How To Be Happy: Cultivate Thankfulness

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‘I was 70 million dollars and I was depressed because I wanted to have 100′, a friend told me a few years ago when we had eaten after a conference in New York. He had literally collected tens of millions of dollars, but he thought it was not worth it, but he needed at least a hundred million dollars. His desperation, anxiety, stress, and constant question of who he was, what he had accomplished, and his worth as a person led to depression and bankruptcy. ‘I ended up with $ 432 in my bank account,’ he told me. ‘I remember going to the ATM, checking my balance and saying, what did I do?’ – he told me. After a few years, of course, he managed to reconquer his fortune and even to double it. But this time, he did things differently, completely differently. And part of the change is what I want to discuss in this essay. When I tell this story, most people are surprised and think: ‘How crazy, with 70 million dollars, I would be happy’. And then I ask them: Do they make more money today than yesterday? And when I’m in conference, I say: Raise your hand, which now earns double what it earned two years ago. The 90% present in the room raise their hands. And then I ask them: And are you happier today? Less stressed? Do you feel freer? Less frustrated? The answer usually removes the smile from everyone present, including me and my team: ‘In’ Your life today is better than yesterday and yet … You see, most of our lives today are infinitely better than yesterday and yet we feel the same or worse than before. Stress continues, fear is maintained, runners are there and frustration and worry are a daily ingredient in our lives. And even if you think that you are not doing better financially (I doubt it), think about improving the relationship with your partner, the relationship with your family. Or think about the skills you have developed, the experiences you have gained, the challenges you have overcome. Your life is not perfect, I know. And if it serves you, it will never be. But your life is beautiful: You have friends with whom you enjoy your weekend, you have people who love you, you have a bed where you sleep, you have breakfast today, you have lunch and dinner today.

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You need a shelter from the cold, you have an Internet connection (60% of the population does not have), you have eyes to see, to appreciate what surrounds you. You are able to dream, you have the opportunity to improve yourself, you have freedom, opportunities and, finally, you have life: you live. Recognize what you have accomplished, the challenges you have overcome, the people you have met, the progress you have made. Think about the experiences you’ve had, the magical moments you’ve experienced that make life worth living. ‘And we live as if we would never die,’ said the Dalai Lama. I do not know if it will be absolutely true, but something is absolutely true: We must begin by cultivating gratitude in our lives. Because it’s the only way to smile when you need it most. It gives you the energy to go further in your life and the wisdom to recognize that progress. This eliminates any frustration and gives you the clarity needed to overcome it. No matter how much money you make, your weight, your appearance, the position you keep, the car you drive, the house where you live, the woman or man you marry can feel thankfullness that you you will not be happy, because as long as you can not thank for what you have today, you can not appreciate what you will receive in the future. No matter what situation (good or bad) you are in if you can identify that little detail you feel very thankfull for, then you have won the game of life.

01 February 2021

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