Today we were driving home from school. My 8-year-old son mentioned how excited he is for his field trip to the zoo on Friday. My 5-year-old daughter immediately shouted, “That’s not fair! Why does he get to go to the zoo?!” Never mind the fact that she recently had a field trip. The idea that he gets to go somewhere she doesn’t is, “not fair.”
I see the reverse as well. My daughter has a.m. kindergarten so sometimes in the afternoon she has a play date, we go somewhere fun or we watch a movie together. When my son hears about these activities he claims it’s “not fair.” Never mind the fact that when he was her age we spent hours together at parks, playing with friends or visiting museums. The idea that she is doing something fun while he’s at school is, “not fair.”
My children are amazing people. They are great examples to me and inspire me.
But they often make two big mistakes that sadly, most adults still make. The first is that “fair” means “the same.” The second mistake is that they spend too much time focusing on what others have. Both these mistakes will do nothing but make you miserable.
Mistake 1: “Fair” means “the same.”
There are 7 billion people on the earth. That means there are 7 billion different personalities, 7 billion different opinions, 7 billion different needs/wants and 7 billion different ways to cope and deal with things. So why in the world would we use ONE answer for all 7 billion situations? In the case of my children, I can’t possibly treat them the same. My son loves Star Wars while my daughter loves the Little Mermaid. My son likes to run while my daughter likes to conquer the monkey bars. I could go on and on. If I treated them the same, they’d both be miserable.
This is the best representation I’ve ever seen of this: (photo credit: tinytrees.org)
Too often, we think the best way for life to be “fair” is for everyone to have the same. A society can not succeed on this mentality. We all have different talents and have to play different roles. True, I completely believe no one should be denied an opportunity they are qualified for because of gender, religion, race, etc, but if I’m not qualified for something, I shouldn’t do it. If I don’t put in the work for something, I shouldn’t get the reward. My son gets to go on the field trip because he’s in third grade. My daughter gets to have extra afternoon play dates because she’s in a.m. kindergarten. Those facts bring different results. If you find something unfair in your life, really look at the life events that brought you to where you are. If it’s truly unfair, act on it. If it’s just “different” let it go. Dwelling on it will poison you.
Mistake 2: Focusing on what others have
I constantly have to tell my kids, “Be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t.” I remind them of all the blessings they have: a home, food, clothes, friends, toys, a mom and dad who love them.” Yet when someone has something they don’t, they tend to forget about these things.
You are more blessed than you think you are. If you’re reading this, that means you have access to a computer and/or a smart phone. You likely have food to eat and a bed to sleep in when many don’t. If you focus on what others have instead of spending your time being grateful, you’ll never be happy with your life, no matter what you own or what you accomplish.
The best way to overcome these mistakes is simple and quite timely seeing as how we’re only weeks away from Thanksgiving. The solution: BE GRATEFUL! People who are more grateful are happier. You can have every possession in the world but you’ll never be happy if you always forget to be grateful. Things don’t bring happiness, attitude does. So how do you do this?
Every time you feel cheated (unless your frustration actually is justified) or envious, think of three things you have to be grateful for.
Keep a gratitude journal. Every night before you go to bed write down five specific things you are grateful for that day.
Find two people to thank every day. It can be a parent, a friend, a teacher, a colleague, etc. People bless our lives more than things. When we focus on the people in our lives, situations and possessions seem less important.
Serve others less fortunate than you are. I always feel so pathetic when I complain about things that other people will likely never have. When I do something like volunteer at a homeless shelter, help at a soup kitchen or help a local charity, I’m humbled to realize how blessed I am.
So to kick things off, today I’m thankful for a healthy body. I was able to work out, walk with a friend and have energy to be with my kids and husband, and take care of my house.
I’m grateful for a working car. Right now my car is in the shop getting fixed and I have a rental. I don’t know how I’d get my kids too and from school and their activities without a car.
I’m beyond grateful for a dishwasher. Tonight I had a sink full of dishes I had to wash by hand. I hate doing dishes so the idea that I only had to wash the big things and the rest of the dishes like cups, plates and bowls can go in the dishwasher makes my day much better.
See. They don’t have to be huge things but if you spend time being grateful, you won’t have time to feel sorry for yourself.
If you’re brave enough, post something your grateful for in the comments below.
I’m grateful for you!