Open up your mind’s eye and consider this: You are in the street in front of your house. You have your dog’s leash in one hand and your significant other’s hand in the other. The rest of your family is safe. All of your pets are happy as they can be. And your house is burning to the ground. Every one of your material possessions has been engulfed and will have to be replaced. Some are irreplaceable.
In this situation, from what or who would you draw your sense of happiness? What would keep you sane and in good spirits? It is a somber thought to begin with, but I promise it is worth the effort to consider the outcome.
I had this thought a couple of weeks ago when I was out buying new work clothes and a few other things. I was thinking about how I enjoyed the ability to buy things. And then I stopped to question myself. Why do I enjoy buying things? What is it that brings any semblance of joy as a result of purchases made? What is it about my bookshelves of books and a closet full of clothes?
My answer was: I don’t know. I love reading, and I enjoy being warm in the winter in my own style… But I don’t derive my sense of self worth or feeling of overall happiness from my things. So I asked myself: what if I lost it all? What would matter most to me?
I’m not sure I have completely hammered out my final answer yet, but I have come to recognize a couple of things. 1) My family is the most important part of my life. They support me and they have shaped who I am today. 2) I cherish relationships with the people who matter most to me. I love to care for people and expand my network of friends and mentors with whom I share mutually beneficial relationships. And by mutually beneficial I mean wholesome, emotional support and trusted friendship. 3) The world around me. I love being outside. Working in the yard on a sunny day or climbing a mountain to look out over the surrounding landscape makes my heart fulfilled. 4) Working out. I long ago gave up my efforts to ever look like my father, but I truly enjoy being in good health and taking care of myself. It makes my day better. It gives me the energy and strength to do my best work.
I think I have begun to identify the things that truly matter most to me. None of them are physical possessions. All of them bring happiness to my life. And I know that when I find myself focusing too much on superficial things, I need to come back to this post and remind myself of where happiness comes from.
And I encourage you to do the same for yourself. Write it down somewhere. Remember it. Put it in your car to read every morning. Make it a recurring calendar reminder once a month. Do whatever you need to to keep things in perspective.