Last week I hosted an important customer visit for the entire week. This extended visit allowed me to get to know my customers well and to also chat with them about non-business issues. One day, one of my visitors told me how a few years ago he had to do a biopsy to rule-out the possibility of lymphoma. Happily, the biopsy came back negative, but for the few days he was waiting for the results, my customer was understandably freaking out. This experience changed his world view, at least for a little while. He realized that every day he was able to get out of bed was a gift to be cherished. However, after a while this new found perspective wore-off and he reverted his old, stressed and busy self.
Humans can't go-around being thankful and happy all the time. That's contrary to our basic nature. It's not a bad thing. In fact, I would argue that it's a pretty good thing. You can't go about your daily business, constantly being aware of your mortality and of your fragility. That way lies madness and depression. What makes us function as humans is our ability to ignore the inevitable. What makes us better as a society (and as a species) is the fact that we refuse to be happy with what we have. We must have more. It is in our nature to strive.
If we were all happy with what we have, we would all still be living in caves, subsisting off of random berries and spearing antelopes for dinner. Hey, I like living in a house. In fact, I like my own house, but that doesn't mean that I don't want a bigger and better one. I enjoy my work, but that doesn't mean that I will be satisfied with it forever. I am happy with who I am and what I have learned over the years, but that doesn't stop me from wishing for more knowledge and more learning. What's wrong with that?
Of course, as in everything else, moderation is needed. Being constantly thankful that you are not dying of cancer will make you a very strange person. Constantly obsessing that you don't make enough money will make you a very unhappy (and probably unpleasant) person. A moderate level of dissatisfaction is a good thing. It has many names, two of which are ambition and aspiration.
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