things without which you wouldn’t survive. Many people in the world are faced with this question every day. For those of us who aren’t, it can be interesting to think about it as we eat, shop, or reflect on our lives. It is also interesting to reflect on those things that enrich our lives—that make our lives more meaningful or more fulfilling. There may be a lot of things that we consume or pursue that we think will enrich us but that ultimately don’t add anything of substance.
Life is full of ups and downs. They are what make it interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. In order to get to the high points—the victories, the triumphs, the loves—we all have to risk, and ultimately experience, the low points. And it’s in those low points that we truly learn what we are made of.
When we go through our lows—whatever their cause and however they manifest—it’s natural to want to get through them as quickly as possible, to snap out of it and pretend they never happened.
Not only does that not work—we can’t ignore unpleasant emotions any more than we can ignore a broken arm—it also denies us the opportunity to gain insights into what makes us tick and get to the heart of who we are.
When we think of home, we might think of the place we were born or the place we spent our childhood. For some, home might be where their extended family is. When they go to see their family, they’re going home. Some might think of their home in terms of their current life: where their spouse and children live. Some feel at home anywhere—they are able to bring their sense of home with them wherever they go.
When we don’t know the answer to this question, we can feel anxious or worried. We like to know what’s around the bend and be prepared for it. Circumstances can be especially difficult when there is a higher chance of something scary or tragic happening—like when we are faced with a serious illness, either in ourselves or in loved ones. But we can prepare ourselves for uncertainty and develop practices that help us cope.
It can be helpful to remind ourselves that nothing is certain. We never truly know the outcome of any circumstances or events, and the best thing we can do is develop a comfort with uncertainty and habits that calm us down and provide perspective.
Such a simple thing to say (or think), but it’s so important.
Having gratitude in our lives results in a range of benefits—both individually and from the perspective of society. The act of acknowledging the good things in our lives, and the fact that we are grateful for them, adds meaning to our lives in many ways. It allows us to keep a healthy perspective when we might have otherwise wallowed in our negative emotions and our interpretations of the unfortunate or unfair aspects of our lives.
A sense of gratitude helps us to interact with others in a healthy way. It helps us avoid a “me first” attitude or a sense of entitlement by acknowledging the source of our good fortune, happy feelings, meaning, and fulfillment.