Cognitive Dissonance is defined as the ‘mental discomfort, or psychological stress, experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.’ This is a concept I learned in Psychology 101 that stuck with me over the years. I also see it pop up in articles and books from time to time. Last weekend was Thanksgiving and I was thinking about all the things I’m thankful for. I’m sure we share a lot of the same things that come to mind: friends, family, health, a stable job, and overall freedom. I have not had a tough life by most standards, but the important thing is we all have things we take for granted. But while I was thankful this past weekend about everything good in my life, there are still a lot of days when I’m not satisfied with what I have. So, this got me thinking: Can you be thankful for what you have but keep wanting more?
Like I said earlier, these are two contradicting ideas. If you’re thankful for what you have, then why would you want more? And if you want more then you clearly aren’t thankful for what you have. This is something I have struggled with personally most of my life. Like I said earlier, I have a lot going for me. I have a stable job that allows me to pay all my bills and have money left to invest or spend, a lot of people can’t make that same claim. I have a handful of friends and family that truly care about me that I can go to if I need a laugh or support. I’m in good health and take care of my body. All that doesn’t seem to be enough, but I also know people way more successful than myself, and who have more, who are miserable.
What is the cause of all this? Part of it is social media. Studies have shown that social media makes people feel lonelier and more depressed instead of feeling more connected to their social circle. This is very clear if you log onto any social media site. People are masking their insecurities and depression with funny memes, sarcastic tweets, and such. You may see happiness and think that is how others always are, which is simply not the case. Remember that social media is how people market themselves, we are all fighting our own fights. Also, two big factors are pride and envy. Both are part of the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ and it’s clear why: they can ruin your mind and mental health. When we compare ourselves to others it can be toxic. It’s okay to look up to someone and want to be like them, but don’t obsess over it and be too hard on yourself. You don’t know how that person rose up and got to where they are now. It is always a combination of hard work, planning, and luck. We only see the surface of their success, not the blood, sweat, and tears that they shed to get there.
Now we’re ready to tackle this question: How do you stay thankful for what you have but continue to want more? The trick is to keep a positive mind about your situation and live up to your own standards. One trick I learned from one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Dan Lok, is to write down a list of your accomplishments. What are you good at? What have you accomplished? These don’t have to be big, grand things. Start small and just keep building the list until you have 10 or more accomplishments. Once you have your list, put it somewhere where you can see it every day. Look at the list every day and think to yourself: ‘These are my accomplishments. I recognize that they are real and important.’ Another trick is to think about all the blessings you may have in your life. Think about the opportunities you have been given. Maybe it’s health, freedom, warm weather, a loved one, something that millions of people around the world would kill to have. Once you have these two methods in play then you can start goal setting. You should have this inner dialogue: ‘I have these blessings in my life and have accomplished good things. Now that I have laid the foundation, I can add onto it.’ It might sound corny to some of you, but these are methods that people use in meditation and other types of therapy, and they work. Think of your goals as building your dream house. Once you have the foundation set (your skills, blessings, and accomplishments) then you can build it up and add onto it over time until it is what you want it to be. Then someday, with hard work and determination, you will have a beautiful house. But if anything fails, you will still have that foundation.