How to Appreciate What You Have

How To Appreciate What You Have

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to live in a Consumer Society.  Many studies in Positive Psychology show that being affluent doesn't actually make most people happier.  And whether you think you are or not, you are probably affluent if you live in the developed world. 

The problem with living in an economy that demands growth is that we are constantly being marketed to and thus put into a state of desire for more.  Here are some messages I’ve been hearing lately from marketers:

  • My three-year old Prius has some miles on it, so why don't I turn it in for a new one (and a larger car loan)?
  • Wouldn't I like a larger place to live and buy more furniture to fill my new home?
  • Can I really be happy with a business that fits me and my lifestyle?  Shouldn't it be a mega-business that stretches me and my resources way past my comfort zone?  (I'm all for stretching past your comfort zone, but WAY past it may not be the best idea for success.)

You know what I'm talking about.  Those subtle and not so subtle messages that you and what you have are not enough.  Like “If only you had that slimmed, toned, and liposuctioned body, THEN you'd be really happy.” 

Well, from what I've observed and experienced, that might be a big fat lie!

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, a landmark book on business leadership, taught for two years at West Point Military Academy, where the leaders of the US Army are trained.  What he found in his time there were young people who are intensely challenged, intensely competitive, and intensely cooperative with each other.  In Collins’s experience they were more engaged and fulfilled than students on other college campuses. 

In a recent Inc. Magazine article, Collins describes three key factors that build leaders and fulfilled people:

  1. Challenge and Growth
  2. Service
  3. Communal Success

So to find out how you can feel more happiness and fulfillment, let's look at these three areas of your business and your life. 

Challenge and Growth

Life and business automatically bring challenge.  It doesn't matter if it's a printer jam or an issue with a child or that your assistant is on medical leave, life and business will always throw problems at you.  And of course the gift of these challenges is the opportunity to grow - even if you would rather pass on another growth opportunity this red hot moment. 


The cadets at West Point are training to serve our country to the point of risking their lives.  Most of us don't live at that level of commitment.  But you probably serve a number of different people in a number of different ways - some of which you are not even aware of.  Your business serves others with your expertise, your caring serves those you love, your friendliness reminds the store clerk that someone appreciates them.

Communal Success

In spite of their competitiveness, West Point cadets spend their minimal spare time helping classmates train for grueling obstacle courses.  They know that contributing to the success of others raises the probability of their own success.  The old business model said that competition is bad.  But we are seeing the rise of cooperation and collaboration as the new business values.  This new model of business demands that we believe in our own worth and that there is enough for each of us.  When we know that we can be generous with our encouragement and our help and ensure that our community succeeds.

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving Holiday in the US, here are 

Three Simple Steps to Appreciate What You Have

  • Find an object you really love.  Touch it and feel its texture, think about its history (who made it, where it's from), look at its shape and color(s).  

Notice what you appreciate about this object and how it amplifies your experience.

  • Put your hand over your heart and feel it beat.  Think about the amazing innate intelligence that creates the blood that pumps through your heart and keeps it beating rhythmically.  Consider the nutrients that are flowing to each and every cell in your body, keeping them alive and vibrant.  

Feel appreciation for the intelligence and wisdom of your body.

  • Sit with someone you love. Look into their face and notice what you see there.  Appreciate what this person has brought into your life, how they've helped you grow, and what you've experienced together.  

Thank her/him for the gift s/he is to you.

You are now in a State of Appreciation for what you have. Repeat often and enjoy!