Hello everybody, welcome to episode 59 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we answer all of your questions on life's struggles. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
We’ve got one of those really dense questions again today, friends. It’s a short, stout question that really packs a punch and affects all of us. And it was actually sent in by an old college buddy, so extra thanks to him for the question and as well as the good memories. Now let’s give it a listen and prepare to relate…
QUESTION: “How do you find satisfaction with your current situation knowing that most people (no matter how successful) keep dreaming of bigger and better?”
Our Constant Need for Progress
Ah, well this is just the million dollar question, isn’t it? There aren’t many all-encompassing questions out there, but I’d put some money on this being one of the few that’s sort of at the root of all struggles, I think. It's a very applicable question, and I sure hope everyone’s ears are perked up because we all have to work on this one.
The whole thing is really interesting. It’s this weird paradox. On the one hand, we all need progress, right? Progress, evolution, it’s something we’re always striving for in one way or another.
If you reflect on your life now, or at any point, you're bound to find yourself constantly seeking progress in at least one area. Maybe it’s in the gym, maybe it’s saving or making more money, maybe it’s feeling less stressed — the possibilities are endless.
How to Minimize Dissatisfaction
On the other hand, the downfall of this hope (this hope which we get out of bed for, mind you), is that if you’re always looking for more, you’re also always finding that you don’t have enough.
If something needs to be improved, it means it’s not as good as can be and therefore you’re not as satisfied as can be. This is true in varying degrees, but it’s inevitably true all the time because the thirst for progress cannot exist without at least a shred of dissatisfaction anymore than tall can exist without short.
The goal, then, is to not try to avoid dissatisfaction, but minimize it. And anyone who’s on board with this so far should read Mark Manson’s newest book, called Everything is “Fudged,” except it’s another word that starts with an F that I can’t say on the show because we’d get banned in certain countries. True story. I just talked about him a couple of episodes ago. He’s an unbelievable writer, and addresses this stuff head on.
Moving on. In order to minimize the lack of satisfaction and allow yourself the best chance at creating harmony between your desire to appreciate what you have and your desire for more, there are a few things that you need to acknowledge, three by my count:
1. The first thing to acknowledge regularly is your accomplishments to date.
This could be verbal, on paper, or between the ears, but reminding yourself of that which you have accomplished and all that you went through to accomplish it is a great way of not feeling in such a rush to get to the next step. Think back on the things you’ll be proud to reflect on in your dying moments.
My bet is that there are already plenty of them, so don’t let them get lost in the flurry.
A great way to expedite this step and these feelings of satisfaction would also be to put yourself in a role in which you’re teaching or mentoring those who have accomplished less. This not only helps you contribute, but it also reminds you of where you came from and what you’ve learned along the way.
2. The second thing to acknowledge, or express anyway, is gratitude for that which you have.
This gratitude could be for both your accomplishments that you’re thinking of, or just blessings in life that require way less effort.
Take some time to remind yourself of how lucky you are to have what you have. There are few better ways to pump the breaks on needing more than reminding yourself that you already have so much, possibly more than you’ll ever need, and the rest is just gravy. We often seek out more of anything because we want to feel comfortable, as if we’re taken care of — it’s reassuring.
As we do more of this, we lose track of what we need, go way beyond that point, and subconsciously start to rely on more. This increases our fragility, only further preventing us from being satisfied.
So practice finding gratitude for what you have. Name three things you’re grateful for each day. I’ve been doing that since I was a little kid, and it has legitimate long-term effects on happiness. You might also consider spending time with those less fortunate, which is yet another way to use your reminder to give you a boost in this step.
3. The third thing to acknowledge is the fact that having problems and seeking solutions to them is inevitable.
You hinted at it when you mentioned “no matter how successful” in your question. Problems keep on coming, and the better off we are, the more sensitive we become to things because, again, SOMETHING will have to bother us.
I assume this goes hand in hand with our need for progress; perhaps it’s a need so strong that we’ll go out of our way to fuel it by seeking ways to consider why something is wrong.
So saddle up and acknowledge that problems give us purpose. They will always be there a smidge, and thus, so will at least a thin layer of dissatisfaction. And if you’re having trouble with this, I don’t blame you. There’s a sense of despair that could come with it.
So to get through this step, think back on all the times when you thought about how great it would be to have what you have now. There are countless of them. Then think about all the wonderful things you learned and the connections you built in continuing to work and improve yourself. Those highs came because you earned something, and as long as you keep searching for progress in your life, you’ll keep earning the same way.
Reframing Your Mindset
What do all these acknowledgements have in common? They reframe your mind. They’re all glass half full types of things and they aren’t very creative, but they do work. They succeed in helping you to once again be happy with yourself, regardless of whether or not others are.
Much of the time we’re dreaming of bigger and better is done through the lens of others. It’s worth it for you, asker of this question, as well as everyone listening that is feeling similarly, to ask yourself if your dissatisfaction is being influenced too much by the world around you.
Maybe you’re in a group that’s constantly reminding you of what you’ve not done. If so, that group needs to be changed. Having others around who are less than satisfied with your life can be enough to make you feel more dissatisfied yourself. In other words, if there are enough others implying that you need to be better, you might just start to believe it yourself even if without these people’s chatter, you were actually feeling fine.
Should this be the case, it really becomes a question of your values. Much of our dissatisfaction that goes beyond the normal amount is due to the lack of fulfillment of our own values. It’s easy to start living by the values of those around us, because doing so gets us good feedback from others who we so crave a connection with. But at the end of the day, your dissatisfaction is going to increase no matter how successful you are at values that aren’t your own. By living through your own values and therefore your own standard, you’re more apt to finding satisfaction because you’re feeding WHO you care about being rather than WHAT you care about being.
So don’t worry about not trying to make progress. You’re wired to do it. Just make sure that progress in aligned with what actually matters to you, and you’re giving yourself the best chance to find satisfaction and be proud of your efforts every step of the way, regardless of how much is left to gain.
Again, nothing terribly creative here, and though I try to bring new stuff to the table whenever I can, we shouldn’t overlook small simple strategies that work.
It’s easy to overlook them because they’re repeated and don’t pack a huge punch right away, but some things are worth sticking with and I feel as though they were applicable today on finding satisfaction.
But who knows what I’ll have to say about a question YOU might be struggling with? Might as well find out and email us your questions that you’d like answered on the show to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll take your question in and do out best to help out, we pinky swear. So get in there, don’t hesitate. Thanks for sticking with this one, everybody. Can’t wait to talk to you next time!