“Wherever you go, there you are” is the title of a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor and founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). I’ve never read the book and don’t know much about the author, but the title resonated with me. Wherever you go on your journey through life, you take yourself with you. You are always there no matter what.
Following on from my post about how we should appreciate the things we take for granted, it’s easy to see that we often aren’t even happy with what we do have. The concept of the grass is always greener is so commonplace that we never seem to be truly satisfied with our current situation no matter how good we have it. We’re always looking outward, for someone or something, to make us happy. Happier than we are. As happy as we think we could be. A better job, a nicer car, a different partner, a new city. All these things that if they were to change we’d be so much better off. But if we're honest with ourselves, would it really change all that much?
The truth is, whatever your outlook on life or tendencies are, wherever you go won’t change them. It seems to be a common thread among young people in Ireland (and probably everywhere else!) that moving to another country will solve all of their problems. “Our government are useless”, “Their culture is much more exciting”, “Sunny weather will improve my mood!” they often tell me. But ultimately, nothing will change for them because it’s their attitudes and actions that need adjusting, not their situation.
While discussing this same concept, author Richard Carlson describes an interaction that he had that sums it up quite well: “Someone once asked me, "What are the people like in California?" I asked him, "What are the people like in your home state?" He replied, "Selfish and greedy." I told him that he would probably find the people in California to be selfish and greedy.”.
I’m not saying to forget about your dreams or ambitions, not to follow your passion or to discover a new life. No, not at all. Change can be great. Travel can be inspiring. The problem lies wherein we believe that only a change of our current circumstance is what stands between us and true happiness. We cause ourselves unnecessary stress when we believe the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side. It leads to envy, greed, the constant desire for more. More will solve our problems. More will make us happier. So much so that we begin to believe it to be true, leading us to constantly feel that what we have is never enough.
This attitude is really bad for our mental health. It leads us to believe that outside influences are the sole driver of our happiness, when in fact real happiness comes from within (a cliché, but still true). We aren’t present in the here and now, and we don’t make the most of what we have. If we deny ourselves the appreciation of the great things we do have in our lives, we’ll only become discouraged in our pursuit of self-improvement and a better life.
Today, I encourage you to be present. To appreciate what you have, where you are and what you’re doing. It might not be perfect. It might not be where you thought you’d be. But by accepting where we are for what it is, we have the opportunity to improve, learn and grow.
“Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present.” - Richard Carlson