I believe there is a growing epidemic – each generation seems to have this habit more than the last – of always looking for something better. All day, every day.
Most of us go through our lives never feeling quite satisfied – always with a feeling just below the surface that nothing is ever quite good enough. You haven’t made it to the perfect experience.
This can pervade all aspects of life for some people, and for others it’s only in certain parts of life, like at work or in partner relationships. But I think we all have some of this going on (myself included!).
If it’s pervasive in your life it could be that you’ve had recent thoughts like:
- The lunch at the café wasn’t nice enough – I should’ve chosen the other café.
- The weekend away with my girlfriend/boyfriend wasn’t that exciting – maybe I shouldn’t be with her anymore.
- The project at work is getting a bit boring: maybe I should be looking for a more exciting job.
- My house is feeling cluttered and too small: maybe we should move house.
- That TV show I just watched (or film or video game etc) wasn’t that exciting: I should look for something better to watch.
- The meditation I had this morning wasn’t blissful or even very peaceful: I should do it better; maybe an online guided meditation will help.
- And so on…..
I call this the “not good enoughs”! It’s a habit of always looking for a better experience, of never being quite satisfied with what we have. Does it sound familiar to you?
Here’s an example from my own life. Last year my partner and I built a new house. For years we’ve lived in various rental houses and I’ve always complained about them – how cold/hot they are, badly designed or ugly – and always wished to live in the perfect house, built by us! Now finally we have it – my dream is fulfilled. Yes, it’s a beautiful house and it’s wonderfully well-insulated! But I’m no happier in life than I was when we lived in rental houses. It’s not like finally having my dream home has made life perfect. I still have all the same challenges (and joys) as I had before.
There is a big sign that can tell you when you have the “not good enoughs” happening: you get a craving feeling for something better. It’s a yearning kind of feeling that feels good for a moment because you are momentarily “in” the better experience in your mind – where you picture yourself on the perfect holiday with the perfect person, not here where things aren’t so perfect.
So what’s the problem with this? Isn’t a bit of daydreaming fair enough?!
That imagined future doesn’t exist – it’s not real. And what’s more, it’s making you miss out on the present and what is to be enjoyed or learnt right here. If you did go on that perfect holiday, it wouldn’t be perfect – you’d find something wrong with that too. So our craving is a habit that makes the present seem never good enough, while we hanker for a future that will never happen. Not a recipe for happiness!
This is, of course, where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness helps us start to notice the craving – we see our mind wander off to this imagined “future perfect”. It does it repeatedly throughout the day. If we can start to notice it more quickly and snap back to the present, we have a chance to be a lot happier as follows:
- We can be here and now to enjoy what there is: so much beauty if you stop and look.
- We can accept that the present situation isn’t perfect – our job, our partner, our family, our lunch may not be ideal. But that’s okay because nothing ever is! If we aren’t constantly comparing this present to a better (non-existent) future, then we will be so much less dissatisfied. And so much more satisfied with what we’ve got!
So use your meditation and daily mindfulness practice to keep noticing the “craving” in your mind and drop it as soon as you can. Come back to what’s right here and appreciate it. Sure, change what you can in your life, but first make sure that you aren’t just endlessly looking for something better out of habit. Is this present life really so unsatisfactory? Or can we find the beauty and satisfaction in it if we just look for it?
Wishing you much satisfaction.