During the summer months, I like to peep out of my bathroom window when I’m showering and enjoy the view of my back garden (please don’t worry, the window is walled up ’til head height for me. Promise I’m not flashing at anybody). From this height, I can often see the gardens of my neighbours (4 other gardens in total). Sometimes I can’t help but compare gardens. Ours is the most lush, most vibrant, most fruitful and undeniably the most green garden that I see.
Earlier this month, I became rather irritated with the behaviour of relatives that I love dearly. They just didn’t seem to be happy with things being perceived as ‘normal’. Instead, things had to appear ‘rich’, or ‘luxury’, or portray ‘status’. I have some major thoughts about that.
What things appear like to one person may be perceived very differently to someone else
Let’s take the example of apparel. There is a multitude of fake designer label schtuff out there. Now, I’m not one for designer labels anyway – I’d rather buy something for the sake of quality. If it happens to be designer, then so be it. Either way, I wouldn’t care. However, it strikes me as superficial if there is a clear attempt to give others the impression of class or status when that is not the truth or reality of the matter. This kind of behaviour is very much rooted in vanity, which is a spiritual daughter of pride. Whilst the wearer may believe they’re giving an impression of status, others may just be oppositely impressed by their illegitimacy and inauthenticity.
A sense of unfulfillment stemming from ingratitude could lead a person to paralysis or misconduct
There are many reasons why a person might feel dissatisfied with life, and indeed, there are some things that we all have a right to be dissatisfied about. When someone’s dignity or rightful use of free will is being breached (for example, in the form of racism or abuse, or destitution of any kind), then this is absolutely a reason to be dissatisfied, and more! However, for the majority of us who live in the first world we have very little to be ungrateful about.
The spirit of ingratitude traps people into a sense of unfulfillment – particularly if one places their self-worth on what they have/possess or what status they’ve achieved, rather than recognising their inherent worth by virtue of their human dignity. There are 3 ways we can react to this spirit of ingratitude: 1) we can be numbed by it; 2) we can be controlled by it; 3) we can change ourselves and live more in a spirit of gratitude. Let’s look at reactions 1 and 2…
One might eventually find themselves in a state of paralysis or self-loathing when one is feeling unfulfilled in life and if a number of these words present as true: demotivated, bored, dull, confused, stuck, indifferent/ apathetic, distressful, imbalanced, and/or directionless. On the other hand, one might eventually find themselves acting out of misconduct if any of these words present as true: jealousy, envy, anger, injustice, unruliness, greed, pressure, impulsiveness, intemperance, competition and/or licentiousness. Why might that be? The answer is simple yet difficult to embrace. We can be willing to lose control of ourselves in order to possess what we don’t have – and the problem with this is that when we surrender self-control, we hand power over to the object that we are desiring. Suddenly, that object has control over us, and we become a prisoner or a slave of that object. Actions done or made out-of-control all because of ingratitude often have negative outcomes and consequences as we lose ourselves in the process of it all.
The healthiest way to move forward when in a spirit of ingratitude, is to come back to yourself, revisit your core values and re-look at your options for moving forward. That’s where coaching helps tremendously. A conclusion that is most often reached is that we need to change ourselves: our way of thinking and our way of behaving.
I’m not at all saying that people shouldn’t have aspirations or high standards. No. What I’m saying is that our aspirations should help serve our purpose in life; for it is living out our purpose that will bring us greatest happiness and there isn’t anything that we can be more grateful for than that. Our life is a gift to us and we have the choice to give of ourselves as gift to others around us. The sooner we accept that, the more gratefully we will live our lives. This requires the active practice of the virtue of humility. On the subject of standards, standards are important. But standards need to remain in context and realistic.
Aspirations are a good thing. Foolishness is not.
Dishonesty makes one untrustworthy very fast. Once that trust is lost, the experience of ‘you’ in someone else’s mind is no longer credible. For people who live according to the core value of ‘truth’, being around people who tend to live any sort of lie becomes uncomfortable and potentially unpleasant. Particularly in the coaching industry, it is very important to identify authentically confident coaches, with confidently dishonest ones! Recently, I’ve been learning a lot from the FI (Financial Independence) community. I’ve met people whose net worth are millions, who still drive Fiat Cinquecentos and Toyota Aygos, even beyond reaching FI!! This goes to show that the ‘fake it until you make it’ lifestyle doesn’t quite rub off well on people who know the value of value; for these guys would say that if one of the most important things (values) in your life is classic cars (as opposed to the sense of status or prestige that a car brings), then spend your money on a car that would make you happy (because it’s essentially an investment in your happiness). Otherwise, 4 wheels, a gear box and a steering wheel with a roof and somewhere to sit is pretty much all you need. It could be worth gently broaching the subject with a person who you care for and love, about how much he or she might be fooling him/herself if unreasonably living beyond their means or living the aspiration of that lifestyle without it being the reality. For their wellbeing ultimately, that kind of conversation might lessen perception-based burdens so that they are further able to live more genuinely as themselves. It can also prevent wrongful behaviour toward them by others, since why would another person not be permitted to be disingenuous to a person who is so actively being disingenuous to him/herself? Would it not be better and even easier to simply change our perceptions, open our eyes and live in a spirit of gratitude?
Conclusion & take-away points
To conclude, what’s interesting about the view over my back garden is that only my neighbour to the right can actually see into our garden. And I do wonder whether the owner thinks the grass is greener over on our side. But the point is, he’d only really notice it if he actually cared, or if he wasn’t happy with his own turf. The other 3 neighbours’ gardens run adjacently along the length of our garden, and those houses are bungalows. So they have no idea what our garden looks like unless they used a ladder to purposely look into our garden! They’re all none-the-wiser!
So here’s 3 summary points that I would like to put across to you about the grass being greener on the other side and invite you to apply this analogy to whatever is in your life that needs some reconciliation:
- Grass is only greener on the other side if we’re not grateful for our own patches in the first place. Living in a spirit of gratitude and acceptance is extremely liberating, and I highly encourage it!
- Grass is happiest with lots of water and good soil. The same principle is true for every aspect of your life. You can be happier if you are giving yourself what you really need. This is of course more objective than subjective. I promise you that if you think what you need is to eat a cake a day, then you’re not giving yourself what you really need! Make sure your hearts and minds are full of good soil and receive lots of water (for me, that vital element is prayer).
- You’ll be happy when you don’t compare your patch to your neighbours’, or pretend that you have a garden that is beyond your capability or capacity at the time! It’s important to aspire toward something whilst living your present moment and circumstances. You might not have the time nor the money to make your garden the best. But you really can be super happy with what you do have (even if you don’t have a garden), because it’s almost 100% guaranteed that whatever patch you do have would be someone else’s dream patch. Enjoying and making something of the patch you have is the best way of being grateful for it.
Question for you: what’s your little ‘patch’ that you keep comparing to others or feel that you’ve shown ingratitude toward?