Friday, September 14, 2012
We all do it. We develop expectations, which may lead to a lack of gratitude. I’ve written about this as perspective – appreciating and being satisfied with what we have rather than always grasping for more. We get caught up in overspending to satisfy the insatiable need to keep up with neighbors, to show how successful we are or to convince ourselves that we are more important. In this rush to acquire, we fail to appreciate what we already have.
The passage of time plays a role. We quickly forget the past and compare our situation to more recent memories. I remember growing up in a house with no air conditioning, trying to figure out how to get to sleep on a hot summer’s night. Sometimes I recall those times and try not to take for granted the ability to be comfortable in the summer without having to go to the mall or to a movie just to cool off. I remember when it was unusual for a family to own more than one car and when color TV was a new innovation. Today, a family with only one vehicle might be considered poor, and virtually everyone owns at least one color TV. If tomorrow a gallon of gasoline costs $3, we would be thrilled. Several years ago we would have been shocked. In the healthcare field we see new lifesaving procedures and life expectancy increasing, but complain about the rising cost. Sure you want the best for your health, but when did we begin to expect every doctor to have a state-of-the-art clinic, and when did we begin to assume that someone else should pay for it – and that it's our right to have it that way?
An extreme example of expectations gone awry is the Chinese Olympic athletes who apologize for winning (only) a silver medal. We scratch our heads in wonder at this behavior without remembering that we all do the same thing to a lesser extent, routinely replacing gratitude with disappointment.
Even I do it. When I started writing this blog, I was lucky to get 4 or 5 page views in a day. Not that long ago I was happy when the day-count reached double digits. The first time I got over 20, I walked around with a big smile. Now, for the past month this blog has averaged over 150 page views per day, and I feel disappointed if I get less than 100 in a single day. What happened to the guy who could be satisfied, even excited, with 10 or 12? My expectations have changed and I must remind myself to appreciate and be grateful for every reader. No one is forcing you to spend your time reading what I write.
So I will try to take my own advice, to stop from time to time to “smell the roses” and to thank you for visiting. That doesn’t keep me from trying to make this as interesting as I can, hoping you will tell your friends and neighbors. Growth and progress in spreading good ideas is what will keep this country great. Let’s just remember to be grateful and know that we can temper many of our disappointments with a little perspective.