{To live} Lessons in purpose and gratitude

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Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you all, a guest post from my sister, Miss Tessa Burr. To say that this girl is wise and an inspiration to many of us would be an understatement. Take some nuggets away from this beautiful piece, dear readers.

In the past year of my life, a lot of things have changed. Some of these changes have been life altering: a break up from a long term relationship, ending University, starting my first job and travelling. I had the amazing opportunity to work at a summer camp in America last year. I also got to travel to New York City and London. Despite these amazing experiences, some of my greatest growth over the last year has come with learning to enjoy my own company, and learning to find joy in the small everyday routine of life. I’m all about personal growth, and self-reflection has become a constant for me. I believe that our thinking shapes our experiences. This thinking has led me to see that if we choose to seek joy in the small things, then we will find it. For me, this kind of outlook on life avoids drama and disappointment, and instead makes me satisfied with the everyday. Who wouldn’t want to be happy and joyous every day?

Society likes to tell us that happiness is obtainable. It’s a goal, and involves a formula. It tells us that in order to be happy; you need to find companionship (number 1). So you aren’t really completely happy without love and affirmation from another person. And it tells us that we need to achieve wealth and success, in the form of materiality- looking good and owning a lot. We spend our life constantly seeking the companionship, more often than not from one main source and in the form of romantic love. We also spend our lives believing that it’s vital to have a lot of money and to achieve a perfect appearance. So we sacrifice our passions and instead, give in to a job that promises security. Security for the few moments when we aren’t working in that job… Or for later when we won’t be able to work. We are constantly in a battle with food or exercise or the purchasing of products to improve our appearance. And then we seek this romantic love often in such desperation, that we miss all the other kinds of love being poured forth around us- A kind colleague at work. A thoughtful sibling. A fun and caring friend. An interesting and polite shop assistant. A quirky kid in our complex.

The problem with this formula is that it is a one size fits all kind of formula. It’s assigned to everyone. The sad thing that I’ve noticed is that we don’t all seem to truly reach this happiness. This is because when we get money or we find this romantic love, it isn’t what we had in mind and it doesn’t happen the same way for everyone. Or perhaps, when it happens, we wonder, "What next?", because we’re still not quite satisfied. We are all on different paths, from different backgrounds. How does it make sense that only a select few should be happy because they fit the mould?

I’ve decided that if you eliminate the idea of an obtainable happiness, and realise that to live in the moment, and to seek gratitude for the everyday, you will discover a greater satisfaction than you could have imagined. It’s quite simple really.

Harmony or contentment comes from right thinking. Not from, say, winning the lottery or losing a lot of weight. Yes, of course these things bring elation and joy! But a permanent joy? A solution? If we were to rationalize our thoughts and train ourselves to look at the everyday, to be curious, interested, present. We might be surprised. This thinking applies to any situation you’re in. Whether you’re single, married, jobless, successful, studying, or travelling.

Good is unfolding all the time and we can never really know what’s around the corner. We are not in control of all things to come. There’s no harm in taking precautions for the future. Saving is always a good idea, and of course being responsible or healthy never hurt. But, what I’ve learnt is that there is very little we have control over. Our lives are made up of moments, moments that are shaped by how we choose to see them.

A thought that I am working on is:

People are not a source of happiness; they are an opportunity to express love.

When we live with this idea in mind, we become helpful, generous, thoughtful, selfless, interested and kind people. We stop expecting things in return and therefore stop feeling hard done by or lost without a bestowal from someone. We become active in spreading love instead of expecting it to be given to us. The tangible becomes the incorporeal. This idea is relevant whether you’re talking to a stranger, or spending time with your best friend. Take your mind off yourself, and tune into how you can better express kindness or interest in someone else.

If we live in the moment, we will find that we have everything we need in that moment. Fear of the future is what threatens our happiness. It suggests lack, loneliness and failure. These suggestions lead to anxiety. They blur your vision, blocking out the beauty right before your eyes. Lack. Lack. Lack. Is all you see. And then you think you need something to fix that lack. And so you plan, and you search.

Something that I’ve started doing, is writing in a gratitude journal. I sometimes only write in it every few months, and I jot down bullet points such as:

  • Grateful for moments with good friends- humour, laughter, closeness, happiness.
  •  Grateful for my job. Reminds me that I’m capable, appreciated and filled with purpose.

As seldom as I write in it, it forces me to reflect on the good. These good days are so rewarding to read back on. Not only do these entries document your life but they remind you how happy you were in that moment. Sometimes it’s harder than others, and sometimes you really need to fine tune your thinking and look for these moments.

Moments.

A long bath. A pretty sunset. A late night chat in the car with an old friend. Reading an interesting book. Reaching a high score on your favourite game. Watching a movie (Really watching, and appreciating the talent in the acting, and the film production). Singing along loudly to a catchy song. Laughing a little too hard at a silly pun. Falling asleep to the sound of rain. Debating on a topic you are passionate about. These are the moments that make up our life. Don’t let them drift by unappreciated, and don’t let society tell you that they’re mundane, insignificant or that you’re missing something. You decide what it is that makes you happy. The world is a beautiful place full of wonderful people and unlimited reasons to be grateful and present in it. It’s all there waiting for us to see it.