I've recently been reading the work of Gretchen Rubin, a lawyer turned writer and happiness researcher. She started a blog call The Happiness Project in preparation for her book of the same name that is due to hit shelves in January 2010. Because of my own interest in the subject, I've started following her writing regularly.
Last week, Gretchen published a post about life's cruel truth: you get more of what you already have. It got me thinking about how we always want something our of reach, something that's different than what we have, though not necessarily better. And it's never enough. We want more money, more notoriety, more free time, more love, more, more, more. As Gretchen points out, though we keep striving for something new and different, we end up with more of what we've got.
Luckily, this principle can work in our favor as well. I've found this year that by seeking out something hopeful every day, I'm finding much more hope than I ever thought I'd have. Once I had a little bit, I was able to gather more. I'd notice hope all around me, just by the being more aware of its presence. It's always been there - I just wasn't paying attention. It's lmost as if a little hope is a magnet for more hope. Happiness, love, friendship, luck, and karma work this way, too.
Turn the tables, and we'll find just as many examples that work against us. Anger begets anger. Sadness begets sadness. And so on for things like frustration and disappointment.
So the choice is ours for the making: do we want to feel hope or despair? What is it that we want to attract to our lives? It is possible to think ourselves into luck and good fortune. It's just as easy to turn the tables and make a mess of our lives. Yes there are always outside influences beyond our control, but our lives are largely what we make of them.
One of my mom's childhood friends tells a great story about a trip she and my mom took to New Orleans when they were in their early 20's. A fortune teller on the corner asked them if they'd like to have their fortunes read to them. Without missing a beat, my mom responded, nicely, "No thanks. I make my own fortune." That statement holds more truth for all of us than we realize.