Often times as I am driving across town to and from work, I contemplate my life and whether or not I am satisfied. Thoughts on the top of our minds tend to be about current relationships, projects, work, school, and how you are going to take care of life’s most basic requirements. At times, this flow of thought can be so saturating we get lost in the daily stream of information. It is this that I feel contributes to a lost sense of happiness. We are not happy with ourselves because we have lost the sweet taste of life by looking toward tomorrow. What would happen if we simply stopped today, took just a moment and looked at our reflection in the pond of time? We wouldn’t need to look too intently to notice just how good we have it.
As a high school student, I spent a significant amount of time learning about Latin American culture. Since those years, I have continued to pursue learning more about the Latin culture. This summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time in both Peru and Bolivia. The trip was life changing and totally re-oriented my focus on priorities. I recall vividly a conversation I had with a teenage friend I made over there. After a lengthy discussion on cultural differences and norms, I asked him a very simply question: what makes Latin Americans such happy people despite not having the luxuries or economic stability Americans enjoy? His response was simple, “my friend, the problem with Americans is that they are never happy where they stand”. Further conversation revealed more of his meaning. Americans never seem to be content with what they have already achieved. Our drive is to continually make more money, get more stuff done, and find activities which eat up our time.
The lesson my Bolivian friend taught me was impacting. Why are we not the kind of people who are happy we have a bed to wake up in? How about the fact that we have healthy food and sanitary water? But more importantly, any Latin American will tell you, why is there not a focus on the people who surround us such as friends and family who contribute loving, meaningful relationships to our live experience? At times, I think the dose of this medication comes hard and is very bitter. We don’t realize how important those relationships are until they are threatened or lost.
The commitment then is to not worry about tomorrow or “later on”. The challenge is to focus on those beautiful things we have in life right now and realize that yes, before we reach our goals, we can in fact be happy where we stand. All to often we do not allow ourselves to be happy right were we stand because we don’t feel we can be until we reach our goals. This has proven to not be true. I challenge you to try it, for a week, to focus on what creates the most happiness for your right now and don’t think so much on the path ahead for a week. Let us all, even if its for just a few moments, be happy where we stand!