Let’s talk about dragons.
I’ve been studying mothers for years, and if there’s one thing I believe, it’s this: Mothers are not at war with other mothers – we are at war with ourselves. Every day we battle ferocious dragons of self-doubt that inhale everything we do wrong and blow it back in our faces.
Self-doubt is a beast like that.
One of the telltale signs that you have a dragon of self-doubt lurking within is if you operate from a “more mentality.” Meaning you always need something more than what’s in front of you in order to be happy. You know how it works – you’re always five pounds, two promotions, and one kitchen renovation away from finally feeling full.
Dragons of self-doubt feed off a more mentality by convincing you, one exhausting battle at a time, that you must supersize your career, salary, home, fitness routine, etc., in order to feel complete and whole.
When you operate from the deficit of self-doubt, the dragon’s echo is clear: You’re not good enough, and more is more is more is more… So, what are you waiting for? Get your tired butt up and figure out your next win.
But, here’s a thought: What if we stopped letting the future predict our happiness and instead found it in the present? What if we didn’t strive for any life other than the one we’re currently living?
Well, you can. If you’re looking to stop finding your happiness in a hypothetical future and start soaking it up right now, the key to unlocking the code is gratitude.
In other words, being thankful for what you do have versus longing for what you don’t.
Why does gratitude work so well? Because it can’t coexist with resentment, fear, and anxiety. Try it – try to be thankful for a sunny day, but simultaneously irritated that it will rain tomorrow. Your mind finds it impossible to process both emotions at once because they’re in direct opposition of each other.
So, the next time you find yourself annoyed with the present moment and therefore tempted to go fix the future, hit pause and be thankful for what’s around you. Magically you’ll be reminded that what you have is enough without grasping for more.
Here’s an example of gratitude snapping me out of my more mentality. Last year when my daughter and I went on a cruise together, I found myself incredibly overwhelmed by the number of people on the ship, lack of food in between meals, and amount of vomit coming out of me no matter how much anti-nausea medicine I ate, drank, or stuck to my body.
I found myself wanting (and sometimes begging) for more than I had. More space on the boat, more alone-time with my daughter, more margaritas that didn’t come out of slushie machines. The list was endless. By the end of the trip, I had a bad taste in my mouth (probably from so much barf), but I desperately wanted to be grateful for the current situation, not attempting to fast forward to a better one.
On the final day of the cruise, my daughter and I made a list of the fifty amazing things we saw or experienced on the cruise, which included being on a cruise in the first place, eating soft-serve ice cream five times a day, getting henna tattoos, contorting our bodies to fit in the tiniest shower on the planet, and reenacting that famous scene from the movie Titanic on the front of the boat.
It was a fun exercise and it forced me to recognize that it was a better vacation than I originally thought. In other words, I learned that the imperfect vacation with my daughter was enough. I didn’t need more.
That experience reminds me of a fortune cookie message I keep posted inside a cabinet I open every morning at home. It simply says: The pleasure of what we enjoy is lost by wanting more. I can’t get enough of this sentiment. I stare at it every day.
It’s a great conversation starter too. While writing this, my daughter had some friends over, and I asked them what the sentiment meant to them. Without missing a beat, 9-year-old Jane replied, “It’s about greed.” After asking her to explain, she filled in the blank so many of
us need to hear but often forget, “You can’t always want more in life or you’ll end up very lonely.”
Boom. Tell it like it is, sister.
Gratitude is a powerful force against self-doubt. You’re telling that dragon of yours and anyone else who will listen that “what I have is enough and I don’t need more.” Talk about liberating!
The next time you find yourself overwhelmed, hit pause on the hustle and be thankful for what’s right in front of you. Gratitude as a practice will help you breathe easier, relax more, and see the inherent good that’s easy to overlook when you’re blindly barreling toward more.
Before you start your to-do list today, jot down five things you’re grateful for. In other words, stop to smell the gratitude. And when you do, you’ll realize it’s hard to be anxious about what’s ahead of you when you’re in love with what’s in front of you. Cheers to that!