Earlier today, I was musing about satisfaction. What is it? And how can we all get it? If you were to ask 100 people on the street if they were satisfied, what do you think the answer would be?
These days, with all the bells and whistles at our disposal to make our lives easier and better, it might be easy to think that if we just had a better job, more money, the perfect husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, or a trip to Hawaii, we would then finally be satisfied. But I wonder how people achieved satisfaction before the invention of dishwashers or trips to Maui? It can’t be a requirement to achieve fulfillment, or at least not for the zillions of people that don’t live on Maui.
So I Googled satisfaction to see if the answer to these questions could be found on the internet. I found links to sites on sexual satisfaction, satisfaction through hypnotherapy, World of Warcraft satisfaction, and surveys showing increased satisfaction with police services in a town I’d never heard of. I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling satisfied yet.
According to Wikipedia, satisfaction, or contentment, is the freedom from anxiety, want or need, in the Buddhist tradition. Sounds like this is at direct contrast the Western idea that owning the perfect collection of stereo equipment will make all of us perfectly happy.
Now, I understand that the “American Dream” is to be wholly and completely rewarded and enchanted by your job—to find a profession that you love so much that you wake up every morning thrilled to go to work (and this job should also make you obscenely rich, but we’ll get to that later). But somewhere on the road to the perfect job we sometimes get waylaid by other things, like paying the bills. In these tough economic times it can be hard to find a job or even keep a job. That being said, if you can’t find satisfaction between 9 and 5, you can always look for it between 5 and 9–the time after work.
How do we attain satisfaction? I may not have a magical potion to bless people with happiness, but I have a few ideas. Number one, stop and smell the roses….literally. Stop and smell the carnations, if you must, dandelions even. But take 15 seconds every day, or better yet, every hour, to find something nearby to find inspiration in. That charming smile on the toothless old man on the street corner? Heartwarming! The eager puppy jumping up and down and biting your shins as you walk by? Delightful! Sometimes this instruction is easier than others, if you’re suffering from depression, dealing with a divorce, or coping with losing your job, this might be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try it when you’re feeling better.
As an Existential therapist, one of my biggest concerns is how connected I am, and my clients are, to other people. One of the most satisfying elements in my own life is my connection to my family and the other people I love. Sometimes people may try our patience, but our connections with each other are more important than all the money in the world. Don’t forget how important it is to maintain physical contact, hug someone when you get a chance!
One of the first steps to attaining satisfaction involves slowing…way…down. Take a deep breath, friend. Are you getting carried away with work projects, feeling stressed out and overworked? I’m not telling you to quit your job, but simplify as much as possible. This process can make you a little bit crazy in itself, but you’ll thank me when you’re done. If you are feeling harried and busy most of the time, keep a calendar of what it is you’re spending your time on. If it’s a lot of obligatory phone calls, looking at things on the internet, or watching TV, odds are you can cut that time back some. Try sitting on your couch, without any music or television on, for 15 minutes. Notice what you can perceive with your five senses. What do you see? What do you hear?
Fall is an amazing time to find something to appreciate, the leaves on the trees, at least in the Seattle area, are stunning. Kick some leaves around! Don’t forget, the ultimate feel-good holiday is just around the corner. Find a young kid to go window shopping with. Sing some Christmas songs. I can only hope, after all of these instructions, you might feel a little bit more satisfied than when you started reading this!