Don’t go around thinking the world owes you anything. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
That’s a badly mangled version of a quote often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain that I mutter to myself at least three times a day.
Entitlement is the single worst trait in a human being. Expecting a certain behavior or a certain outcome or a certain situation doesn’t increase your happiness level any. In fact, entitlement will only bring you grief when the Universe decides to take back whatever it lent you.
Everything you have is only on loan to you. Your house, your car, your money and all your worldly possessions. Your hair, your cells, your time, your burrito. Everything. The Universe is letting you borrow it all.
That’s nice of the Universe, eh?
The trick is finding happiness and appreciation with what you have instead of lusting over what you want. Focus on the good.
When I was working as a lawyer, I had a list to remind myself to try to enjoy the freaking journey and not just countdown to retirement.
Things I’m going to miss when I’m retired, so appreciate it now, you idiot
- Payday twice a month is REALLY fun.
- It’s nice having my own office.
- And a secretary. I like asking her to scan and fax stuff.
- I get to wear nice dresses everyday.
- Oh, the occasional free tickets to professional games are nice.
- There are a lot of really smart people here to interact with.
- I’m not a bum. I’m working. A real job.
Unfortunately and fortunately, we acclimate. We get used to everything. It’s wonderful because you can get used to a lot of bad stuff and still keep living. It’s kind of sucky because you get used to the good stuff too and start to get bored.
Gratitude is the answer. Feel grateful for everything you have while you have it. It’s how you hop off the hedonistic treadmill and inhale the scent of the roses.
A sense of entitlement is the opposite of grit. When life gets bumpy, an entitled person feels shocked and angry, dwelling on the unfairness of it all. A gritty person gets back up and tries something else.
Think about what you can control and what you can’t.
Axis of control
Category one includes anything I possess exactly zero control over. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day. No matter what I do, that won’t change. And that’s okay! Because the world is too full of things. I’d go mad if I had control over everything. Or I’d grow madder anyway.
I try not to waste my precious time and energy worrying about anything that falls into this category.
Category two includes things I have complete control over. My attitude. How I spend cash. Trying to find an activity that delights me.
Category three includes things I have some control over. How much I succeed at the activity that delights me. How much money I make. The way I position myself for the inevitable bad.
Life is going to suck occasionally. I don’t have control over what or when the suckiness comes, but I can give myself cushion. Having money gives you options and slightly more control than not having money. Work on the things you can control so you’re not flattened by the things you can’t control.
And when you do get what you want? Practice something called negative visualizations. Picture the loss of the thing while you still have it.
When you’re done picturing the loss and realize you still have it, you can celebrate. It’s like the relief you feel when you wake up from a bad dream. Phew! I don’t really have a big exam in a class I forgot to attend. Phew! I still have [whatever you pretended you lost for a moment.]
Do this and when you do eventually lose that thing, you’ll be slightly more prepared for it.
Entitlement breeds unhappiness. Gratitude breeds happiness.
Ideas stolen from stoicism
The first rule about fight club is not to talk about fight club. But everyone talks about fight club. I picked up this jabbering wisdom from a book on stoicism. It’s a life philosophy based on tranquility. One of the basic tenets urges you not to talk about your conversion to stoicism; just live a stoic life.
But everyone talks about fight club.
I dig it. It perfectly encapsulates what I personally mean when I say that I’m striving for joy. My version of happy.
“We will, out of the blue, feel delighted to be the person we are, living the life we are living, in the universe we happen to inhabit.”
Yes! The happiness that surprises me. I didn’t know how to phrase it.
Lots of good ideas in this philosophy.
More gems from stoicism
- “Not needing wealth is more valuable than wealth itself.”
- “Stoics value their freedom, and they are therefore reluctant to do anything that will give others power over them. But if we seek social status, we give other people power over us: We have to do things calculated to make them admire us.”
- “A stoic who disparages wealth might become wealthier than those individuals whose principal goals is its acquisition.” Because a stoic has single-mindedness and self-discipline (grit!).
- “For most people, experiencing delight requires a change in circumstances; they might, for example, have to acquire a new consumer gadget. Stoics, in contrast, can experience delight without any such change; because they practice negative visualization.”
- “Seek friends who share our values and learn from how they live their life.” I’m really starting to think that good friends are the point of life.