A few weeks ago I was baking cookies and I gave Kamal three chocolate chips. Immediately, he asked if he could have five, instead.
"Nope. I gave you three. Just say thank you and enjoy them."
"Thank you. Can I have five instead?"
"No, honey. You have what you have."
"But five is more than three!"
"That's right. Very good."
"But I want more!"
And there, friends, in my child's sweet little voice, is the reason so many people are unhappy so much of the time. We want more. We want to be more, have more, do more. And in doing that, we're wasting everything we already have.
And I want more, too. Maybe more than anything else, I want this: for Kamal to understand that relishing what you have right now, celebrating that, is always, always going to be a happier experience than wanting more. Every time. Savor the chocolate chips in your hand, and don't worry about the Costco-size bag of chocolate chips in the pantry.
You will always have less than someone else. You will always have more than someone else. You will always, in any given moment ever, have exactly what you have. And there is always something you have that someone else wishes they had. There is always something you have--chocolate chips, a jade plant, the love of a friend, a roof over your head, the ability to sit criss-cross applesauce--that someone else thinks would complete their ability to be happy. And you have that thing. And what's more, you have the ability to choose to be happy about it.
That's the thing: you can choose it. You don't have to wait for happiness to find you. You don't have to get your meditation practice on lock, lose twenty pounds, earn a promotion, fall in love. You just have to take a look at your life, take stock of all that is good in it, and be thankful for those things. Realize how rich you are, how lucky, and celebrate.
That's the secret to happiness: decide to want what you already have. Want what you have, and then you'll have everything you want.
And the best part is that when you start looking at your life this way--when you start finding the things that are wonderful and wanted in it--more and more things start showing themselves to you. And when you realize how full and abundant your life is, how lucky you are to be living it, it makes it easier to be generous. And, of course, generosity manifests its own abiding joy.
The other night I sat down on the couch next to Kamal as he was watching his little cartoon program. Without taking his eyes off the screen, he scooted into my lap. Then he picked up my right wrist and wrapped that arm around his small, warm body. Then he picked up my left wrist and wrapped that arm around himself, too, so he was tight and secure inside my embrace. Then, still holding firmly both my wrists crossed over his belly, and with a world of nonchalance in his creaky, funny voice, he said, "You can sit with me, if you want."
Well, I did want. In fact, in that moment, it was the only thing I wanted, and there it was, literally in my lap. I don't know that anyone has ever been as rich as I was in that moment, sitting on a couch with grievously tattered upholstery, watching inane cartoon characters with my child after swearing up and down during my pregnancy that I'd have a zero screen-time policy, older and thicker than Hollywood says any woman should be, sleep-deprived and sinus-congested and over-scheduled. In that moment, everything I wanted I had.
So here's my challenge for you, this week: take all the desire you have, and aim it at all the beauty already in your life. That's all. Decide right now to do your best to want what you have, and move forward from there.